Thursday, November 08, 2007

Georgia

What kind of rivalry is this?



That kind of rivalry. "J**n V****n as redeemed hero" rivalry. The same guy who threw the dagger that helped said redemption returning the next year to play the worst game in the history of the forward pass kind of rivalry. Dameyune Craig playing the world's first successful game of 1-on-11 kind of rivalry. 4th-and-15 from the 17 before you get slugged in the stomach and your insides go dead kind of rivalry.

The phrase "throw out the records" gets, well, thrown out a lot more than it should. As a rule the records of the two teams headed into the Iron Bowl are a decently reliable (if obviously not ironclad) predictor. But the Deep South's Oldest and Probably Coolest Rivalry has been won by the higher-ranked team just four times in the last 11, as pointed out by Get the Picture this week, and as various birds in the Auburn-to-Athens corridor could tell you by now, by the home team just three times in the last 15. This is the kind of rivalry where a) Auburn is on the road and b) the opponent is ranked in the top 10, and I don't just feel like those facts might give Auburn a better shot; I know, in my bones, it gives Auburn a better shot.

So, yeah, I can cop to being at least a little bit confident about this game. But as as strong as the historical precedents might be, there's still the actual teams to deal with, and there are several things about this Georgia team that Auburn will have to deal with in a much more practical fashion than the Dawgs will use in battling inexplicable streaks:

1. Knowshon Moreno. One of these years, Mark Richt will realize that giving the lion's share of carries to their most talented back rather than spreading it around to one really talented back and two okey-dokey guys is probably the way to go. Unfortunately, the cruel/benevolent hand of fate did Richt's work for him in removing Moreno's competition for carries, and now he's getting Herschel comparisons left and right. The sad thing is, in terms of effectiveness, I'm not sure they're even that outlandish.

2. Matt Stafford. Sure, Stafford's struggled at times. But he's got the talent. It's not possible to look more like the Platonic ideal of quarterback than Matt Stafford. And most worryingly the last guy who had struggled at times but still possessed Stafford's kind of arm lit Auburn up for a 22-35 for 319 line.

3.They don't turn the ball over. It would be nice if Auburn could get a couple of short fields to work with a la so much of 2006, but as Hey Jenny Slater pointed out in an excellent pre-game breakdown, no one in America has turned the ball over less than Georgia. Curses.

Apparently their supposedly young and sucky offensive line hasn't sucked all that much, either, much like another supposedly young and sucky line (and like one coached by a grad of the school on the opposite sideline Saturday.) Here's the thing, though: All of those positives are on the offensive side of the ball.

The Dawgs just got finished giving up 34 points to a decent but hardly earth-shattering Troy team. Florida scored 30 but more importantly averaged six yards a play, hardly the stuff of a dominant defense. And of course Tennessee ground them into so much dust in the wind. Bottom line: this is not what we could call a "good" defense. If Auburn comes out and executes the way they did against Florida or vs. LSU for the first half, points are going to be scored and the ball is not going to find its way back to Georgia hands with any kind of quickness.

The same is likely also true when Georgia has the ball. But they of course will have to tangle with a defense that (finally!) has Aairon Savage back, has Tray Blackmon 100 percent, has ... well, everything but Craig Stevens, basically. And had a de facto off week last week. If I was a Georgia fan, I'd be worried: not only do all the historical precedents point towards Auburn, but I'd argue the Tigers are better at this point of the season on paper. There's not much difference in quality, if any, between the Dawg offense and the Tiger D; but I think the Tiger offense, particularly if Cox continues his post-benching form, has a fairly clear leg up on the Dawg D.

All of which, of course, makes me sort of worried when I think about it this long. Ever since the LSU loss, I think Auburn fans have consoled themselves with the idea of finishing 9-3. 9-3! That's a heck of a record with this team, that is. And with a win over 'Bama to boot, why, that's not a bad season at all. Might even get a team to the Sugar Bowl, even! And all it takes is a win in Athens--never been a problem--and then over the Tide at home. Not easy, but damn doable. Just holding serve, right?

Right. But Auburn's never been one for holding serve, have they? 9-3 would be great, but how much more likely is it, really, than 7-5? Not more enough for comfort. Not more enough that Auburn's worst-case scenario doesn't remain a hideous crash to Earth through the Amen Corner, a bowl loss, and an entire off-season of discontent the disgruntled factions say Auburn would have been better off if Tubby had bolted while the rest of us yell at them to go root for 'Bama if they hate their team so much. Not fun, no.

The good news? On the balance of history, and perhaps even the balance of talent, Auburn wins. Crisis averted. The bad news? This is Auburn-Georgia. This is the rivalry of Ben Leard throwing for 793 yards and 12 TDs in a half, of Terry Bowden's magic carpet ride unraveling, of Mark Richt's brain stepping out just long enough for the Dawgs to run into the goal line with 10 seconds left, of Hail Marys into overtime and sprinklers unloosed and 111 years being divided by 20 points.

Wait a minute. Maybe that, too, is the good news.

15 comments:

Senator Blutarsky said...

Thanks for the links. I'm looking forward to the usual nailbiter Saturday.

One thing about the stat you cite that Florida averaged six yards per play against Georgia's defense - that's a yard per play under Florida's average this season. That doesn't make Georgia's defense dominant, but it's not too shabby, either.

FWIW, the Gators averaged better than 5.5 ypp against Auburn.

Anonymous said...

Great Blog... Squeaky clean as
my friend Iggy says....
AU v GA is a great college game,
and this will another nail biter..... If Brandon can go get
the frisbee once more, AU will win.. and I believe he will... The
evil Brandon is gone... knock on wood... War Damn JCCW and War Damn Eagle!

Xavier said...

Love the posts! One minor note... I don't believe it was the sprinklers (course I was pretty drunk and my memory could be wrong). I do remember it was the big water nozzles they use to wash down the stands. I was at that game and even though we lost it sure felt good to see those dawg fans get hosed down for not leaving the field. It was after that game that Auburn started to put much more security around the field. Kind of an end to an era. Keep up the good work!

P.S. Nothing stinks like a wet dawg! WAR EAGLE

MaconDawg said...

Jerry,

Solid as usual. I think both sides have been able to find some logical reasons for pregame comfort, then remembered that this game is usually the through-the -looking-glass, illogical game of the year for both teams, so that the logical comfort is basically irrelevant. Man I'm looking forward to this.

Jerry Hinnen said...

War Eagle, Auburn fans.

Xavier, whether it was bleacher-cleaners or sprinklers I think depends on whether you're a Dawg fan or Auburn fan ;) (I think it was probably some form of hose, to be perfectly honest.) I was at that game in person as well, thought I had just turned eight at the time and don't remember the source of the water nearly as clearly as UGA fans tearing up the Auburn logo at midfield and the PA saying "GEORGIA FANS, WE CONGRATULATE YOU ON YOUR VICTORY, BUT PLEASE GET OFF THE FIELD" about a half-dozen times before suddenly there was water everywhere. Surreal scene.

Senator, our defense wasn't bad against Florida, but it was more opportunistic--a pick here, a stop on fourth down at our onw 25 there--than it was rock-solid, as it was against Arkansas the next week. So I'm not basing its superiority to UGA's on the UF performance; it's the more recent data. And 5.5 a play vs. 6 flat a play is still a reasonable difference over the course of 50-60 plays. I woul also say UF's average is inflated by outings against the likes of Troy, Kentucky, UT, and other terrible D's. 6 a play is still 6 a play.

Macon, thanks for the props. I agree: it's going to be a hell of a game.

Universal REMONSTER said...

Great post. I'm looking forward to it.....

Doug said...

Seconded. This Saturday will make my 11th Georgia-Auburn game in a row -- even if I can't make it to a single other game all season, I make it to this one. Good luck . . . but GO DAWGS!

JasonC said...

Just hoping the Dogs can pop Cox in the mouth a couple of times early and then be ready for stray passes. I think we are bringing Tra Battle back since we have 2-3 safeties dinged up.

NCT said...

On the hose incident... They were hoses. And they weren't turned solely on Georgia fans on the field. They were turned on well-behaved Georgia fans in the stands. Fans like me. Fans like my then-middle-aged parents who were simply waiting for the crowd to thin out so they could better negotiate an exit.

For those on both sides of this rivalry who were actually there and remember the incident, it is absolutely a black mark on Auburn's history. Not cute.

That having been clarified, for those of you coming to Athens, enjoy yourselves! Have fun in one of the finest college towns in the country. And don't worry about Sanford's watering system being used on you. It would kill you.

Sullivan013 said...

Keys to the game for Auburn:

Stop the run, force the pass, pressure Stafford into mistakes, and don't give up the big play.

Without their big plays, Georgia managed only 2 of 11 third downs against Troy. Their game against UF was their best effort, but it was big play after big play, not a steady driving offensive struggle like the score might indicate.

In short, I think Georgia is vulnerable to the particular type of defense Auburn has been playing all year. If Auburn's offense plays this one like the Vandy game, it'll be all over by halftime and Tommy will be playing his 2nd and 3rd string to avoid the blowout.

Pat

Jerry Hinnen said...

Pat, good points about UGA's need for the big play but boy, if our third-string ever hits the field this game I will be beyond stunned. I think the offense that mauled Vandy peaked that day and isn't likely to return and it's going to be another nailbiter. But of course I hope you're right.

NCT, not to minimize any injuries or distress for those who might have gotten hosed in the stands, which is of course horrible, but I think it's fair to point that nothing would have happened if Georgia's fans hadn't rushed Auburn's field, begun tearing it up, and refused to leave despite being asked repeatedly. If there's a "black mark" here I think it's wide enough to stain both schools.

Lastly, good luck to the Dawgs and War Eagle.

Richard said...

The game is about over and we are down by 2$%!$!#$%5 point. Oh, that was just nasty beatdown on my beloved Tigers. Just when we thought he was dead and were gathered around the grave, Evil Brandon came roaring back to life. What a shame.

War Eagle!

SCTiger

Richard said...

Oh god...it's so bad they're clearing their bench..got their substitute QB in. Well, they can't lose at this point, so why not. Darn, we looked decent for about 1 half of the game and went to seed shortly after that. What happened. Our D looked like it had them figured out. Just and ugly, ugly loss.

SCTiger

sic em said...

smash

Jerry Hinnen said...

Ugly is the word.