1. Georgia is having one of its most successful seasons in recent history. What has been the primary reason for the Dawgs’ big SEC wins?
The entire team has been playing lights out since week one, but no matter the opponent, Georgia will live and die by its pair of elite running backs in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. After appearing to have lost a step last season following his knee injury the season prior, Chubb is back to his old self, and head coach Kirby Smart has even suggested on occasion that Chubb is even more explosive than he was before the injury. Michel has been running with a new level of purpose and power, and has been electric while on the field. Those two have helped to carry Georgia’s offense after it was forced to turn to a freshman quarterback.
2. Jake Fromm is now undoubtedly the leader of Jim Chaney’s offense. Auburn will likely load the box to stop Chubb and Michel, how can Fromm beat the Tigers through the air?
The key for Fromm has been and will continue to be about decision making. Fromm doesn’t quite have the arm strength of Jacob Eason, but he has proven to be at least if not more accurate, and can make any throw Chaney’s offense requires from him. That being said, the run has set up the pass well each and every week, and Fromm consistently finds his wide receivers in one-on-one matchups. But Auburn has the strongest defensive line the Bulldogs have faced this season, so things could be a bit more challenging in this one. Against a tough defense like Auburn, Georgia will most likely attempt to get things going on the ground and rely on the defense to keep things in its favor.
3. Georgia’s defense is the best that Auburn has faced since Clemson. What offensive approaches have proved the most effective against UGA this year?
Running the ball against Georgia is extremely difficult to do. Florida found a little success there in a game in which the Bulldogs displayed uncharacteristically poor tackling, but Georgia has been effective against just about every other rushing attack it’s faced. However, the team is susceptible through the air, as the secondary is the clear weakness of this team. Quarterbacks like Drew Lock, Jake Bentley and Kyle Shurmur have found success against Georgia passing the ball, so the Tigers are going to need to rely on the arm of Jarrett Stidham if they want to pull the upset.
4. Auburn is itching for a rematch after last year’s letdown. What is the mindset of Kirby Smart’s team heading into arguably the biggest game of their season?
Having talked to the players on Tuesday (Nov. 7), they are trying to avoid getting caught up in the hype of this game. Kirby Smart has established a Saban-esque culture around the team of not allowing themselves to be distracted by anything other than the next game, and the players have bought in. This team doesn’t look at any game on the schedule other than the one on Saturday, and it does not take into account history, record or ranking when preparing for opponents. For Georgia, this is just another game.
5. Who are a few unsung heroes for the Bulldogs that Auburn fans should be on the lookout for? Who might be Georgia’s X-factor?
While Lorenzo Carter and Roquan Smith will get the attention on the defensive side of the ball, defensive back J.R. Reed has been one of the best consistent producers on the team, and could certainly be considered one of Georgia’s “X-factors” to this point in the season. Reed is a transfer from Tulsa who was on the practice squad, but he has developed into a ballhawk who is one of the hardest hitters on the team. He also has a knack for getting to the quarterback on safety blitzes, and is responsible for Georgia’s only non-offensive touchdown on the season. He’s certainly a player to be on the lookout for come Saturday.
6. Score prediction? How will this huge matchup play out?
On paper, Auburn matches up well with Georgia. Stidham is one of the conference’s premier passers, and solid quarterback play has been just about the only path toward scoring on Georgia this season. Auburn’s strong defensive front is the best one Georgia has faced so far, and if it can stop Chubb and Michel, it could be a long day for Fromm and company. Still, this is a team which has consistently stepped up when it needs to, and seems to have an intangible ability to make plays when necessary. I predict Auburn will jump out to an early lead, but Fromm’s poise and leadership will bring the Bulldog back into it, culminating in somewhere around a 27-24 victory in dramatic fashion.