The Auburn Tigers steamrolled the Georgia Bulldogs in their regular season meeting, but the two teams will meet against on Saturday in the SEC Championship Game.
It would be easy to look at the box score from the first matchup and declare Auburn the prohibitive favorite, but not all of the advanced stats would agree.
Let’s take a look at some of our numbers to identify some important questions and key matchups heading into Saturday’s showdown.
Can Georgia Protect Jake Fromm?
Georgia’s offensive line got off to a slow start this season, but hit its stride around Week 5.
Excluding the Auburn game, Jake Fromm was pressured on just 16.1 percent of his dropbacks over the final eight games of Georgia’s season. Against Auburn, however, Fromm faced pressure on 38.7 percent of his dropbacks.
Technically Fromm faced more pressure vs Florida (four pressures on seven dropbacks) but due to the extremely small sample size versus the Gators we can effectively say Auburn gave the Bulldogs offensive line more issues than any other team this season.
Predictably, Jeff Holland did the most damage (9 QB pressures) but nine other Tigers defenders also got in on the action.
Javon Wims vs. Carlton Davis
Excluding throws behind the line of scrimmage, Fromm is completing 70.4 percent of his passes when targeting Javon Wims, but just 55.4 percent when throwing to everyone else.
Wims’ importance to the Georgia offense obviously means Auburn wants their star cornerback Carlton Davis matched up on him, which we saw throughout the first meeting. Surprisingly, however, Davis didn’t appear to have a significant impact on the game.
When matched up with Davis, Wims caught two of his four targets for 68 yards. Wims’ third catch came while matched up against Jordyn Peters.
Each of Wims’ catches came on targets over 20 yards downfield. But the most noteworthy stat here is that his two receptions against Davis were the only two catches Davis allowed on targets 20 or more yards downfield this season.
Based on the first matchup, it appears as though Wims is capable of winning his battle with Davis. It’s just a matter of the Georgia offensive line protecting Fromm and giving him time to get the ball out to his favorite target.
Does Georgia’s defense have a chance?
The biggest issue for Georgia’s defense in the first meeting was giving up big plays, which obviously has to be fixed for the Bulldogs to have a chance. If they cut down on the big plays, however, there are signs that Georgia’s defense could create some problems for Auburn.
Georgia was able to pressure Jarrett Stidham on exactly 50 percent of his dropbacks—the second highest rate Stidham faced this season, trailing only the Clemson game (56.1 percent).
This has been an issue for Auburn all season. Stidham was pressured on 32.1 percent this year, and over 40 percent in each of their games against Georgia, Clemson and Alabama.
Obviously Auburn managed to win two of those games, so this is an offense capable of overcoming the offensive line’s limitations. But if Georgia is able to keep it close, this could be an area where it has an advantage over the Tigers.