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Advanced Stat/Scheme Preview - Georgia vs Auburn

Graham Coffey

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Advanced Stat/Scheme Preview - Georgia vs Auburn

This week I am going to link the videos that I used to make these notes. If you want to watch the tape I used then you can. I also did a preview show with Josh Hancher using these clips and you can watch that HERE.

This is a link to the clips from the Auburn vs Texas A&M game

This is a link to the clips from the Auburn vs Cal game

Now, lets get into it...

Auburn Defense

- AU’s defense has been much more successful against the pass than the run so far this year. The Tigers are giving up a stout 31% Success Rate against the pass as opposed to a 41% Success Rate allowed against the run. Against Cal, the Tigers allowed just 4.2 yards per pass against 38 attempts, while pulling down 2 INT’s and allowing 0 TD’s. Cal passed for just 160 YDS against Auburn… We started to see some more holes in AU’s pass defense last week… The Tigers held starting QB Connor Weigman to 8/14 passing for 70 YDS to start the game. After he was injured, veteran LSU transfer Max Johnson came into the game and went 7/11 for 123 YDS and 2 TD’s (11.2 YPA).

- Auburn did manage to pressure Johnson on 6 of his 15 dropbacks. None of those dropbacks ended in a completed pass… When kept clean, Johnson was 7 of 8 for 123 YDS & 2 TD’s on 9 dropbacks. That’s 15.3 yards per attempt for Johnson when not pressured… Georgia needs to give Carson Beck enough time to let routes develop on Saturday. Both of Johnson’s TD passes came off of play-action. 20 of Carson Beck’s 35 dropbacks were off play-action against UAB last week. He averaged 12.1 yards an attempts and had 2 TD’s on those throws. 

- Auburn opened the game daring Weigman to force the ball downfield into coverage. He took what they gave him instead and threw underneath against safeties who were sitting past the sticks. - A&M CLIP 5 & CLIP 6

- Auburn’s run defense struggles have a lot to do with poor tackling on the line of scrimmage. Here is Left DE #35 Jalen McCleod on 3rd & 1. He fights off a block and gets into the hole but doesn’t try to tackle the runner with any sort of form. He just kinda throws a shoulder out there before getting trucked. McLeod is one of the more productive pass rushers AU has though. He had 3 of the Tigers 15 Pressures against Cal. - A&M Clip 7

- Auburn’s defensive backs look really aggressive flying downhill on tape. Safety #36 Jaylin Simpson is a good player. He’s in his 5th year and has never given up a reception percentage of over 55% in a season. He can tackle and cover and he has good recognition skills. #4 is Right CB DJ James. He missed 3 tackles against A&M and got hit for a 26-yard reception. He can be had. - A&M Clip 8

- Right on cue, here comes James with a missed tackle. I would want to run screens and swing passes towards him until he proves he can tackle in space if I’m Georgia - A&M Clip 9

- A&M really struggled to run inside the tackles against AU. Here’s a stat for you… (A&M CLIP 11)

  • A&M off Left Tackle & Left End with an Inline TE - 8 ATT’s for 80 YDS (10 YPA)
  • A&M off Right Tackle - 2 carries for 81 YDS (40.5 YPA)
  • A&M running in interior gaps - 15 carries for 38 YDS (2.5 YPA)

- What’s interesting is that the pattern for the Aggies was kind of the inverse of what happened to AU against Cal. The Golden Bears did get some chunk runs outside the tackle box, having 9 carries for 47 YDS off the right side with an Inline TE, but Cal also had way more success in the A & B-Gaps against the Tigers. They rushed for 8 YPA on 2 carries at LG, 7.4 YPA on 5 carries between C/RG and 4 YPA on 4 carries between C/LG… This would seem to indicate that AU can be run on across their front as long as the right personnel is blocking. (CAL CLIP 17 and CAL CLIP 61)

- #99 Jayson Jones & #50 Marcus Harris make a pretty solid interior duo on the defensive line. They more than held their own against A&M and controlled the A-Gaps. (A&M CLIP 72)

- Auburn struggled at times with A&M’s Gap Scheme runs. The Aggies used their TE’s down the line in pre and post-snap motion and I can guarantee you that Georgia will do the same. Once UGA gets the Tigers used to seeing Bowers or other TE’s blocking on those pulls they will start slipping them into the flat off play-action and try to catch Auburn’s back seven sucking upfield (A&M CLIP 18)

- The body blows that A&M delivered with the run game added up in the 4th quarter and AU finally broke on the left side. I expect UGA to try and take advantage of the lack of depth AU has by delivering the same types of blows. That’s especially true if they can get a 2 possession lead in the first half (A&M CLIP 126)

- Auburn isn’t a great pass rushing team. Their defensive line struggles to create pressures, so they use their back seven on delayed blitzes. That’s especially true on 3rd & long plays. This is SS #12 Caleb Wooden who gets the sack. He had 3 Pressures in this game and only rushed the QB 3 times. He played 8 other snaps in coverage and 8 other snaps as a run defender. AU needs him situationally, but he is a poor tackler and not very good in coverage. UGA could take advantage of him if it gets him matched up at the right moment. He only has 34 coverage snaps this year but has already allowed 4 REC’s on 7 TGT’s for 47 YDS. All of those yards allowed have come after the catch. Let’s see if UGA can get Bowers on Wooden for one of those motion screens to the flat. It could be a big play. (A&M Clip 12)

- A&M only ran 2 screens/swings in this game. They didn’t try much behind the line of scrimmage. AU is pretty good at defending passes behind the line… Cal was 7/9 for just 21 YDS (3 YPA) on throws behind the LOS against AU. Interestingly, they did have success on screen concepts that were past the line, hitting 7 of those for 48 YDS

- Auburn has a lot of injuries in the secondary. S/Slot CB #5 Donovan Kaufman might be the best run defender in the back seven. Kaufman is getable in coverage (4 TGT/2 REC, 50 YDS & 1 TD allowed vs A&M) but he is the type of player who could help AU muck this game up the way they need to. Kaufman is questionable for Saturday with an ankle injury. He was already playing Slot CB for another injured Tiger… His fellow S #10 Zion Puckett is also questionable with a shoulder injury. Puckett is solid (9 TGT/3 REC, 45 YDS allowed in 2023) and was AU’s highest graded player in coverage against A&M. The Tigers were already without #0 Keionte Scott coming into the game in College Station… Scott started at Slot CB in AU’s first two games… Here is Kauffman losing A&M’s TE in coverage on a TD. He is SUPER aggressive and struggles to tackle in space. If he plays then you know what he is and can exploit that but the idea that he’s better than the backup would intrigue me if I was Mike Bobo. Whoever is in that sport should get tested (A&M CLIP 78 and A&M CLIP 95)

- All those injuries put an added emphasis on S #36 Jaylin Simpson. He’s one of the best players on this defense through 4 games and is a solid tackler in space. This catch to Ainias Smith is the longest gain he’s given up in coverage all year. He is a good one and UGA will want to run routes to try and pull him out of the play and create space for their primary targets on passing plays. You can see him handling Smith in the end zone perfectly on this route to the back pylon (A&M CLIP 20 and A&M CLIP 21)

- The AU secondary has been a mass of rotating bodies. Remember CB #1 Nehemiah Pritchett? He was a young #2 boundary corner for the Tigers the last time UGA went to The Plains. In this very column I predicted that UGA would pick on him for a big play or two. Well, Ladd McConkey burned him twice and the rest was history. Now he’s a preseason All-SEC performer. He made his debut last week after dealing with injury and didn’t give up a catch… 

- Pritchett split time at Left CB with #3 Kayin Lee, who gave up a 37-yard TD catch in tight coverage to Evan Stewart but also made a nice play in coverage on this 3rd & 9. (A&M CLIP 59)

- LB #9 Eugene Asante struggled in coverage last week. He gave up 4 TGT/3 REC for 31 YDS in just 18 coverage snaps against A&M… Max Johnson was able to use his eyes to move him around or fool him into losing an assignment in zone coverage… Asante can thump against the run. He ended up scooping a fumble for AU’s only TD of the game (A&M CLIP 105)


- Auburn has 3 QB’s… Which really means AU has no QB’s… The Tigers have not passed for 100+ YDS against a P5 opponent since facing Arkansas on October 29th of last year. That’s 5 games against P5 teams with under 100 YDS… Thorne has been the starter so far this year. If his first read is covered then he often takes his eyes away from downfield and puts them on the pass rush. He is starting to get skittish due to being hit. Last week he dropped back 19 times but only threw the ball on 12 of those plays. He was 6/12 for 44 YDS (3.7 YPA). Thorne’s instinct to tuck it and run has led to him being AU’s leading rusher so far this year with 155 YDS, but most of that came against Samford. (A&M Clip 14)

- To put it lightly, Thorne is struggling right now. Maybe a week of coaching and a home crowd can instill some confidence in him, but he is so out of sorts right now that he can’t hit simple checkdowns accurately and is overthrowing uncovered receivers. (A&M Clip 16 and A&M CLIP 44)

- Throwing the ball high isn’t just a one off issue from Thorne lately. Against Cal he threw an INT on an overthrow in his own end with a minute left before halftime. (CAL CLIP 72)

- Part of Thorne’s hurried clock is the way his OL played in AU’s first game against a P5 opponent. Cal sacked Thorne 3 times on just 19 dropbacks and there were times where the whole AU offensive line just got pushed off the ball (CAL Clip 15)

- When AU brings in Robby Ashford it seems to help their running game some. Ashford has legit speed and can bust long runs if you’re not careful on the back side edges. UGA will want to watch him on Zone Read concepts. Ashford has 20 carries for 99 YDS so far this year. He ripped Alabama for 142 YDS on 12 carries (10.9 YPA) in the Iron Bowl last year. (CAL CLIP 35 and CAL CLIP 40)

- Ashford is somehow even worse at throwing the ball than Thorne. Here he is trying to throw a post concept with some loft/touch and just air mailing (A&M CLIP 81)

- It’s hard to know what Auburn’s pass catchers really are because the QB’s throwing to them have struggled. They have yet to establish anyone as a bonafide playmaker, but WR #5 Jay Fair has been the most productive so far. Here he scores a TD against Cal and you can see his run after the catch ability. He is in the slot over 90% of snaps and has 22 TGT/15 REC for 184 YDS & 2 TD’s this season. 93 of his 184 YDS have come after the catch. (CAL CLIP 42)

- After Fair, the next best wideout has been #3 Shane Hooks… Hooks works the boundary on 92.5% of his snaps. He has a poor Reception Percentage so far this year, being targeted 17 times but only having 8 catches for 106 YDS so far with 1 TD. Against A&M, he led the team with 5 TGT’s but only gained 18 YDS off 3 REC’s… This 13-yard catch was AU’s longest pass play of the game against A&M… (A&M CLIP 39 and A&M CLIP 40)

- AU’s longest pass play against Cal was to TE Rivaldo Fairweather. This 28-yard catch up the seam on 3rd & 17 saved the game for the Tigers. AU would go on to score on this 5-yard TD pass to Fairweather to take the lead. Fairweather is a transfer from FIU and at 6’4” he’s the best 50/50 ball guy that Auburn has. A&M focused on him last week and held him to just 5 YDS on 4 TGT/3 REC. (CAL CLIP 132 and CAL CLIP 140)

- AU’s running back room features HB #27 Jarquez Hunter, who you probably remember from past games between AU and UGA. Hunter has 146 YDS so far this year while averaging 4.6 YPC. He’s a big back who doesn’t go down easily. You need to wrap him up and you want to keep him from hitting the second level with a full head of steam. These runs were some of AU’s biggest of the day on the ground. He averaged nearly 4 YDS After Contact per Carry in this game. (A&M CLIP 25 and A&M CLIP 26 and A&M CLIP 27)

- Right behind Hunter is Damari Alston, who has 130 YDS on 5.0 YPC so far. Alston had 8 carries for 50 YDS against Cal and has some burst but he is OUT for this game with a dislocated shoulder he suffered last week… That means HB #21 Brian Battie will have to step up. He came in for Alston last week and had a solid day with 11 carries for 59 YDS (7.4 YPC)... Battie was actually AU’s leading receiver against A&M (2 REC for 23 YDS)... (A&M CLIP 34 and A&M CLIP 51)

- The Tigers are pretty balanced between Gap and Zone so far this year. They haven’t been great in some short yardage situations against better teams. Most years, you’d expect AU to be able to line up against Cal and pound the football on 3rd & 3. Here they get blown up (CAL CLIP 95). 

- Edge setting will be at a premium for UGA on Saturday. In addition to the QB run threat, that’s also where AU’s rushing success came from last week. The Tigers had 10 carries for 53 YDS off the left side with an inline TE and 10 carries for 50 YDS off the right side with an inline TE. 

- RG #62 Kameron Stutts is probably the best run blocker. The weird thing about watching AU’s OL on tape is that the other 4 are all remarkably average. They aren’t necessarily bad but none of them stand out for being good against the run either. It’s kind of strange. 

- There is some space between these players in pass protection. The left side of AU’s offensive line is pretty good in pass protection. LT #52 Dillon Wade and LG #53 Gunner Britton only gave up 1 Pressure/1 Sack over a combined 68 pass blocking snaps against A&M. That’s solid considering the raw talent on A&M’s defensive line. The right side of the OL was a whole other story however. RT #72 Izavion Miller allowed this sack against Cal and he gave up 4 pressures against A&M. Georgia will hunt him. (CAL CLIP 130). 

- In fact, UGA will hunt the entire right side of the line… RG #62 Kameron Stutts gave up 2 pressures and 2 sacks against Cal in addition to 5 pressures and 2 sacks against A&M. Warren Brinson could have a very large afternoon in Jordan-Hare on Saturday. (A&M CLIP 67)


Final Analysis/Score Prediction

The logic behind this game being competitive seems to be rooted in the idea that UGA will be in a tough spot heading out on the road for the first time with Carson Beck as the starting quarterback. On the surface, that makes some sense. The truth is that UGA has already been in the position of starting down an 11-point deficit at halftime of the South Carolina game. The Dawgs didn’t blink then and I don’t think they will on Saturday.

Auburn’s offense has been one-dimensional going back to the end of last year. While it’s possible they finally eclipse 100 yards passing against a P5 opponent for the first time since October of 2022, it doesn’t feel likely that the Tigers can hit enough explosives in the pass game to take big chunks out of UGA’s defense. The Tigers didn’t have a pass play of longer than 13 yards against Texas A&M. Simple statistical variance says they probably will have a play or two longer than that in the pass game on Saturday, but this isn’t an offense that has the pass catchers or quarterbacks to trouble Georgia on the back end. 

That means they’re relying on the ground game to drive the field and score in the red zone against a Kirby Smart defense. I haven’t seen anyone do that to Georgia in a very long time and I don’t expect it to happen on Saturday. 

The Tigers will try to find a mixture of explosive runs between the tackles and off the edges. UGA’s defensive line has set the edge very well since the opener. I expect Stackhouse, Logue and Brinson to handle the interior gaps on most downs and slow down the success that AU has had running behind RG #62 Kameron Suits. The game UGA played against UAB was the best I’ve seen from the DL all year and I think that group is ready to bust the lid open. Auburn will have some gains on the ground but I think UGA wins on first and second down far too much for the Tigers to have sustained offensive success. Third-and-long in this game means Thorne or Ashford has to throw on obvious passing downs. That is a recipe for sacks and incompletions in addition to turnovers. 

Georgia’s edge rushers will give RT #72 Izavion Miller plenty of headaches. I expect to see big games from Mykel Wiliams, Jalon Walker and Marvin Jones Jr… I also wouldn’t be surprised if a freshman like Damon Wilson or Gabe Harris makes a big play as a pass rusher. On the interior, I think Warren Brinson can have a coming out party on a national stage. His run defense will be good, but his pass rushing in this game might be exceptional when matched up against the RG Suits and the Center #66 Avery Jones. 

I just don’t see how Auburn moves the football barring missed assignments, busted coverages or flukey plays. You can hit one of those occasionally but Georgia is too well coached to lose a game doing that. 

On offense, Georgia has a chance to find their identity in this game. The Auburn DT’s are good but not great. If UGA can get some consistent interior run blocking then that may break the defensive gameplan for the Tigers. A&M did their rushing damage on the edges, and UGA can too, but getting 4+ yards with consistency on interior runs in this game would spell doom for the Auburn defense.

In truth, I am interested to see how the Bulldogs attack the Tigers. The run defense has given up a lot of explosives but it has been decent on a down-to-down basis. One thing we know is that AU relies heavily on its secondary to tackle in the run game. The safeties and nickel corners have to make plays against the run because the LB’s aren’t great and the defensive line is inconsistent. The problem for AU is that a few of those safety/nickel corners are questionable. Even if they play, they are not 100%. 

I think UGA can play-action this defense to death. Auburn will force Beck to navigate zone coverage early and often. He proved he could do that last week. I don’t know if #10 Zion Puckett will play at safety but we do know that #36 Jaylin Simpson is ready to go. He might be the best player on this defense. Last week, Bobo showed he was adept at solving Quarters Coverage on the fly. UGA ran both Smiths deep to occupy multiple defenders and then let Rosemy, Lovett, Thomas and others operate in the deep intermediate spaces. That led to multiple 30+ yard passes and lots of room to run after the catch. Beck has a big enough arm to stretch this defense out and that is a big deal because Auburn’s linebackers and corners are not good tacklers in space. 

Georgia will try to run the ball enough to accumulate body blows against a DL that doesn’t have much depth, but I expect that it will also use the pass to open the run up. That probably ends in a big day for Georgia’s offense. The flipside to that is UGA feeling like it can run from the start. If they do and they’re right, then Georgia can suck Auburn’s safeties to 8-12 yards from the line of scrimmage and then let Thomas, Lovett, Rosemy-Jacksaint, Arian Smith, Bowers, and maybe McConkey work against man coverage in space. Either way, I think UGA finds success on Saturday off play-action. 58% of Beck’s dropbacks against UAB came off play-action and that led to 12.1 YPA on 12/19 passing for 230 YDS and 2 TD’s. 

UGA’s run game should be aided by what they put on tape with Bowers last week. 12.3 YDS after a catch per reception is a major deal. It’s a particularly major deal considering there are shaky tackling in spots in this Auburn secondary. 

Auburn’s third down defense is currently the best in the SEC, but I think Bobo will vary run/pass on early downs enough to keep the Dawgs ahead of the sticks. The other side of that is that UGA has been very good in pass protection, even against 5 and 6-man fronts. I think that’s a big thing in this game. Auburn probably can’t get pressure with 4. In order to get to Beck they need to bring more guys, but I think that only helps UGA to hit the middle of the field even more. 

Hugh Freeze isn’t a dummy. He may go into a soft shell of a defense and play a lot of zone to keep UGA from hitting explosives. Beck has shown that he is willing to be patient and pick apart a zone. That probably keeps the game closer for longer but the end result will be the same. Auburn’s linebackers are not good in coverage and UGA can work #9 Eugene Asante in zone coverage or man. 

I think Smart and Bobo know that this is a game where who scores first has an outsized level of importance. I expect UGA to come out efficiently and take their chunks. Beck has shown he will protect the football, so the play calling doesn’t need to do that for him. Instead of the WR Screens that are behind the line of scrimmage, I think we will see more plays where the Bulldogs run jailbreak screens and tunnel screens past the line and let the OL get downfield. The Auburn safeties and boundary corners are super aggressive attacking behind the line of scrimmage. Beck has shown he will play-action a screen and hit a TE up the sideline behind a crashing secondary. Look for a big play off of that on Saturday. It has also struck me that UGA has fed Bowers a lot recently but not really tried to throw downfield to him. 

The playbook comes open early on Saturday on offense in a game where the Bulldogs take control by halftime. UGA’s defense holds Auburn in check and creates a turnover or two, letting UGA win the game comfortably and run the ball in the fourth quarter. Based on tape, health, and everything else, this feels like the week where Georgia gets right and shows their ceiling. Kirby Smart doesn’t leave a doubt in a game where plenty of high profile recruits are in the stands looking on. 

Georgia 41 - Auburn 10

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