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Auburn Tigers Preview

Alec Smith

The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry

Saturday, September 30th, 2023, 3:30 EST (CBS)




2023 Record



Head Coach

Kirby Smart

Hugh Freeze

HC Career Record



’23 PPG



’23 PPGa




            We are almost set for the 128th meeting of Georgia and Auburn in The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. The first meeting between the two SEC programs came in February of 1892 when Auburn won 10-0. The Dawgs lead the all-time series 63-56-8, including six straight victories for UGA dating back to 2017. Following Georgia’s victory over the Tigers in the 2017 SEC Championship Game, the two programs have been on different trajectories, as the Bulldogs are coming off back-to-back national championships while AU has had their ups and downs. After two years of Bryan Harsin and an 11-13 record, Auburn moved on to storied head coach Hugh Freeze to right the ship in The Plains.

            Freeze has over a decade of HC experience between Arkansas State, Ole Miss, Liberty, and most recently a 3-1 start at Auburn. From 2019-2022 at Liberty, Hugh had a record of 34-15 including a 3-0 record in bowl games. After starting 3-0 in OOC games, Auburn dropped their first SEC matchup against Texas A&M last week 10-27. The Tigers could not get anything going offensively against the Aggie defense, posting only 56 passing yards and 200 yards total. Texas A&M ran the ball for 209 yards and accumulated an impressive 6.9 yards per play. Prior to SEC play, the Tigers defeated UMass 59-14 in week one, followed by a 14-10 road victory over California. In week three, AU took down Samford 45-13.

Auburn Offense



National Rank

SEC Rank

Passing YPG




Rushing YPG




3rd Down Conversion




Sacks Allowed PG




Total Offense

371.0 YPG




             Auburn’s offense is almost entirely predicated on rushing success. The Tigers showed three different QB’s against A&M, and those three were a combined 9-23 for 56 yards. At Cal, Auburn’s QB’s were 10-17 for 94 yards. AU has run the ball at least 35 times in both of their games against P5 opponents. Scheme wise, the offense is a spread-iso system operating primarily out of ten and eleven personnel. Quarterback Payton Thorne (Michigan State Transfer) leads the team in rush attempts with 33. Jarquez Hunter is likely the best runner on the team, but AU implements an RB room by committee. Five different Tigers have at least 20 carries and 100 rushing yards. Auburn has also showed Holden Gernier and Robby Ashford at the QB position so far, but it appears as if Payton Thorne remains the starter heading into week five.

            There is a lot of motion and misdirection. Payton Thorne gets a healthy amount of designed QB runs. The RPO is a huge component to this offense as well. In short, it looks eerily similar to the Gus Malzahn offenses of old. Auburn will want to make UGA beat them on the Dline, while spreading out the DB’s and LB’s across the field. Luckily for the Dawgs, Texas A&M was able to create havoc using just three- and four-man rushes. The Aggies accumulated 7 sacks and 14 TFL last week, as Auburn’s Oline looked simply overmatched. The Tigers’ lone touchdown against A&M came on a defensive scoop and score.


Auburn Defense



National Rank

SEC Rank

Passing YPGa




Rushing YPGa




3rd Down Conv. Against




Team Sacks PG




Total Defense

298.5 YPGa




            Defensively, the Tigers mostly run a 4-2-5 scheme, which puts six defenders in the box to stop the run and five DB’s on the field for coverage flexibility. While Texas A&M was able to run the ball with success, AU’s defense remains a solid unit that can give Georgia some trouble. Auburn’s leading tackler in 2023 is UNC transfer LB Eugene Asante. Eugene has 28 total tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, and a FR for a TD thus far from the ILB position. Out of the eleven starters on defense, eight (8!) are transfers. Make of that what you will, but there is a lot of experience on this Tiger defensive unit.

            While certain opinions can be had on Texas A&M’s offensive prowess, Auburn held the Aggie O to just six points at halftime. Following the injury to Conner Weigman, Max Johnson came in for A&M and led three touchdown drives in the second half. Penalties and offensive stalling kept the AU defense on the field for a chunk of the second half. If Auburn finds success against the Dawgs defensively, it will likely be because Georgia started slow again. The 4-2-5 defense is versatile, sure, but it does not excel in stopping any single facet of the offense. It is based on smaller, quicker personnel that generate pressure and show various coverages behind. Georgia can take advantage of this by utilizing heavy/12-13 personnel sets. With UGA’s Oline size, TE blocking, and the return of Daijun Edwards, I believe that the Dawgs will be able to run on Auburn the same way A&M did. In terms of throwing the ball, Carson Beck will be challenged in this game. AU will throw a lot of different coverage looks at Beck, along with consistent blitzing. I like the idea of using the hell out of Brock Bowers, MRJ, RaRa Thomas, and some of the other bigger bodies in UGA’s pass catcher room if Auburn shows a lot of man coverage.

Impact Players to Watch

Payton Thorne (QB #1) – 49 TD’s, 6,494 yards in 29 career games. 26 career starts (16-10). 3x Academic All B10 Selections. Well-rounded athlete at QB.

Eugene Asante (LB #9) – Auburn’s leading tackler. Transfer from UNC with 62 tackles in 37 games played. Logged 9 total tackles and FR for a TD against A&M. Aggressive tackler with ability to rush passer from inside.

Jarquez Hunter (RB #27) – 675 yards and 7 TD’s in 2022. 1,411 yards and 11 TD’s in 28 career games played. 2021 SEC All-Freshman Team. Physical, North and South runner who averages 6.3 YPC in career.

Betting Trends

The Bulldogs opened at -16 but are currently 14.5 point favorites over the Tigers on the road, which is the smallest spread for UGA in 2023. The game total is 45.5, and the over is 1-3 for both teams so far this year.  Auburn is 1-3-0 ATS, while UGA is 0-3-1. The Dawgs are 2-0 SU and ATS vs. AU in their last two matchups.

Edited by Alec Smith

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