Georgia Is Going to Beat Auburn. Why? Because That’s What Georgia Does.
Look. I know what happened on November 11th. I saw that 40-17 Auburn victory. People forget this, but I actually predicted a Georgia loss in that contest. But when you think about this rivalry—its 121 games and Georgia’s 57-56-8 all-time record—and you think about recent dominance, do you actually think about Auburn? Do you? Really? Because I don’t.
Speaking ethnocentrically, Georgia is, effectively, Auburn’s Florida. What do I mean by that? Well, traditionally the The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (Georgia/Florida for the uninitiated) is a competitive rivalry. In fact, this matchup is so contested that the two schools can’t even agree on how many games have been played (95 per Florida, 96 per Georgia). But since 1990, Florida has absolutely dominated Georgia en route to a 21-7 record over that time period. No matter how good the Bulldogs may be in a given season or how bad the Gators may be, the Swamp-dwellers from Gainesville tend to find an edge almost every single time. Sure, Georgia beat the tar out of Florida this year (a 42-7 win that led to the demise of Jim McElwain), but has Georgia recently dominated Florida? No way.
That’s how Georgia/Auburn has been as of late, but in this case the good guys are winning more often than not. Did Auburn win convincingly a few weeks ago? Absolutely. But is that the norm or something I have come to expect? Nope.
I enrolled at the University of Georgia in 2006, and since then Georgia is 9-3 against the Tigers/War Eagles/Plainsmen—and that includes the game a few short weeks ago. I saw Georgia lose by 23 points on November 11th, but I’ve seen Georgia win by 20+ points five times in the past 12 years. I’ve seen Georgia string together winning streaks of four, two and three consecutive games, but I’ve never seen Auburn win back-to-back. No matter how you slice it, the Bulldogs have dominated Auburn since 2006.
- At home Georgia is 5-0 thanks to wins in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2016.
- On the road Georgia is 4-3 thanks to wins in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2015.
- In close games (decided by seven or fewer points) Georgia is 4-1 thanks to wins in 2008, 2009, 2015 and 2016.
- In blowouts (decided by 20+ points) Georgia is 5-1 thanks to wins in 2006, 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2014.
- When Auburn is ranked higher Georgia is still 3-2 thanks to wins in 2006, 2014 and 2016.
Up until this season, the greatest common denominator of recent Auburn victories over Georgia was this: In years in which Auburn is bound for the National Championship Game and starting a quarterback who was pushed out of another SEC school for non-athletic reasons, Auburn beats Georgia. Seriously. That was the common thread, and I can live with that.
Cam Newton, was arrested for felony burglary, larceny and obstruction of justice and suspended by Florida coach Urban Meyer who didn’t like to suspend anyone. Newton was then involved in a cheating scandal just before he opted to transfer. He spent a year at JUCO and may or may not have picked up a hefty sum of money to show up at Auburn. In 2010, Auburn beat Georgia on the way to a National Championship with Cam Newton.
In 2013, Auburn beat Georgia with quarterback Nick Marshall, who ultimately led the Tigers to a loss in the final BCS National Championship Game. Marshall, of course, was dismissed from Georgia after he was caught stealing from his teammates.
Much to my chagrin as a Georgia fan, the Auburn only beats Georgia when they have a QB who can’t behave at another school narrative has changed. Now, the narrative is Auburn only beats Georgia when they have a QB who can’t behave at other another school or when they have a QB who transfers away from a program mired with sexual abuse scandals. But, and this is important, it should be noted that Jarrett Stidham had nothing to do with Baylor’s troubles. Frankly, good on the kid for getting out of there.
But you see, any narratives of Auburn domination—even given the results of a few weeks ago—are flimsy at best. That game seems much more like an outlier than it does a blueprint for a rematch. That sentiment, which could be proven wrong tomorrow, is echoed by two things: 1. Kirby Smart’s Revenge Tour and 2. The Rest of Georgia’s Season.
Kirby Smart’s Revenge Tour
Kirby and Co. weren’t satisfied with 8-5 last year, so they set out for revenge.
- Georgia couldn’t avenge last year’s 45-15 loss to Ole Miss because the Rebels weren’t on the schedule, so the Bulldogs lambasted highly-regarded Mississippi State 31-3.
- A heart-breaking 34-31 loss to Tennessee a year ago became a 41-0 bludgeoning of the Vols.
- An unforgivable 17-16 loss to Vandy in 2016 was replaced with a 45-14 dismantling of the Commodores.
- Last year’s frustrating 24-10 loss to Florida gave way to the aforementioned 42-7 throttling of the Gators.
- An inexcusable one-point loss to Georgia Tech fueled a 38-7 swatting of the Yellow Jackets.
Georgia couldn’t extract revenge from Auburn on November 11th, because unranked Georgia upset no. 8 Auburn 13-7 last season and the Dawgs had won three in a row and five of the last six. But now, there is a revenge factor.
Care to bet against Kirby? You’re welcome to. But he’s yet to lose back-to-back games to an opponent and his average margin of victory in avenging head-to-head losses is pretty staggering.
The Rest of Georgia’s Season
Auburn is the best team Georgia has faced this year. I think you’d be foolish to dispute that. But Auburn’s not as good at a neutral site and the Tigers are discernibly worse off if Kerryon Johnson isn’t 100 percent.
The reality is that in the first matchup, Georgia wasn’t physically prepared for a team like Auburn. To some extent, that’s actually excusable. It stands to reason that if you’ve never played against quality level X you may not be ready for quality level X. That’s not an ideal scenario and it would be great to think Kirby’s Dawgs would always be ready to embrace, combat and respond to increasingly capable opponents, but football (especially college football) is not a linear stair-stepping of accomplishment. This is not high-jumping. Georgia was not afforded the opportunity to say, “Yes, I think I can clear that height. Give me an attempt or two and I will make it.”
So, Georgia was under-prepared. [Note: this is not the same as unprepared (something we saw during the latter portion of Mark Richt’s tenure), but Georgia was not ready.] This vested itself in a number of ways.
- Both lines of scrimmage were dominated by Auburn. As a result, Georgia’s ground attack never got going (46 yards on 32 attempts) and Auburn’s never stopped (237 yards on 46 attempts).
- Georgia was heavily penalized. Seven penalties for an average distance of almost 11 yards per flag. Woof.
- Jake Fromm looked like a freshman. He posted a season-low in completion percentage and one of his worst outings in terms of QB Rating. This was magnified by the fact that this was also close to a high watermark for pass attempts (28 vs. a career high of 29 and a season average of 17.3).
- Georgia got tight. Timing was off on routes. Balls were dropped. Tackles were missed. Punts were muffed.
Understand: Good teams make you make mistakes. Auburn did that. None of this is intended to discount what Auburn did to Georgia on November 11. Rather, it is intended to provide context when I say this:
There’s no way Kirby Smart is going to lose back-to-back games for the first time as a head coach against the Auburn Tigers in the SEC Championship Game.
It. Will. Not. Happen.
Georgia will beat Auburn, because that’s what Georgia does. Georgia will get revenge, because that’s what this season is all about. Kirby Smart will fix mistakes and elevate Georgia’s level of play, because that’s who he is.
That’s all I got/