The trenches will be crucial come Saturday inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Both Auburn and Georgia’s defenses have been allowing less than 20 points a game heading into this year’s installment of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. Georgia’s defense is not just stout overall this season but especially in regard to stopping the run game.
The Bulldogs lead the SEC in rushing defense, allowing 76.4 yards a game. Auburn’s rushing offense is averaging 219.3 yards a game, ranking it second in the SEC.
Auburn has scored a total of 37 touchdowns this season with 23 — or 62.16% — coming on the ground. The Bulldogs are the only team in the past 20 seasons to not allow a rushing touchdown through the first nine games and are the only FBS team this season to not allow a rushing touchdown yet.
Head coach Gus Malzahn believes that running against Georgia is not impossible and will be a factor in Auburn’s success this weekend.
“I think that’s the challenge for everyone that plays them — you’ve got to be able to run the football effectively and you can’t be one dimensional,” Malzahn said. “For us to be successful we’re going to have to run the football effectively and that’s really how we’re built anyway. That’ll be a really good matchup to watch and see what happens.”
Auburn’s rushing yards per game dip when going up against conference opponents, with an average of 188.17 yards against six SEC opponents. The Tigers have rushed for at least one touchdown against their six opponents with the exception of Florida.
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Auburn offensive lineman Marquel Harrell knows that Auburn’s offensive line faces tough competition in Georgia’s defensive line but has seen the offensive line improve throughout the season.
“It’s a big test for us up front, but you know throughout the year, we’ve been consistent, we’ve gradually gotten better each and every week,” Harrell said. “Like just the guys up front, we knew coming into this game their front seven is tremendous. You look at those guys up front, they’ve got some big-bodied guys that are hard to move.”
Not only has Auburn had a rushing touchdown in every game this season with the exception of Florida, it has also rushed for multiple touchdowns in six of its nine games this season.
“Any time we run the ball I get happy. I’m an offensive lineman. But you know our goal is to just go out there and however we get the job done,” Harrell said. “At the end of the day, a win is a win. If we throw the ball 100 times and win, if we run the ball 100 times and win, no matter what we want the win. But to break the rushing record that they have would be nice.”
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