After a one-week hiatus for the entirely expected (but much appreciated) blowout win over Appalachian State, the Manic-Depressive Preview returns for what we thought back in July and August was going to be another cruise-control win at Auburn. To the entire nation’s shock, however, the Tigers are currently 9-1 and ranked No. 7 by the AP — damn you, Gus Malzahn, you brilliant fiend — so it looks like we might have an actual game on our hands. As for our individual previewers, they’re approaching this unexpected development pretty much how you’d expect. Let’s sit back and see whether they can keep from coming to blows as they hash out the 117th meeting of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.
Manic Doug: Hooo, boy, that win over Florida was really something, huh?
Depressive Doug: Yeah, something that probably took 10 or 15 years off my life. I’d really appreciate it if we didn’t have any more games like that this season.
MD: Hey, it was totally worth it. Beating the Gators, whether they’re good or bad, has always been the cure for what ails us. If we can carry the momentum from that game through the rest of the season, we’ll end up 9-3 and in perfect shape for a decent bowl game.
DD: Already predicting us to run the table, huh. Great.
MD: Why not? Under Richt we’re 14-1 in regular-season games after we’ve beaten Florida. Fifteen and one if you count last week’s win.
DD: Sure, you focus on the 15. I’ll focus on the 1 — the 2004 game at Auburn, where we got steamrolled by a Tiger team that ended up going undefeated. A team that bears a lot of similarities to this year’s Auburn squad, I might add.
MD: How you figure? That team had an incredible defense and a QB who could throw. This year’s Auburn squad, good as they are, has neither of those things.
DD: But they have a ground attack that’s averaging 320 yards a game. That’s good for third in the nation — even Georgia Tech is staring up at them in the rushing rankings right now.
MD: So what? Our defense has improved dramatically over the past few weeks — since that week we got lit up by LSU, we’ve decreased the number of yards we’ve allowed every single game. And even though our secondary is still struggling a bit, our front seven is only allowing 3.4 yards per carry, which means our defensive strength matches up perfectly with their big strength on offense.
DD: So Auburn rushing for more than 300 yards a game merits a “so what” from you, but Georgia’s defense looking good against the likes of Vanderbilt, Florida and App State is significant. OK then. Glad you’ve got your priorities straight.
MD: So here’s a question, is it “significant” that Auburn’s pass defense is ranked 81st in the country? And other than Texas A&M and LSU, it’s not like they’ve faced a bunch of juggernaut passing attacks, either.
DD: When you’ve been blowing people out the way Auburn has been the last few weeks, they’re going to pass a lot more to try and keep up, so no, I don’t think that’s such a big deal.
MD: Fine. We’ll see what your reaction is when Aaron Murray is lacing that defense for more than 400 yards this weekend.
DD: Murray hasn’t had even a 300-yard passing game since our receiving corps was wiped out against Tennessee, but sure, have fun believing that.
MD: He also didn’t have Todd Gurley for most of that stretch, either. But with Gurley back to give the Auburn defense something to think about, we’ve got a real shot at putting some points on the board. Against ranked opponents — LSU, Ole Miss and A&M, all of whom have balanced, productive offenses — Auburn’s allowing more than 500 yards a game.
DD: OK, so best-case scenario, we have to win a shootout like we were doing the first few weeks of the season, only without Keith Marshall and the top tier of our receiving corps. You really think we can manage that, particularly with the kind of ball-control offense Auburn’s capable of playing?
MD: I absolutely do, ‘cause I don’t know if you caught the tail end of the Florida game, but we’re capable of playing a little ball control ourselves, and against a much better defense than the one we’ll see this weekend, I might add. Here’s the X-factor, though: While Georgia is relatively healthy and confident for the first time in more than a month, Auburn is looking ahead to the Iron Bowl. To read their blogs and message boards, they’re already counting the Georgia game as a win and just biding their time until Saban comes to town. Well, fuck that. I’m thinking they’re gonna come out a little flat and Georgia’s gonna be on fire, and we’re gonna punch them in the mouth with a few quick scoring drives just like we did against Florida. Auburn’s too good to stay down for too long, and they’ll eventually get their heads screwed on straight and start moving the ball, but that’s when we start giving it to Gurley, Green and Douglas to grind out the clock and keep the ball out of the hands of the Auburn running backs. We’ll salt it away with another one of those long, late-game drives and win by a score of 37-27.
DD: Are you kidding me? A double-digit win over a top-10 opponent on the road? When was the last time we did that?
MD: Hold on, lemme look it up.
DD: Well, trust me, it’s gonna take a while, so while you’re doing that, let me school everyone with the unfortunate truth: All this “motivation” and “looking ahead” talk you’re putting out there is the kind of contrived mumbo-jumbo even Kirk Herbstreit wouldn’t fall for. Yes, Georgia typically gets a boost from a win in Jacksonville, but not enough of one to win when the opponent is markedly superior. And no, I don’t think you can just count on Auburn to be looking ahead, not after we’ve pasted them by 38 points each of the last two years. They’re too well-coached to treat this game as an afterthought, so I think it’s they who will be punching us in the mouth early on thanks to Nick Marshall, who’s a much more efficient passer than you or anyone else seems to want to give him credit for. Our defense may be improving, and good for them, but I still don’t like our chances against a mobile QB. So it’s Georgia, not Auburn, who will be playing a futile game of catch-up in the second half against an opponent that’s extremely good at handing the ball off, moving the chains and grinding out clock. Final score, Auburn 45, Georgia 30.
MD: For your information, we beat a ranked opponent on the road just two years ago. Georgia Tech was ranked 23rd when we played them and we won by two touchdowns.
DD: Seriously? That’s it? Georgia Tech?
MD: You asked a question, I answered it. Now who feels stupid?
DD: Not you, clearly, since you lack both the self-awareness to know when you’re wrong and the ability to feel shame.
MD: I have no idea what any of that means, so since you’re such a smart guy, why don’t you average up our score predictions so I can get over to the liquor store and get on with my day.
DD: Our predictions average out to an Auburn win by a score of 36-34.
MD: They do? Wait, I want to change my prediction.
DD: No, I’m not sitting through another round of this. Nor do I have any desire to have my math checked by someone who cheated his way through trigonometry in 11th grade.
MD: OK, you know that stuff is bullshit. When am I ever gonna need to know any of that?
DD: If the only education you ever received in your life was knowledge you thought you’d “need,” the only classes you would’ve ever taken would be mixology, hairstyling and female sexuality.
MD: That sounds like a pretty awesome slate, actually. You think there are any places where I could actually set up a schedule like that?
DD: Coincidentally enough, I think your best shot would be at Auburn. You could even take a class on fingerpainting while you were at it.
MD: Owwww! Look at you! You may be a total defeatist, but you still manage to keep it frosty!
DD: Hey, I have to figure out some way to have fun this weekend.
MD: Huh. I always thought fun was a foreign concept to you.