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GEORGIA (5-4, 3-4 SEC) vs. #8 AUBURN (7-2, 5-1 SEC)

PREGAME

The Bulldogs seem rejuvenated following last week’s much-needed 27-24 victory at Kentucky. And, now they return home to host an opponent they have dominated in Athens over the last decade. However, these Tigers are much better than last Saturday’s ‘Cats of Kentucky, and appear to be one of the hottest teams in all of college football. Georgia is in serious jeopardy of ending a season without a conference victory at home for the first time since 1962; whereas in Auburn’s two previous road games this season—both versus SEC foes—they each resulted in an easy victory. Accordingly, not only are the Bulldogs in the rare position of being underdogs at home, but are currently lofty 10-point underdogs for tomorrow.

  • In a series with an all-time record which is essentially even (56-55-8 in Georgia’s favor), the Bulldogs have defeated the Tigers eight out of their last 10 meetings, including four consecutive times in Athens—all of which were supposed to be relatively close affairs—by an average rounded score of 39 to 15.
  • If the current odds hold, this would mark only the eighth Georgia game at Sanford Stadium beginning in 1960 whereby the Bulldogs entered as a double-digit underdog. The previous seven—1962 vs. Georgia Tech, 1963 vs. Alabama, 1972 vs. Alabama, 1990 vs. Georgia Tech, 1995 vs. Florida, 1995 vs. Auburn, and 1996 vs. Tennessee—all resulting in losses for the Bulldogs.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

When the Dogs Have the Ball: Since allowing Texas A&M and LSU to have running success in back-to-back games, Auburn’s defense has been absolute run-stoppers, allowing its last five opponents to average just 94.2 rushing yards per game and 3.1 yards per rush. This could very well present a problem for Georgia. In the four games the Bulldogs’ running game was essentially halted, and quarterback Jacob Eason was forced to pass often (i.e., games in which he attempted 33 or more passes), the true freshman had a passing efficiency rating of 108.5. In Georgia’s other five games, or affairs in which Eason attempted less than 33 passes, his efficiency rating was 130.3.

When the Tigers Have the Ball: Auburn’s Kamryn Pettway (1,106 rushing yards)—the SEC’s leading rusher—is questionable for the game, while backup Kerryon Johnson (616) is banged up. Nevertheless, the Tigers feature a stable of backs which also includes Stanton Truitt and Cam Martin—each of whom, despite limited play this season, average 6.3 yards per carry. Georgia’s run defense has performed admirably of late, including containing Kentucky’s potent ground attack last week. If the Bulldogs load up the box in an attempt to slow the Tigers’ running game, the pressure will be on Auburn signal-caller Sean White, who struggled last season, including in the little action he saw against Georgia. However, this season, White not only ranks first in the SEC and 12th in the FBS in passing efficiency (159.8), but he can hurt you with his legs, as well, rushing for 247 gross yards on the year.

Special Teams: Georgia’s weekly special-teams snafu continued against Kentucky when returner Isaiah McKenzie muffed a second-quarter punt with the Bulldogs leading 10-7. The Wildcats promptly scored a touchdown and, following the fumble, seemingly gained the game’s momentum, outscoring Georgia 14-3 until midway through the third quarter. To have any chance whatsoever to defeat Auburn, the Bulldogs cannot endure any of the special-teams setbacks which have plagued them the entire season. Breakdown on special teams have consequently led to the opposition having great field position and, although Georgia’s defense has played admirably this season, it has been atrocious once opponents reach the Bulldogs’ red zone. When the opposition has reached Georgia’s 20-yard line this season, they have eventually scored 93.3 percent of the time, which ranks last in the SEC and seventh from the bottom in the entire FBS.

PREDICTION

I get the feeling Georgia will be well prepared for this one, as well as the Sanford Stadium crowd. Still, even without Pettway, Auburn’s ground game can be lethal. Throw in a highly-efficient White keeping the Bulldogs off balanced with the pass, and Georgia has hardly had to deal with this type of offense, and its potency. Offensively, the Bulldogs might find it difficult running the ball, and we’ve witnessed what happens when they have been forced to pass. Still, I can easily see Georgia hanging tough with the Tigers—that is, until the visitor simply pulls away at the end. Auburn 29, GEORGIA 17

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