The magic has run out.
Ever since the “Prayer at Jordan-Hare” and the “Kick Bama Kick” finishes against Georgia and Alabama last year, the Auburn Tigers have been pegged as a team of destiny. Sure, they lost the National Championship Game against Florida State, but it took a game-winning pass from Jameis Winston to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds remaining on the clock in order for the Tigers to go down.
Two weekends ago, in their game against Ole Miss, Laquon Treadwell fumbled late in the game due to a horrific injury on what would have been the go ahead touchdown, and people all over the country were starting to use that word “destiny” once again in association with these Auburn Tigers.
However, thanks to two fumbles within the last three minutes of regulation against the Aggies this past Saturday, it seems as if the Tigers’ magic has officially run out.
Granted, one hates to pin the loss on the officials, but there were certainly some questionable calls towards the end of the ball game. Either way, the turnovers were as untimely as they were uncharacteristic. Nick Marshall has run the read option so many times in his career at Auburn that one would think it has become second nature by now, and the miscommunication between Reese Misdukes and Marshall should’ve never happened because they were playing at home and the crowd noise was manageable. Auburn simply fell apart in the final minutes of the game.
Their defense didn’t help them either, allowing over 450 yards of offense for the fourth straight game. Everyone in the country fears Auburn’s offense, but as of late, opposing teams have salivated at a chance to play their defense. The Tigers’ last three games have been decided by an average of 4.67 points, and this week doesn’t seem like it will be any different as Auburn will travel to Athens to play the Georgia Bulldogs and the #1 scoring offense in the SEC.
The Tide survive.
If anyone were going to walk into Death Valley at night and steal one from Les Miles, it would have been none other than Nick Saban himself. The game was very reminiscent of the Tide’s last trip to Baton Rouge; it was a defensive struggle, but the Crimson Tide somehow found life during the game’s waning moments and powered through onto victory.
For the greater part of the second half, however, the game was LSU’s for the taking. T.J. Yeldon fumbled inside Alabama’s own 10-yard line, and it looked as if LSU was going to run out the clock and put the game away, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on first down pushed the Tigers back 10 yards and stopped the clock. Alabama had all three timeouts left at the time, and their defense was able to hold LSU to only a field goal with 50 seconds remaining.
This is an extremely talented but young LSU team, and one of the lessons they will learn after this week is to always be in the moment and to compose yourself in the face of adversity. Without the penalty on first down, the Tigers very well could have been able to score inside their own 5-yard line, thus forcing Alabama to score a touchdown as opposed to a field goal. But then, to add insult to injury, LSU’s kickoff flew wildly out of bounds, and gave the Crimson Tide great field position to start their drive.
Blake Sims had a rough night before his heroic fourth quarter drive—completing only 44 percent of his passes—but, to his credit, he put everything together when it mattered the most and released his inner A.J. McCarron on the Tide’s final drive. Once the game was in overtime, it was pretty evident that Alabama could smell blood and they absolutely attacked LSU, both offensively and defensively.
Alabama put together a vintage championship performance on Saturday, and this is what we’ve come to expect from the Crimson Tide in recent years. This team is extremely well rounded and can hurt you in a lot of ways, but the key for them moving forward is whether or not Blake Sims can be the difference maker like he was against LSU this past weekend. If so, then this could possibly be the most complete team in the country.
The Dawgs still have some bark.
From the opening kickoff to the game’s final whistle, it was clear that this was a different Georgia team than the one that showed up in Jacksonville two weeks ago. After suffering an embarrassing loss to Florida, the Bulldogs came out and put together one of the most complete performances during the Mark Richt era.
Isaiah McKenzie helped set the tone for the Dawgs as he took the opening kickoff 90 yards to the house, and added a 59 yard punt return for a touchdown later on in the third quarter. McKenzie was not the only freshmen to have a breakout performance for the Bulldogs, as Lorenzo Carter racked up 2.5 sacks to go along with 9 tackles, Jed Blazevich caught two touchdown passes on the day, Sony Michel rushed for 84 yards and a score during his first game back from a shoulder injury, and Nick Chubb became the first Georgia running back in the last 10 seasons to rush for at least 140 yards in four straight games.
After quietly throwing for a career-high 319 yards against the Gators two weeks ago, Hutson Mason followed that up by going 13-16 for 174 yards and four touchdowns. That’s good enough for a 255.1 passer rating—his highest of the season. Not only did Mason and the offense convert on every third down they faced, but they also scored a touchdown on every single drive and did not punt once the entire afternoon. Todd Gurley will start against the Tigers this weekend, and with the Georgia backfield finally healthy and containing a lot more depth, the three-headed monster of Gurley, Chubb, and Michel should be licking their chops against the Tigers’ defense.
The Georgia defense looked better, but that’s not saying much because it’s hard to look worse than the way they played against Florida. This unit is at it’s best when their gifted pass rushers wreak havoc in the backfield, allowing their secondary to play aggressive and force turnovers at the back end. They only forced one turnover against the Wildcats, but their pass rush is still a force to be reckoned with.
Oddly enough, as their pass defense continues to improve each week, their run defense is slowly turning into an Achilles’ heel for Jeremy Pruitt’s squad. The Florida game was a mixture of poor tackling and bad assignment defense, but Kentucky put up a respectable 214 yards on the ground against this defense Saturday. A possible explanation for the Dawgs’ increase in rushing yards allowed is that this team is built to rush the passer, but they’re not necessarily built to withstand a pounding on the ground. Their performance against Arkansas earlier this season was impressive, but Georgia’s offense got ahead early and forced the Razorbacks to abandon the run and start throwing the ball. Against Florida, that didn’t happen, and Florida ran the ball play after play because Georgia couldn’t slow them down.
If the Bulldogs have any hope of making it to Atlanta, then the defense has to do a better job of stopping the run because they face the monumental task of slowing down Auburn’s potent ground game this Saturday. Combine two high-powered offenses with two defenses who are currently struggling, and you get the feeling that a shootout is looming Between the Hedges this weekend.
Good insight and reporting. Nice and concise,.