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Auburn is all-or-nothing anyway, so why not go for ALL right away against Georgia?

The Tigers likely need four touchdowns to upset the Dawgs. Aggression looks like the only way to get them.

Arkansas v Auburn Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The S&P+ projection for Georgia's trip to Auburn — No. 1 Dawgs 26, No. 10 Tigers 24 — makes a good amount of sense. It's almost perfectly aligned with the Vegas line (Georgia -2.5), and since the national scoring average is closer to 28 points or so, it gives a slight overall edge to the defenses.

One problem: Auburn doesn’t really do mid-20s.

In 48 games since the start of the 2014 season, Gus Malzahn’s Plainsmen have scored between 21 and 28 points just seven times. They’ve been held to 13 or fewer points eight times, and they’ve scored 38 or more 21 times. Since the start of 2015, they have averaged 39.9 points per game in wins and 16.7 per game in losses. (The loss average sinks to 14.3 per game if you take out the wild 54-46 loss to Arkansas in 2015.)

There is little in-between for Auburn’s offense. Either everything works, or nothing works.

That seems like a pretty tenuous recipe when facing a top-10 defense, huh?

The all-or-nothing traits were supposed to fade this year. Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham quickly won the starting job, and new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey could add a passing background to Malzahn’s typically run-friendly tactics.

Instead, things have been just about the same. Auburn was 32nd in Off. S&P+ last season and currently ranks 35th. The Tigers scored six points in a road loss to Clemson and 23 (all in the first half) in a frustrating late loss to LSU. Even including a lovely dismantling of Mississippi State’s No. 10 (per Def. S&P+) defense, the disparity is still pretty stark:

  • Auburn vs. Def. S&P+ top 25: 26 points per game, 5.1 yards per play, 132.7 passer rating for Stidham
  • Auburn vs. all other defenses: 42 points per game, 7.0 yards per play, 167.1 passer rating for Stidham

In the two losses, Stidham completed just 22 of 50 passes for 244 yards and an incredible 14 sacks.

Eleven of those came against Clemson, but he still took a sack on nearly one of 10 pass attempts against LSU, too.

The pass problems didn’t wait until passing downs, either. On standard downs in these two games, Stidham was 10-for-21 for 101 yards and seven sacks. Net yards per attempt, including sacks: 2. The combination of conservatism, inconsistent receiving play, iffy pass protection (which has undoubtedly improved since Clemson), and Stidham’s own play grounded this attack.

Last week’s game against Texas A&M’s mediocre defense (70th in Def. S&P+) began in a similar fashion. Auburn was conservative and somewhat listless. The Tigers scored once on their first six possessions and played things extremely safe early on.

But they got more aggressive in their attempts to spread the field horizontally and vertically, and the adjustments worked wonders. They scored TDs on four of their next six drives and turned a 13-7 deficit into a 42-20 lead and 42-27 win. Stidham’s first 16 pass attempts netted 78 yards, including sacks; his last 13 gained 181.

More aggression could be Auburn’s key.

Only one team has scored even 20 points on Georgia’s stalwart defense this year: Missouri. The Tigers weren’t able to find a ton of efficiency (success rate: 37 percent, slightly below the national average), but they averaged 16.9 yards per completion and scored on passes of 63, 63, and 27 yards. UGA’s pass rush also ranks in the middle of the country in sacks.

You can’t really call these weaknesses on Georgia’s part. Opponents not named Missouri have averaged a paltry 8.7 yards per completion, and the Dawgs rank fifth in Passing S&P+. Still, any momentary vulnerability qualifies as a relative weakness for a defense that doesn’t have any actual ones.

While almost nobody in the sport has a prettier deep ball than Mizzou’s Drew Lock, Stidham’s ain’t bad. And in Darius Slayton, Will Hastings, and Nate Craig-Myers (combined: 80 targets, 40 catches, 956 yards), he's got a nice trio of deep threats. It is imperative that he use them.

In the 13 losses since the start of 2015, Auburn has averaged 9.4 or fewer yards per completion six times. Granted, the opponent has had a role to play in that, either via great secondary, effective pass rush, or both. But some risk will probably be required for the Tigers to pull off a huge rivalry win. When a Malzahn offense goes into a shell, wins don’t tend to follow.

It would be surprising if Georgia’s offense put up many more than 26 points on Auburn.

Kevin Steele’s Tiger defense is one of the most sound in the country, combining an aggressive profile — fourth in success rate allowed, 21st in Adj. Sack Rate — with awesome big-play prevention numbers. Plus, they allow just 2.9 points per scoring opportunity (first downs inside your 40), lowest in the country.

It takes a good defense to slow the Dawgs. Georgia’s offense is most regarded for its terrifying stable of running backs, but freshman quarterback Jake Fromm’s ability to dig out of holes has been vital. The Dawgs rank 18th in Standard Downs S&P+ but seventh in Passing Downs S&P+; on third down with four or more yards to go, Fromm is 29-for-47 for 499 yards, eight touchdowns, three picks, and a 194.3 passer rating. As a freshman.

Still, UGA plays at one of the slower tempos in the country, and Auburn should make enough stops to keep the Dawgs at 31 or lower.

The question: is this one of Auburn’s games in the 30s or one of Auburn’s games in the teens?

The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry has featured its share of incredible drama, from Fran Tarkenton's last-second touchdown pass to seal Georgia's SEC title in 1959, to Michael Johnson's jump-ball catch in 2002 (which sent UGA to the SEC title game), to, of course, Ricardo Louis' miracle catch in 2013.

Just remember, Auburn: those were all big passes. You've got the golden-armed quarterback. Time to see what he can do.

Auburn should probably have another win in this great rivalry