Your Official HABOTN Breakdown
I arrived at Le Hotel de Georgia around 4 a.m. after driving over from Auburn High's win against Wetumpka last night. Getting into Athens often is difficult. It wasn't difficult this morning.
I saw where all three ESPN Gameday analysts -- Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard -- picked Auburn to win today. I'm a little surprised with that.
I feel the same way.
AUBURN at GEORGIA
When: 6 p.m. CST today
Where: Samford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
Line: Georgia by 4
On the air: TV – ESPN2. Radio — WLWI-FM 92.3, WMSP-AM 740
1. Auburn's offense was good against Ole Miss and seemed as sharp as possible in the easy win against Furman last week. It's still reasonable to have doubts about the consistency of Gus Malzahn's offense, which essentially blacked out in games against Kentucky and LSU. Things again seem swell and there are no statistical trends foreshadowing problems, but can Auburn keep it going in Athens? Georgia's defense has been well short of
2. The defensive depth chart still looks like the Bonneville Salt Flats beyond the first team. Ted Roof played the second- and third-team guys against Furman last weekend and they were abused repeatedly. Does that matter? Maybe not. The season-ending injury to Zac Etheridge aside, Auburn has been pretty lucky with defensive injuries this season. Most of those defensive starters received something of a day off against Furman. Extra rest could make the Tigers more effective than usual today. Remember, though, that any additional injury at defensive back or linebacker will be a terminal development.
3. Georgia wideout A.J. Green missed Georgia's win against Tennessee Tech last weekend with a bruised lung. His prognosis is unclear. He'll play tonight, but will he be A.J. Green? His availability makes a world of difference for the Bulldogs, who rely on him to force the defense away from a run-stopping mentality. Without that threat, Georgia is an ordinary offense with an ordinary rushing attack. Auburn's defenders would feel good about defending a Green-less enterprise. If the star wideout is in the game, though, things could change in a hurry.
4. It's no secret that Auburn-Georgia games are emotional, but this one seems to have more subplots than usual. The Bulldogs, currently 5-4, appear on the verge of implosion. Fans are restless. Auburn, meanwhile, is on the verge of regaining its national relevance. The team appears to have settled after 10 months of major changes and seems fully rehabilitated after a disappointing 2008 season. If the Tigers want to take that next step, they need to win tonight. That would ensure their invitation into in a high-profile bowl and provide concrete evidence that coach Gene Chizik is making substantial progress.
Georgia WR A.J. Green vs. Auburn S Demond Washington
Washington may not escape this section until next season. Why would he? The junior is a classically trained cornerback with cornerback skills and, at 5-foot-8, cornerback size. An injury to Zac Etheridge has forced Auburn to move Washington to safety, where he is hoping to simply survive. He was good against Furman last weekend, exhibiting plenty of closing speed. Will he be able to enforce similarly against an SEC franchise player like A.J. Green? You'd better believe Georgia considers Washington a weakness -- and those coaches have developed plays to exploit him this weekend. Will he be up to the challenge?
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
WR, 6-3, 185, Soph.
Adams has been the biggest surprise of the season for Auburn, which hasn't exactly been a clearinghouse for receiver talent of late. Adams is sly. He thinks along with the defense and his quarterback, which gives him a significant intellectual advantage on the field. Adams also has unusual jumping ability -- he is able to challenge even the tallest defensive backs for high passes. The sophomore is a perfect fit for Gus Malzahn's offense and that won't be changing.
BY THE NUMBERS
9 -- Touchdown catches for Darvin Adams, which leads the Southeastern Conference.
12.5 -- Tackles for loss registered this season by Antonio Coleman, which leads the SEC.
24 -- Number of Auburn touchdown drives that have required less than two minutes of work.
49 -- Aggregate point differential of the 112 games Auburn and Georgia have played. The Bulldogs are ahead.
93.9 -- Auburn's offensive red-zone percentage, which ranks 13th in the NCAA.
450.3 -- Average number of yards gained by the Tigers this season.
I can't believe I'm making this pick. Georgia is deceptive in the sense that three of its four losses were to top-10 teams. That 5-4 record is unsightly to say the least. Auburn has a chance to exploit the Bulldogs today because the home team's defense lacks the show-stopping talent of yesteryear. The difference is obvious: Florida, Arkansas and Tennessee each scored at least 41 points on Georgia earlier this season. Auburn's offense, on a good day, is outstanding. The Tigers will score points. If star wideout A.J. Green isn't himself today, Auburn's defense could gain the upper hand. Without a healthy Green, Georgia's attack appears ordinary and provides an inoffensive matchup for the Tigers.
Auburn 35, Georgia 24