The Auburn Tigers are set to square off against Georgia for a Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry rematch with the SEC championship at stake.
The Tigers took the first match up easily in a 40-17 rout at Jordan-Hare. In that game, the Tigers held Georgia to 46 yards on the ground and pressured freshman quarterback Jake Fromm early and often.
Kerryon Johnson was the star of the last showdown as the leading receiver and rusher combining for 233 yards and a touchdown. Johnson is still day-to-day after a non-contact injury against Alabama.
Here are the players to watch and keys to victory for the SEC championship.
Ryan Davis (Auburn)
Now the single-season reception leader at Auburn, Davis has been a thorn in opposing defensive coordinators side with his ability to turn a simple screen into a big play on any given down. Davis had his best performance of the season against Alabama, when he caught 11 passes for 139 yards. Kerryon Johnson will likely not be anywhere near 100 percent, but will most likely play. Look for Auburn to lean on Davis’ playmaking ability to lessen the workload on Johnson.
Javon Wims (Georgia)
The senior wide receiver has been red hot towards the end of the season. Wims has caught a touchdown pass in four out of the last five games to end the season. Even without a touchdown against Auburn, Wims torched the Auburn defenders for 96 yards on only three catches, and did show a weakness on the defense that shut down Georgia’s offense. Look for Georgia to get Wims more involved if Chubb and Michel are struggling again.
Darius Slayton (Auburn)
Darius Slayton was mostly held in check against Georgia last time the two teams stepped on the field, but the one play Slayton got loose, he caught a 42-yard touchdown to kickstart Auburn’s offense. Slayton is Auburn’s big play threat, and they will need him to get behind Georgia’s defense, because the Bulldogs are most likely going to stack the box to avoid another Heisman-like performance from Johnson. If Slayton is getting open downfield and Stidham is hitting him, it will force Georgia to put more people in coverage, and open up the running game for Auburn.
Mecole Hardman (Georgia)
Mecole Hardman had combined for 185 return yards against Auburn this season. The only miscue he had was a muffed punt which set up an Auburn touchdown. Hardman constantly made defenders miss and took advantage of Auburn’s poor special teams coverage skills. Auburn ranks dead last in the country in kickoff return defense and 115th in punt return defense. Watch out for Hardman to take advantage of Auburn’s atrocious coverage skills and have another good performance.
Keys to victory
Auburn’s game plan should be roughly the same as when the two teams first met in early November.
First and foremost, they will need to stop Chubb and Michel from getting anything going. If one of them gets going then it opens up Georgia’s offense and it will be hard to stop once it starts.
If Kerryon is not making an impact similar to last game, then Stidham will need to make plays with his arm. In the two losses this season, Auburn’s run game was stopped, and it forced Stidham to be the offense, and in those games the offense struggled. So, the best thing Auburn can do is get the run game going using all the tools available to them.
Auburn’s defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage last game, and will need to do so again. The defensive line got six quarterback hurries, four sacks and five tackles for loss. They successfully rattled Jake Fromm, and he never seemed comfortable in the pocket all night. If the Tigers control the line of scrimmage again, they will win this game.
Georgia could not get anything going offensively last game, the biggest key this week for them is getting the running game going to take some pressure off of Fromm.
Auburn controlled the time of possession last game, and ran the ball down the throat of the Bulldog defense. The defense was on the field way too long and for too many plays. Georgia needs to even out the time of possession, in order to have a chance against Auburn.
Auburn 34 Georgia 23