For the first time is several games, I find myself really needing to get into the stats to think through a game. Lots of reasons for that, but none more important than we are facing a team unlike any we've faced, from a dynamic QB stand point, since we played Missouri with James Franklin in the game.
Well, that didn't turn out so great. But QB play didn't mean as much as a Fat Guy Touchdown by Michael Sam on a fumble return and a half back pass for another totally changed the story there. Take nothing away from Missouri, they are better than Georgia right now. No matter how stoutly we play against Nick Marshall and Auburn's offense, we'll lose if we allow those two TDs again.
Still, the devil is in the details when it comes to stopping Auburn's rushing game. And we've been ok in rushing defense (4th in the conference, 20th in the nation). And that is with a couple of pretty good rushing teams on the schedule. However, Auburn is a different beast, and the best rushing team in the conference, due to the combination of Tre Mason and Nick Marshall.
Auburn's worst game of the season rushing wise was against Mississippi State. Malzahn realized early on that State was going to do everything to stop the run. And they did, only giving up 120 total rushing yards, which is 200 yards below their season per game average. He then put the game in Marshall's hands, asking him to throw the ball 34 times, a season high.
The last of those attempts was an 11 yard pass from Marshall to Uzomah to complete the comeback and win 24-20. Against the prevent defense and when they lined up in intentional passing sets, Marshall was 6/8, including the game winner.
All this leads me to believe so much of this game, maybe even more so than any game we have played this season, comes down to the play of our inside LBs in stopping the run game, and our ability to inside contain when Marshall does run. I expect Auburn to get yards, but I also expect them to earn them. I also think we'll play aggressively to make Marshall make read decisions faster than he wants. Which means we have to have the game of the season out of our star and CBs when we force Marshall into deciding to try to throw.