No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 10 Auburn: Who wins? Well, we think we know
Despite the rhetoric, every college football game doesn’t matter.
But this one does. Oh, how it does.
If No. 1 Georgia beats No. 10 Auburn on The Plains Saturday, the Bulldogs stamp themselves as an unmovable No. 1 en route to the SEC Championship Game collision with Alabama, a game the Bulldogs wouldn’t necessarily need to win to make the Playoff.
If the Bulldogs lose Saturday, and it doesn’t really matter how or by how many, all those pesky questions about West vs. East superiority resurface, and suddenly the Dawgs would have to win the SEC title game just to make the Playoff.
If No. 10 Auburn loses, its Playoff hopes are done.
Auburn has one shot to make the Playoff. Three, actually. It must beat Georgia, Alabama and Georgia again in the SEC title game — all in the next four weeks. That’s it.
So, No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 10 Auburn: Who ya got? That’s something we’ve been discussing all week.
Connor O’Gara, senior national columnist: I’ve been banging the drum for Georgia all year. Well, after I sheepishly picked Mississippi State to win in Athens, that is. Still, I’m a believer in Georgia. I absolutely think the Dawgs will compete for a Playoff spot for the next month. Nothing in the last 10 weeks would suggest otherwise.
Having said all of that, I’m going with Auburn.
I think the Tigers will feast on some home cooking and Jarrett Stidham will finally play the big-time game that Auburn fans have been waiting for. Kerryon Johnson won’t be able to get rolling against this Georgia defense, but with Stidham stretching the field, the Tigers will give Georgia its toughest test of the season.
I actually think there’s a decent chance these teams end up trading touchdowns in the second half. I wouldn’t be surprised if both quarterbacks, who have been nitpicked by people like myself, had big games. This could wind up being something like 28-28 in the final minutes with Auburn getting the game-winning score late.
Auburn gets a huge win, 31-28, to keep its SEC West hopes alive, and Georgia suffers its first hiccup of the year.
John Crist, senior writer: Maybe I’m just hopeful, but I honestly believe that Alabama and Georgia are on a collision course for Atlanta with undefeated seasons on the line.
When I was asked before the season which team in the West would be the most legitimate threat to Alabama, I was all in on Auburn. With Stidham taking over, the offense finally had some balance.
It’s not just Stidham, either. Johnson — despite being less than 100 percent for a large portion of the year — is a touchdown machine. The receiving corps has finally started to make some plays downfield. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is doing a masterful job rotating his front seven to great results. Daniel Carlson might be the best kicker in America, too.
However, there’s something about this Bulldogs club that makes me think Kirby Smart and Co. are on a mission. There’s a certain killer instinct on display that Smart clearly learned from his time on Nick Saban’s staff, an edge that simply wasn’t there when Mark Richt was at the helm.
Jordan-Hare is one of the more underrated venues in the SEC, but these Dawgs are hungrier for much more than an East title. … Georgia 24, Auburn 19.
Clint Lamb, Auburn writer: It’s hard to pick against Georgia, but that’s exactly what I’m about to do.
I still believe in the Tigers when they’re at their best — which they should be on Saturday. They’ll be playing in front of a home crowd that hasn’t seen a victory over Georgia in almost four years.
Auburn’s inability to prevail in close games has been alarming — it lost the only two games decided by less than two scores, but both were on the road.
Georgia’s only tough road game was in Week 2 against Notre Dame, and the Irish forced Fromm into two turnovers (one interception, one fumble). Notre Dame was also the only defense to hold this Georgia team that is averaging 279.33 rushing yards per game to under 200 yards (185) — and 70 of those came on two plays.
Auburn has only allowed seven runs of 20-plus yards this season (11th best in the country) — which has helped give it the nation’s No. 24 run defense.
If Auburn can force Georgia to turn to Fromm and the passing game for offensive production, I believe that the Tigers’ defense can force the true freshman into making enough mistakes on the road to hand the Bulldogs their first loss of the season. … Auburn 21, Georgia 20.
Adam Spencer, Georgia writer: These two teams are similar — elite running games and stout run defenses. However, at the moment, Georgia has more depth and has been playing much better.
Yes, Johnson leads the SEC with 15 touchdowns, but the three-headed monster of Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and D’Andre Swift gives Georgia the rushing edge.
Playing at home will be a big boost for Auburn, but I don’t see a “Miracle at Jordan-Hare” happening.
This will be one of the best games of the SEC season, but I think the home fans will be disappointed. No last-second surprises this time around. … Georgia 27, Auburn 20.
Chris Wright, executive editor: Solid arguments for both sides, but I keep coming back to this: Georgia is built like an SEC West power team. Auburn is an SEC West power team.
Gus Malzahn’s offense was held to a lone touchdown against Kirby Smart’s Dawgs last year, but this offense has a difference-maker at quarterback. Still, I don’t entirely trust Malzahn in big games. I don’t exactly trust Fromm or the fact Georgia has largely beaten up on the East, either.
I’ll be surprised if the winner gets to 28 points. This will look more like Alabama-LSU last week, with different colored jerseys.
Can Stidham hold up against Georgia’s creative pass rush? How good, really, is Georgia’s pass rush? Fromm throws so many pre-snap, one-read balls, will Auburn have enough time to get to him? Those answers will determine who wins. Georgia can win a low-scoring game. I’m not sure Fromm can win a shootout.
I always root for the best story. There is no bad story here. There’s drama coming from every direction. But an Auburn victory would create the most imaginable: the sport’s two biggest rivals squaring off for a spot on the sport’s biggest stage.
An Iron Bowl with a Playoff spot at stake?
Give me that. Auburn 27, Georgia 23.