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Despite a week of controversy surrounding QB Cam Newton, the Auburn Tigers have locked up the SEC West by beating the Georgia Bulldogs 49-31. Tonight Newton was good for 300 total yards and four touchdowns, with the rest of Auburn’s running game producing 164 yards.
The Dawgs held a 14-point lead in the first quarter after Baccari Rambo’s interception led to one of QB Aaron Murray’s three early scores, but the Tigers forced a halftime tie, recovered an onside kick to open the half, and never looked back. WR A.J. Green finished with 164 of Murray’s 277 yards.
Murray left the game in the final minutes after suffering a knee injury. Auburn DT Nick Fairley, who had led the Tigers’ relentless pass rush all night, hit Murray in the knee with his helmet. Several Georgia players clearly thought it was a cheap shot, as fights broke out on the next two snaps, multiple Tigers got thrown out for throwing punches, and Mark Richt was among the coaches on the field trying to clear the shrapnel.
The Dawgs have one more shot at bowl eligibility: the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Athens in two weeks. The Tigers travel to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide, and then it’s on to the Georgia Dome. With or without Newton.
Auburn Tigers TE Philip Lutzenkirchen has to be one of the nation’s most efficient touchdown catchers — he now has four this season on only 11 catches. QB Cam Newton is now 12 of 15, with at least one of those incompletions a drop, for 147 yards and two touchdowns pus 139 yards and a touchdown on the ground. HEY CAM NEWTON IS PLAYING TONIGHT.
Mark Richt played to win on the Dawgs’ post-touchdown drive, going for it on 4th and 13 from Georgia’s own 27. Murray had a receiver open on the other side of the marker, but Auburn’s pass rush got to him yet again. They’ve sacked him three times, but hit him throughout and forced several scrambles and throwaways. If Newton’s offense gains 27 more yards, they’ve won the SEC West.
After a successful onside kick to open the half, Auburn Tigers RB Onterio McCalebb ran in a two-yard touchdown off tackle to put the Pligeagles up by seven, but Georgia Bulldogs RB Washaun Ealey followed under three minutes later with a seven-yard dart up the middle. McCalebb retorted soon after, taking a Cam Newton pitch five yards for his third score. We’ve now enjoyed 651 yards worth of offense with over 20 minutes to go.
Tigers WR Terrell Zachary made the big play of Auburn’s first drive of the half, a 31-yard rush up the sideline deep into Georgia territory. Dawgs WR Kris Durham kept Georgia’s drive alive with a confounding 28-yard grab in heavy traffic on third and 15. McCalebb kicked in a 48-yard sprint on Auburn’s second scoring drive, and he has 72 on the day.
Newton has put together 223 yards, while Georgia QB Aaron Murray has thrown for 201 yards on only 15 attempts. The Dawgs are operating with Auburn’s renowned offensive speed, trailing by only a touchdown despite having the ball ten minutes less.
On the Auburn Tigers 73-yard scoring drive to close the half, Cam Newton accounted for all but three plays. Those three plays went for a total of three yards. The finishing touch was a 18-yard toss to TE Philip Lutzenkirchen in the end zone — the apparent red zone specialist now has three touchdowns in only ten catches this year. Newton has now accounted for 201 yards and two touchdowns.
As expected, neither of these defenses can contain the other team’s stars. Dawgs QB Aaron Murray has thrown for 137 yards, all but 23 of them to A.J. Green, with Green pulling in two of Murray’s three scores.
Auburn has outgained Georgia by 37 yards and owned the clock by about five minutes, while the Dawgs committed two more penalties than the Tigers. Georgia won the first-half turnover battle one to zero and gets the ball to start the second half.
I tried to tell you Georgia Bulldogs QB Aaron Murray is on pace for a bajillion touchdowns, and you didn’t want to believe me. He’s just thrown his third of the day, a 40-yard beaut to A.J. Green. At the end of the drive Murray had 117 more passing yards than did Auburn Tigers QB Cam Newton, and Green had three fewer yards than Auburn’s entire offense.
Auburn responded (falling into a pattern here) with an eight-play, 62-yard drive capped by RB Onterio McCalebb’s four-yard rush. On the previous play, Newton zipped a 26-yard strike to WR Emory Blake down the middle, then hustled the Tigers to the line.
As Doug discovered, the pundits predicted a shootout, and it looks like the suits nailed this one. That two-touchdown hole equaled what was likely the biggest deficit Auburn has seen all year, their 17-3 halftime disadvantage against the Clemson Tigers. Somebody look that up for us to make sure. I’M BUSY.
Auburn Tigers QB Cam Newton is playing, and scored a touchdown on Auburn’s opening drive. Newton ran 31 yards before going down near the goal line. After review, the refs ruled he had broken the plane. Newton has 44 yards in two carries, with one completion for seven yards. Auburn has 67 total rushing yards so far.
The Georgia Bulldogs responded with a 31-yarder of their own from QB Aaron Murray to WR A.J. Green. Murray threw five times, completing three, and took a shot to the chin. After bleeding on his jersey, he’s changed to a spare on the sideline. RB Caleb King also carried twice for 16 yards.
Newton then threw an interception to safety Baccari Rambo that could be blamed largely on his receiver, with Murray taking quick advantage. A nine-yard toss to FB Shaun Chapas has the previously fired-up Jordan-Hare crowd suddenly quiet. Murray is on pace to throw like 16 touchdowns, empowered by eight Newton interceptions.
Auburn Tigers QB Cam Newton exited the team bus with his teammates and has been spotted on the field, hugging fellow players and Camming it up, based on tweets from Jordan-Hare. Paul Finebaum retweeted at least one, and I’d love to link to more tweets on the matter, but I’m on my mobile at Bobby Dodd Stadium, ladies and bros.
There’s always the possibility he’s working as an overqualified cheerleader, you’d suppose. But we’ve yet to hear anything but stay-the-coursedness (English degree) from Auburn. Looks like Mark Richt was right to expect nobody but Newton.
As Doug shared earlier, a Georgia Bulldogs victory would shock the college football media world. This Dawgs season is now entirely redeemable, but it’s gonna take their game of the year. The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry kicks off in an hour and a half with a whole lot on the line.
The bookmakers in Vegas may have yanked Georgia-Auburn off the board the minute the feces started getting real in "Camgate," but that hasn't stopped the pundits from making their predictions. And nearly all of them are damning the torpedoes and going full speed ahead with projections of an Auburn win, despite the growing controversy.
With all reports indicating that Cam Newton will start against Georgia, all of Rivals.com's expert pickers are going with the Tigers; Mike Huguenin is confident enough to pick the Tigers by 11. CBSSports.com's panel is also unanimous in favor of Auburn. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's legendarily caustic Jeff Schultz is even more blunt, predicting that the "Dogs go down, and hard" (with Auburn easily mopping up the 8.5-point spread being offered by the few sports books that haven't taken the game down entirely).
When people start offering exact predictions of the final score, though, things start getting pretty interesting, and the general consensus seems to be that a whole lotta points are fixin' to get scored on the Plains this afternoon. CFN says Auburn wins 34-31, though "
And what sayeth master handicapper Phil Steele? "I think the Bulldogs keep it close until late, but like many times this year Newton and the Auburn offense makes a key play late to move to 11-0." His score projection: Auburn 34, Georgia 31.
Whatever happens, it doesn't look like anyone's going to be leaving the stadium early to get a head-start on the drive home.
Sportsbooks have reopened the Georgia-Auburn betting line, a sign of general confidence in Auburn Tigers QB Cam Newton playing tomorrow against the Georgia Bulldogs. Multiple media outlets are also reporting Newton is expected to play. I’m aware this post led with Vegas over newspapers.
AL.com says he will start, “barring any last minute decision to the contrary.” As in, any last minute phone call from the NCAA, which appears to be the only thing that can derail Newton’s run. Radio host Paul Finebaum tweeted a report from AuburnUndercover.com that Newton “is expected to start,” but do with that what you will.
Cecil Hurt of TuscaloosaNews.com told Finebaum “these things wrap up in a year or two” — as in, not a week after they break. If the NCAA’s continental drift-paced case against the North Carolina Tar Heels is any indication, Newton might be ruled ineligible for the 2012 SEC Championship Game days before the world ends. He will be mired in an ugly quarterback controversy with Los Angeles Jaguars QB Tim Tebow (total drag that they signed him too late) at the time, but will appreciate the NCAA’s diligence.
Spoiler alert: the Auburn Tigers have a better resume than anybody in college football. They’ve beaten the nation’s highest-ranked one-loss team (the LSU Tigers), three other ranked teams (the Arkansas Razorbacks, Mississippi St. Bulldogs, and South Carolina Gamecocks), plus dangerous Kentucky Wildcats and Clemson Tigers squads. Their least-impressive game? Probably their three-point escape against Big Blue.
The Dawgs beat Kentucky by 13 on the road, their best win to date. But their best game may have been their 34-31 overtime loss to the Florida Gators, a contest they almost had in their hands until Todd Grantham made angels lose their wings and plummet weeping from the clouds over Gainesville. They’ve also lost to three teams that Auburn beat (Arkansas, MSU, and USC), plus the Colorado Buffaloes. I’m making this as brief as possible, I promise.
On the bright side, all this goes out the window with a single upset victory Saturday.
BY THE NUMBERS
Auburn's offense: Averaging 202.2 yards per game passing (73rd in Division I-A), 307.2 yards rushing (4th).
Georgia's defense: Allowing 199.1 yards per game passing (37th), 106.4 yards rushing (13th).
REASONS TO BE EXCITED
Well, the good news is there aren't too many elite playmakers on the Auburn roster for Georgia to worry about other then Cam Newton. Besides the prolific Tiger QB (whom we'll get to in a moment, rest assured), Auburn only has two offensive skill-position players ranked in the top 10 in the SEC in any statistical category -- running back Michael Dyer, seventh in the conference with 79.9 rushing yards per game, and receiver Darvin Adams, eighth with 63.3 receiving yards per game. Other than Adams, there isn't exactly a wealth of deep-threat wideouts to test Georgia's hit-or-miss secondary. Nor is there a lot of consistency on Auburn's special teams -- they're near the bottom in the SEC in both punting and punt returns.
REASONS TO BE WORRIED
OK, here's where we have to start talking about Cam Newton, whom Auburn coach Gene Chizik assures us will play this weekend in spite of the mounting controversy over his recruitment out of junior college. No disrespect to Georgia's defensive front, which has risen to a surprising second in the SEC in run defense, but their impressive statistics are a bit misleading -- they still haven't figured out how to neutralize a mobile QB yet, as evidenced by the rushing totals run up by Mississippi State's Chris Relf (20 carries, 109 yards), Florida's Trey Burton (17-110, two TDs), or even Colorado's Tyler Hansen (10-51, one TD). And it doesn't take a statistical genius to figure that Newton is easily the most dangerous QB they'll have faced yet. To add to the worry, Auburn's passing stats are just as misleading; it's not that they suck at throwing the ball, it's just that they haven't asked Newton to throw it all that much because, well, they haven't had to. But when they have asked him to launch it, he's been the second most efficient passer in the entire country, completing more than two-thirds of his throws with a TD/INT ratio of 19/5. This was a very potent offense even last year, when Auburn offensive coordinator only had supposed also-ran Chris Todd to work with; with a he-man like Newton, it's become downright unstoppable.
Georgia LB Justin Houston vs. Auburn QB Cam Newton. Like, who did you think it was going to be? Nobody on Auburn's offense is a more diabolical threat, and nobody on Georgia's defense is more capable of stopping him (if, of course, he's capable of being stopped in the first place). Houston has been a savvy QB-headhunter all season long, leading the SEC with nine sacks, but even he will have a tough time taking down Newton, whom he outweighs by only a couple large meals' worth and who rarely, if ever, has gone down on first contact. If Houston can't use his deceptive speed to chase down Newton before he gets to the defensive backfield, it's going to be a long day on the Plains for Georgia.
If, to Mark Richt’s surprise, Auburn Tigers QB Cam Newton happens to be ruled out of Saturday’s game against the Georgia Bulldogs due to an investigation into his shady recruitment, sophomore Barrett Trotter would take his place. According to Auburn depth charts at Rivals and the school’s official site. I link to both because college sports sites aren’t necessarily the most diligently updated things on earth.
Trotter has attempted eight garbage-time passes this season, completing five for 58 yards. He’s also rushed thrice for 31 yards and a touchdown. He was in the mix to be Auburn’s starter last year, but tore his ACL in spring ball. With his time off, he made the SEC’s academic honor roll.
At six-foot-two and 211 pounds he’s significantly smaller than Newton, but so is everybody. Earlier this year Auburn OC Gus Malzahn said of Trotter, “He’s a tough guy. Throws the ball with great touch. Understands protections,” and last year said, “He was getting almost equal reps in the spring toward the end until he got hurt. He’s coming along and doing some good things. He’s got a very good football mind and he’s kind of got that savvy. He can create some plays on his own and he’s a good zone read runner.”
In high school, he boasted some combination of this phenomenal hairstyle and this outrageous face paint. He was the nation’s 43rd-ranked quarterback as a recruit, and was billed as a dual-threat quarterback. Judging by game videos he liked to yell a lot, could throw with a little zip, and looked comfortable in a very midirecty offense — which likely helped prepare him for Malzahn’s. Despite growing up a fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide, he wasn’t recruited by Bama.
Here's what head coach Mark Richt has to say about Newton when he first saw him:
He was a very talented guy, a guy that we did look at. … A lot of it had to do with what we like to do offensively. He was more of a fit than any type of disrespect to his ability to play quarterback. He’s proven to be pretty darn good there."
Newton went on to sign with the Florida Gators and was there for two years before transferring to Binn College for one season.
And speaking of Newton, Georgia has been using walk-on quarterback Parker Welch as a mock version of Newton when the Bulldogs first-team defense scrimmages against the scout team. With Welch being 6'3", 207 lbs. and Newton coming in at 6'6", 250, it's not really a best mock version of Newton to have, but it's most likely Georgia's best option.
And for an injury report, Kwame Geathers and Logan Gray are two players to keep a close eye on. Geathers has an ankle injury and did not practice. Gray has a jaw injury by took part in non-contact drills. Kris Durham, who has a bruised lung, also took part in non-contact drills yesterday. He has been cleared to play.
The ongoing Cam Newton investigation has sportsbooks taking this Saturday’s game between the Georgia Bulldogs and Auburn Tigers down, making the game unavailable for public betting. According to David Payne at Covers.com, a major professional bettor laid money on Georgia at 9:07 this morning. Shortly after, sportsbooks started taking the game down. As Covers.com shares:
“We’re hearing reports that Cameron Newton’s status may be a game-time decision,” said Stoneback, Wednesday morning. “A professional player came in this morning bet Georgia and soon after we got an alert from one of our services about the news.”
The game’s line is currently off at Sportsbetting.com, Bodog.com, Sportsbook.com, and others. Bodog has posted a “BET LIVE” notice, indicating the game won’t be available until Newton is either officially on the field or ruled out.
The line is still up at our own Odds Shark listings center, though there’s no actual way to gamble through that listing. It is noteworthy that the line has slipped. Auburn opened as a 9.5-point favorite, which is now down to 7.
As far as whether Newton will be playing on Saturday, this might just be a speculation stampede, or some of these high rollers might know something we don’t yet. We’ll stay tuned.
BY THE NUMBERS
Georgia's offense: Averaging 240.9 yards per game passing (45th nationally), 153.7 yards rushing (61st).
Auburn's defense: Allowing 241.3 yards per game passing (95th), 114.6 yards rushing (18th).
REASONS TO BE EXCITED
Last year Auburn's defense was holding its own against the pass but helpless against the run; this year it's the pass defense's turn in the barrel. Granted, they've frequently run up the kinds of big leads that have forced their opponents to go pass-heavy, but the Tigers' pass-efficiency defense stats have been mediocre, and they've only picked off eight passes all season (half of those coming against the backup QBs of South Carolina and Arkansas in desperation-comeback mode). Last week against Idaho State, Aaron Murray had the chance to shake off some rust (and some residual disappointment from the Florida loss) and finished with a tidy 19-of-27, three-touchdown, no-interception day; if he's on this weekend, Auburn's secondary may have trouble accounting for a stocked stable of receivers. The Tigers have also had the occasional breakdowns in special-teams coverage, with Chattanooga, of all teams, returning a kickoff for a TD last week. That could mean some vital opportunities for Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith, both of whom will be healthy and available on Saturday.
REASONS TO BE WORRIED
As much as Auburn's pass defense has fallen off, its run defense has improved, going from third-worst in the SEC last year to third-best in 2010. Explosive runs have been few and far between for Caleb King and Washaun Ealey this season -- even against Idaho State, the ground game mostly hovered around "deliberate" -- so it's vital for Aaron Murray to be sharp enough that Auburn doesn't see fit to just stack the box on every play. To make that happen, though, he'll have to be upright, which will be a big challenge with junior breakout player Nick Fairley snarling at him from the other side of the line. Fairley is second in the SEC behind Georgia's Justin Houston in sacks this season and number one in tackles for loss, meaning that he'll be just as dangerous in the run-stuffing game as he will be in the pass rush.
Georgia C Ben Jones vs. Auburn DT Nick Fairley. Fairley has been nothing short of phenomenal in QB pressure this year; he's been a whirling, snarling Tasmanian devil against even the better offensive lines in the league, and he doesn't even try to get around them on the outside, either, he just crashes right up the middle like a demented Kool-Aid pitcher and plants the opposing QB in the turf. Jones has never backed down to anyone in his Georgia career, but his job's importance will be ratcheted up even further this weekend, as Georgia likely will be counting heavily on Aaron Murray's arm to make the big plays that will let the Dawgs keep up with the Tigers on the scoreboard.
Let's get one thing out of the way: Is a Georgia victory over 2nd-ranked Auburn this weekend likely? Not by my traditional understanding of the word, no. But neither would it be completely out of the question. For better or for worse, this historic series has made a recent habit of big upsets and close calls no matter how lopsided an individual game might look on paper.
Nov. 16, 1996: For the second year in a row, an unranked Georgia squad faces a 20th-ranked Auburn team as a 10-point underdog. Auburn, still in the running for an SEC West title, tears out to a 28-7 lead midway through the second quarter, but the defense held in the second half and Mike Bobo led the offense to an amazing comeback, throwing the tying touchdown with just one second left in regulation to send an SEC game to overtime for the very first time. Four OTs later, Georgia was walking out of Jordan-Hare stadium with both an incredible 56-49 win and one of the most famous photographs in Georgia football history.
Nov. 13, 1999: This time it was Auburn's turn to be unranked and a 10-point underdog, but that didn't seem to matter to first-year head coach Tommy Tuberville or anyone else on his team -- least of all QB Ben Leard, who threw for a career-high 416 yards (249 of them to wideout Ronney Daniels). As an ominous full moon rose over Sanford Stadium, Leard, Daniels and the Tigers rode to a 31-0 halftime lead that they pushed to 38-0 before finally letting off the gas. Fourteenth-ranked Georgia could only score three late, meaningless touchdowns to mitigate some of the embarrassment of what was probably the program's worst-ever performance in Athens.
Nov. 12, 2005: The 15th-ranked Tigers were hardly patsies as they rolled into Athens, but neither were they supposed to beat a top-10 Georgia team rolling toward the second SEC title of Mark Richt's tenure, particularly with quarterback D.J. Shockley back from an injury that sidelined him for two weeks. Shockley showed little rust upon his return (20-of-36 for 304 yards and a pair of TDs), but a blown coverage on 4th-and-10 with barely a minute to go allowed Devin Aromashodu to get behind the Georgia secondary for a 62-yard catch-and-run, and John Vaughn kicked a 20-yard field goal a few plays later to lift Auburn to a 31-30 upset.
Nov. 11, 2006: As troubled as Georgia's team might look right now, they're no worse off than the '06 Dawgs were around this time of year -- UGA was coming off a 1-4 midseason skid that included unthinkable losses to both Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Yet the unranked Dawgs jumped on #5 Auburn almost from the get-go, with Tra Battle intercepting Brandon Cox three times in the first half alone and running one of them back for a TD. Georgia shot out to a 24-0 lead before Cox or anyone else on the Auburn side could collect themselves and coasted to a 37-15 win, crushing Auburn's national-title hopes and kicking off their current four-game winning streak in the series.
Nov. 15, 2008: The Dawgs were a frustrated team coming into the Auburn game, coming off a three-week stretch in which their defense allowed a total of 125 points (including 49 to Florida in an utter evisceration in Jacksonville), but they were still heavy favorites over an Auburn team that had already given offensive coordinator Tony Franklin his walking papers and would soon be sending head coach Tuberville to keep him company in the unemployment line. Auburn's struggling offense didn't accomplish much, but they held Georgia to only 17 points and got all the way down to the Georgia 14 with a shot at the winning TD before Kodi Burns overthrew Ben Tate in the end zone with one second left on the clock.
The undefeated Auburn Tigers opened as a 9.5 point favorite over the 5-5 Georgia Bulldogs, according to our bros at Odds Shark. With home field advantage, that line might seem a little slim, but keep in mind the uselessness of home field advantage in this series. From 1992 to 1999, neither home team pulled off a win. Since the series became a home-and-home in 1959, 17 of Auburn’s 26 wins have come in Athens. Likewise, Georgia has won two straight in Auburn.
It looks like the betting public has a better sense of what home field means in this series, as the line has slipped to 8.5. That’s also probably just as much due to uncertainty about whether Cam Newton will play or not. (Short answer: yes, he will.)
The over/under has jumped from 64 to 65.5. No explanation there, other than people see Newton on one side and A.J. Green on the other, plus defenses that have given up 43 points to the Arkansas Razorbacks and 29 to the Colorado Buffaloes.
In last year's contest between the Auburn Tigers and the Georgia Bulldogs, both teams were looking to gain some momentum before they took on their in-state rivals in Alabama and Georgia Tech. Auburn came into the game with a 7-3 record while the Bulldogs were coming in with a 5-4 record.
Auburn got the scoring started early as Auburn quarterback Chris Todd threw two touchdown passes in the first quarter to put the Tigers up by 14 and it looked as if it was going to be another long day for the Dawgs. However, the offense woke up in the second quarter as Joe Cox threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Israel Troupe to cut the Tigers lead to seven.
The Bulldogs tacked on 10 more points in the third quarter with Blair Walsh FG and a Washaun Ealey touchdown run to tie the game at 17. Then it was the Caleb King show as he scored on a 11-yard run to give the Bulldogs the lead and when Auburn answered with a Demond Washington 99-yard kick return to tie the game yet again, King scored 24-yard run to give the Dawgs the lead.
Auburn had one last chance to tie the game, but Bacarri Rambo made a game-saving hit on Mario Fannin who would have scored and tie the game if Rambo did not hit him and jar the ball loose. It was a memorable play and helped earn Georgia the 31-24 win over their oldest rivals. Here's footage of King's two touchdowns during last year's game against Auburn. Can he do it again and help the Dawgs come away with a huge win?
Georgia Bulldogs vs Auburn :: Caleb King's TouchDowns during the game (HD)!! (via knowlimitsoulja)
The Georgia Bulldogs have plenty to play for Saturday against the No. 2 Auburn Tigers. A win would preserve the Dawgs' 13-year bowl streak, give their season a redeeming victory, put a major rival's BCS title run in question, and set the Tigers up to possibly miss the SEC Championship Game. Auburn can clinch the SEC West title by beating Georgia, but a loss would give the Alabama Crimson Tide the chance to send the LSU Tigers to Atlanta. If Mark Richt can't get his team up for all that, well...
Finding a way to stop Heisman favorite Cam Newton will be the key. It's like the key buddy dropped down the drain in last night's Walking Dead, though, because nobody's figured out how to stop Cammy Cam yet. I gave up on that simile halfway through. Newton is fourth in the nation in rushing yards and second to only Boise St.'s Kellen Moore in passing efficiency. And don't think Tigers OC Gus Malzahn didn't see the Dawgs struggle against the Florida Gators' multi-QB offense -- Newton can catch passes, too.
The knock on Auburn has been that they have a bad defense. But guess what: in conference games, they're actually in the SEC's top half. The Tigers D is giving up only about 20 yards more per game than Georgia's does, and has been considerably better than the Kentucky Wildcats, Tennessee Volunteers, or Vanderbilt Commodores defenses that Georgia smoked. They've even been better than the South Carolina Gamecocks D that held Georgia to six points.
Georgia's offense and defense will each need to play their game of the year to upset Auburn, and they have every incentive to do just that.
Plenty more to come.