Saturday’s marquee matchup marks the 121st meeting between the No. 10 Auburn Tigers and the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia is currently leading the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry 57-55-8, including winning 9 of the last 11.
Auburn has moved up four spots from 14 to 10 in the latest College Football Playoff Rankings on Tuesday, while Georgia stayed at No. 1 for the second straight week, setting up a premiere Top 10 matchup with playoff implications on the table.
The (7-2) Tigers are undefeated at home this season, averaging 39.5 ppg and holding their opponents to 12.5 points a game. Auburn seems to get an extra boost on offense when playing at home, averaging over 100 yards more on offense at home than on the road this season.
Georgia’s reincarnated “Junkyard Dog” defense is No. 4 in the country and is looking to slow down Auburn’s resurging offense.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jake Fromm (Georgia)
An obvious choice as a player to watch, the true freshman has performed well all season after filling in for Jacob Eason after an injury. Second year head coach Kirby Smart has done well in not putting Fromm in tough situations.
The former 5-star recruit has done well this season running the RPO, and knowing when to hand the ball off or keep it and make a quick pass. For a freshman, Fromm has shown maturity and good decision-making skills.
It will be interesting to watch how Fromm responds to a Top 15 defense and atmosphere like Jordan-Hare.
Jarrett Stidham (Auburn)
When Auburn’s offense sputters, Stidham is struggling. Stidham’s two lowest completion percentage performances were in the losses to Clemson and LSU, both on the road.
But, Stidham plus the crowd at Jordan-Hare has equaled out to a deadly combo all season. Stidham is completing 74.5 percent of his passes at home and averaging over 10 yards an attempt.
Look for Stidham to step up at home and deliver come Saturday.
Deshaun Davis and Tre’ Williams (Auburn)
Auburn’s two leading tacklers and arguably the leaders on the 14th ranked total defense in the country, this linebacker duo will have its hands full Saturday against the eighth-best rushing attack in the nation.
Not only do Williams and Davis have to worry about Chubb and Michel, but the RPO that Georgia runs. Fromm will most likely be reading one of the two regularly to see whether to hand the ball off or pass on a given play.
How the veteran linebackers perform on Saturday could shape the course of the game.
Nick Chubb (Georgia)
Another obvious choice, but Chubb’s effectiveness against Auburn is something that can't be ignored. The senior tailback has rushed for 245 yards and two touchdowns in two appearances against the Tigers.
The Auburn defense is 24th in the nation in rush defense allowing 126 yards per game. But, will that be enough to stop one of the most dynamic runningbacks in the SEC.
Darius Slayton (Auburn)
Darius Slayton has stepped up since the dismissal of Kyle Davis with six catches for 245 receiving yards in two games. Slayton is Auburn’s deep threat, averaging 30.8 yards a catch and the speed to burn almost any defender.
The sophomore receiver needs to continue his hot streak and help out Stidham. Without the big plays, Auburn’s offense struggles, so watch for Slayton to try to blow the top off on Georgia’s defense.
KEYS TO VICTORY
Auburn has its hands full on both sides of the ball against the Bulldogs. Georgia has the fifth-best rush defense in the nation and it is going to be a challenge for Auburn to run the ball.
The Tigers did a good job against Texas A&M, using weapons like Ryan Davis and Eli Stove to spread the field out and making it easier for Kerryon Johnson to run up the middle.
Auburn will need to execute that game plan again to have a chance against Georgia’s front seven.
On the other side of the ball is Chubb and Michel, the best running back duo in the SEC. If Auburn wants to even sniff an upset, then the Auburn defense will need to slow them down and force Fromm into third and long situations.
Jarrett Stidham will also need to need to have one of his best games of the season. Stidham has struggled against teams that have a strong front seven.
In order for Auburn to execute its offense properly, Stidham needs to be on point and there is not a better time than against the No. 1 team in the country.
In games that Auburn has struggled in, they have not been able to convert third downs. Against Clemson and LSU, Auburn was a combined 9-33 on third down.
If Auburn stays ahead of the chains and avoids third and long situations, the Tiger offense is one of the deadliest in the country and puts them in prime position to shake up the playoff picture.
Georgia’s best-case scenario is if Auburn’s offense is stagnant and the running back duo of Chubb and Michel is able to run the ball effectively.
If Georgia can run the ball like they have all season, then that takes the pressure off of Fromm and lets him make the easy throws that he been making all season.
Georgia’s defense has been ferocious all season with a Top 5 rush defense, but the objective for the Bulldog defense should be to get after Stidham.
Stidham has appeared shaky when not given time to throw the deep ball this season. When being pressured, the sophomore panics and either gets sacked or throws the ball away.
Roquan Smith and Lorenzo Carter not only need to be run stoppers, but need to harass Stidham all afternoon.
Auburn 30 Georgia 26