Auburn Football: #9 Tigers at #15 Georgia Preview and Predictions

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Sep 27, 2014; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley (3) jumps and reaches to score a touchdown against the Tennessee Volunteers during the first half at Sanford Stadium. Georgia defeated Tennessee 35-32. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia’s Keys to Victory

1. Establish an outside running game. It’s easy to pick on Auburn’s defense after the past few weeks, but the Tigers’ defensive line has been effective in shutting down inside runs. Even with Gurley and a great offensive line, Auburn’s front seven is solid against the inside run. Outside runs, however, could be Georgia’s ticket to gashing the Tigers’ defense on the ground. Texas A&M exploited Auburn on outside runs last week. Auburn’s secondary has had severe tackling issues. Todd Gurley is an absolute freak athlete who makes good defenders look like they’re FCS-level. If the Bulldogs can get Gurley to the corner, it’ll be him vs. Auburn’s defensive backs, and that’s exactly the matchup Gurley wants.

2. Sell out to stop the run. Auburn leads the SEC in rushing with 286.4 yards per game. Cameron Artis-Payne leads the SEC with 1,190 yards. Last week, Artis-Payne ran 30 times for 221 yards against Texas A&M. Auburn star WR Duke Williams is likely out with an injury, so even though Nick Marshall has vastly improved as a passer, the wide receiver corp is missing a major piece.

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The Bulldogs should completely bite on the run early in order to find out how capable Marshall is of beating them with the pass. If Georgia can stop the Tigers’ rushing attack (easier said than done, obviously), they have a chance to make Auburn one-dimensional passing the ball without their best target. Of course, Georgia sold out on the run against one-dimensional Florida a few weeks ago, and that didn’t go so well (418 rushing yards).

3. Find success through the air. Whether it be long passes, medium-range slants or screens/dump-offs to Gurley, Georgia’s going to need more than usual from Hutson Mason in this game. Georgia’s passing offense hasn’t been effective this year, as the Bulldogs rank 93rd in the FBS in passing. Hutson Mason only throws for 168.3 yards per game. Of course, one doesn’t need to have Peyton Manning’s stats when the ground game is as effective as it is (256 yards per game), but in tight games this year, when the Bulldogs have needed Mason to step up and make big passes, he hasn’t been able to do it. Against a bad secondary, that could change this weekend.

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