Georgia takes on Auburn with a playoff spot on the line.
On Saturday, December 2nd, the 11-1 Georgia Bulldogs will battle the 10-2 Auburn Tigers in the SEC Championship. The matchup will be the second time the two SEC rivals will face each other season; the first was a blowout win for Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
How They Got Here
Georgia started out the year 9-0 before Auburn dominated them in their tenth game. Due to their schedule, Georgia’s only win over a legitimate contender this season was a victory in Notre Dame early in the year. For the most part, the Bulldogs dominated their competition with an elite run game that wore down their opponents and took pressure off freshman quarterback Jake Fromm. Fromm has also shown ability (in limited opportunity with the running game being as good as it is) as a playmaker who can throw the ball accurately great distances down the field.
Auburn lost early in the season in a close contest in Clemson. They then proceeded to go on a four game winning streak before they blew a large lead and lost on the road in LSU. At that point, many analysts as well as fans dismissed them from the college football playoff conversation. However, since the LSU loss, Auburn has come roaring back to life. They had two easy victories over SEC west opponents before completely dominating Georgia on November 1st. Two weeks later, Auburn would earn a fairly comfortable win in the Iron Bowl against the then-undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide in order to book a ticket to the SEC Championship for a rematch with the Dawgs.
Keys for Both Teams
1. Contain Auburn’s Front 7
In the loss to Auburn earlier this year, Georgia’s offensive line was bullied by Auburn’s dominating defensive line for the majority of the game. This allowed Auburn to contain Georgia’s running game, leading to a lack of balance on offense for the Bulldogs. It will be crucial in this game for Georgia’s offensive line to at least be competitive with Auburn’s front 7 in order to allow the run game to be effective.
2. Jake Fromm’s Playmaking
Although Georgia’s running game will likely be at least somewhat better than it was the last time they played Auburn, it still probably won’t be as effective as it has been against some of the weaker defenses that Georgia played this season. Because of this, quarterback Jake Fromm will need to create plays outside the pocket as he will surely be hurried by Auburn’s defense throughout the game. Fromm, who took over for Jacob Eason after an injury and has remained in the starting lineup ever since, has not been forced to make many plays on his own this season. The SEC Championship will be a great opportunity for him to prove himself.
1. Kerryon Johnson’s Health
Auburn has been without its primary running back, Kamryn Pettway, for most of the season. However, another elite Auburn running back, Kerryon Johnson, has also had health concerns over the past few weeks. Johnson was forced to leave the Iron Bowl last week with a shoulder injury and his status for the SEC Championship is still up in the air. Johnson, who torched Georgia last time they played, has been a significant part of Auburn’s offensive attack since Pettway’s injury so it will be vital for Auburn to find other playmaking options if Johnson is unable to play.
2. Play of Jarrett Stidham
Auburn’s quarterback Jarrett Stidham has been riding a hot streak lately and will look to continue his solid play against Georgia. Stidham has shown that he can win big games, as proven by his victory in the Iron Bowl, but the SEC Championship will undoubtedly be the biggest stage of his career, along with Jake Fromm. While Georgia’s front seven may not be quite as dominant as Auburn’s, it is still one of the best in the country and Stidham will have to be up to the challenge of staying concentrated even when he is forced outside the pocket.
Kickoff: 4:00 PM ET
Both of these teams have had great years and it’s possible that if they weren’t playing each other, then both could find a way to make it into the Playoff. However, it is likely that only the winner of this game will be able to compete for a championship this season.
While Georgia’s running game has been among the best in the country for the whole season, Auburn boasts a defense that is capable of shutting it down. I think Georgia’s defense will eventually be worn out by Auburn’s uptempo offense, especially if Johnson is able to go, and in the end Auburn will be able to make more plays down the stretch of what will be a close game.
SCORE PREDICTION: Auburn 24, Georgia 17.