Georgia Bulldogs: Gurley’s return highlights Auburn Matchup

Zack Sims reviews the upcoming matchup of the Georgia Bulldogs against the Auburn Tigers.

Zack Sims reviews the upcoming matchup of the Georgia Bulldogs against the Auburn Tigers.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Auburn

Nov 10, 2012; Auburn, AL, USA: Georgia Bulldogs tailback Keith Marshall (4) gets past Auburn Tigers defensive back Joshua Holsey (15) and defensive back Jermaine Whitehead (9) during the second half at Jordan-Hare Stadium. (Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports)

ATHENS, Ga., (For the last month, the Bulldogs have not played a game in Sanford Stadium. During this period, they were also without the services of running back Todd Gurley. However that all changes when Gurley returns for Saturday’s matchup against No.9 Auburn at home.

Following a four-game suspension, Gurley is looking to pick up where he left off earlier this season. In his five games of action, he ran for 773 yards and eight touchdowns on 94 carries. His average of 154.6 yards per game ranks second in the nation.

His return gives the Georgia offense, which put up 63 points in its last outing, more depth at running back. In their most recent matchup, the Bulldogs managed to rush for 305 yards. With Gurley back in the running game, this success should continue against Auburn.

The Tigers’ rush defense struggled in their losses this season. They lost the two games in which they allowed more than 175 yards on the ground. Georgia’s offense averages 256.3 yards per game on the ground and could give Auburn problems Saturday.

With Gurley back in the lineup, the Bulldogs possess one of the most talented stable of running backs in the nation. Freshmen Nick Chubb and Sony Michel both play crucial roles in the running game. During Gurley’s suspension, Chubb carried the ball 102 times for 671 yards and five touchdowns.

Oct 4, 2014; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley (3) runs against Vanderbilt Commodores defensive back Torren McGaster (5) during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Georgia defeated Vanderbilt 44-17. (Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)
Oct 4, 2014; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley (3) runs against Vanderbilt Commodores defensive back Torren McGaster (5) during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Georgia defeated Vanderbilt 44-17. (Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

Michel missed four of the last five games with a shoulder injury but has still managed to rush for 307 yards and four touchdowns on only 39 carries. He appears to be healthy again after a solid outing against Kentucky. With these two freshmen also in the backfield, Georgia should be able to run the ball successfully by continuing to throw fresh running backs at the Auburn defense.

The running game has not been the only bright spot for the offense as Hutson Mason is coming off two of his best passing performances. He threw for a career-high 319 yards and a touchdown while completing 63.4 percent of his passes against Florida. In his last game, he completed 13 of his 16 passes for 170 yards and four touchdowns.

Nov 1, 2014; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Hutson Mason (14) throws the ball against the Florida Gators during the first half at EverBank Field. (Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
Nov 1, 2014; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Hutson Mason (14) throws the ball against the Florida Gators during the first half at EverBank Field. (Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

If Mason can continue this play, Auburn will not be able to load the box to stop the running game. His success can help open the running game and give the Tigers a lot of problems on defense.

While Gurley’s return helps improve the offense, it can’t fix a Georgia defense that has struggled against the run in the last two weeks. In the last two games, they allowed a combined 632 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

These problems must be solved as Auburn enters this game with the nation’s eighth best rush offense. If the Bulldogs can’t find a way to slow down this running attack, Auburn may be on their way to increasing their average of 286.4 rush yards per game.

Both offenses’ rely heavily on running the ball and look to continue doing so Saturday. Georgia’s defense must find a way to slow Auburn down if they want to have a chance to win this game. Also, the Bulldogs’ must maintain their success on the ground to control the game and keep the Tigers off the field. Fortunately for them, this should be much easier thanks to the return of Todd Gurley.

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