Dating back to 1902 (thanks Sports-Reference), the Georgia Bulldogs and Auburn Tigers have clashed on the football field 115 times. The 116th time will come to us on Saturday, and mighty heavy stakes are on the line to say the least.
Thanks to their loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks earlier this year, Georgia is living on the edge. To their credit, they have played well since that loss, racking up W after W. Their monster win over the Florida Gators and shutout W over the Missouri Tigers has helped them vault up to the #4 spot in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings. They’re in the driver’s seat to make the SEC Championship Game, but one loss could doom them from achieving the ultimate goal of making it back to the Playoff after appearing in 2017.
Auburn is certainly on edge themselves too. With the rival Alabama Crimson Tide’s loss to the LSU Tigers last week, Auburn could very well put some heat on ‘Bama for, at the very least, a second-place finish behind vaunted LSU. They are also likely in contention for a NY6 appearance at this point, as they rank 12th in the nation at the moment in the CFP rankings. So any loss, to this point, could see them slip out of contention for playing in a big bowl game.
This game figures to be very interesting. Both teams have played particularly well this year. Although Auburn has lost to LSU and Florida, they’ve still proven to be a threat, at an absolute minimum, to compete and play hard. They haven’t lost at home yet, and well, guess where this game is being played? On The Plains, where they’ve allowed, on average, 14.75 points and scored, on average, 38.75.
Playing on the road hasn’t really been an issue for Georgia though. Granted, they’ve played just three games outside the state so far, but they passed all those tests. They beat the Vanderbilt Commodores 30-6 in Nashville, thumped the Tennessee Volunteers 43-14 in Knoxville and, of course, defeated Florida 24-17 in Jacksonville. So while they may not be super battle tested this year, they’ve been able to pass those tests.
If Auburn’s to win, they’re going to have to figure out how to crack the code of the defense. UGA’s defense is improving week by week it seems. They’ve allowed just 10.1 points per game this season, second-best in the nation behind Ohio State. They have the 17th-ranked pass defense and the fourth-ranked rush defense. In terms of YPC allowed, they’re tied for sixth in the nation with Wyoming and Pitt. In Yards/Play, only OSU, Clemson, Wisconsin and Michigan have lesser marks than their 4.3 YPP allowed. Simply put, this is an elite defense.
And it’s one that could give freshman Bo Nix a lot of problems. Nix has had his moments, but he’s still a sub-60 percent passer, and that’s probably not going to be able to cut it. Auburn’s rushing attack ranks 19th in the country in terms of YPG and their YPC is at 5.0, but that puts them down at 32nd. It’s a solid mark, and Auburn should feel confident in running the ball. But yards will not come easy against this vaunted Dawg defense.
On the flipside, Jake Fromm could be poised for a good day. Auburn’s pass defense has been solid but not spectacular this year. They’ve allowed 57.6 percent of passes to be completed against them and are giving up, on average, 221.4 yards per game through the air. Fromm has had his moments with passing the ball this year, and if all goes well, he could find some success. Rushing the ball is Georgia’s forte, but the Auburn run D is a strong unit. They rank 21st in rushing yards allowed per game and sit 17th in the country in YPC allowed. D’Andre Swift, Brian Herrien, Zamir White and James Cook are very talented runners of course, but like for Auburn, the yards might not be able to come so easily.
This will be a hell of a game I imagine. The spread indicates that it could be a close and dramatic one, and I would agree with that sentiment. This should be a show-stealer on Saturday and could provide a lot of fireworks.
HOW TO WATCH
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. CT
Spread: Georgia -3
Moneyline: Georgia -150 | Auburn +130