The Plainsman sports staff gives their prediction for Saturday's matchup between No. 2 Auburn and No. 6 Georgia.
Will Sahlie, sports editor
We have come a long way since Auburn's collapse in the Bayou.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has shifted from a reserved, quiet coach to a confident leader that resembles his demeanor from the 2013 season.
I do not buy into the 'Auburn cannot continue to be so hyped up for all of these games' that seems to be coming out of Athens, Georgia. This Auburn team has had its eyes on Atlanta and the SEC Championship since fall camp opened in late July, and they will be ready to play this afternoon.
I think a lot of the same storylines will play out from Auburn's dominant 40-17 victory over Georgia. The Tigers dominated the line of scrimmage in that game, and that is not something Georgia can magically change.
I expect Jeff Holland and Co. to have another big day at the office and giving Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm headaches from the opening whistle.
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Kerryon Johnson's health is an issue, but if there is anyone on this Auburn team that can fight through a nagging injury and play a great game in the biggest game of his life, it is Johnson.
I also expect Jarrett Stidham to be ready to roll on the biggest stage of his career. He has shown tremendous growth all season, and there is no reason to expect anything different today.
I'll take Auburn in a game I don't see being that close.
Score prediction: Auburn 34, Georgia 17
Nathan King, assistant sports editor
If these two teams are being coached as well as we think think they are, then 40-17 should be thrown out the window.
Auburn clearly didn't fall victim to overhyping and momentum, showcased in a back-to-back win over a No. 1 team. Georgia cleaned house in the tail end of its season.
The game plan should be the same: get after the quarterbacks. Jake Fromm should have an improved performance from the first time around, but that's not going to change the fact that Auburn's front four is one of the nastiest in the country.
Jarrett Stidham will need to be rattled for Georgia to have success. The SEC's most efficient passer tore up Alabama, and we'll likely get another heavy dosage of Ryan Davis.
It's becoming clear that Kerryon Johnson won't start, but will likely play. If Johnson gets more than 10 carries, I'd be shocked. Kam Martin and Devan Barrett have been hungry for a situation like this all year.
Georgia has the talent, but Auburn has the confidence and the poise. Auburn goes up big early, mellows out through the third quarter, and pulls away late.
Score prediction: Auburn 28, Georgia 17
Sumner Martin, sports writer
For the second time this season Auburn and Georgia will face off, only this time the stakes are much higher. The No. 2 Auburn Tigers and the No. 6 Georgia Bulldogs will meet up in Atlanta for the 2017 SEC Championship, with the winner almost certainly advancing to the College Football Playoff.
Auburn dominated Georgia 40-17 on Nov. 11 in Jordan-Hare Stadium, but the Dawgs are out for revenge and the Tigers' playmaker on offense, Kerryon Johnson, is most likely going to be limited coming off a shoulder injury in the Alabama game.
Georgia cannot afford another poor performance by their running backs. If the Bulldogs want any chance to win this game, they must establish a running game early and keep Auburn's offense off the field. If a running game can get going early, that will open up the field for quarterback Jake Fromm, who was lackluster in the first meeting.
Auburn's main concern is the health of Kerryon Johnson. Johnson is everything to this offense, and if has to be limited for the majority of the game, Georgia has a shot to pull the upset. The Bulldog rushing defense will be much more prepared and ready in the trenches, so it will once again come down to Stidham and the passing game.
It's never easy beating an opponent two times in one season, especially when that opponent is one of your conference rivals, and a top ten team in the country. Georgia gets revenge Saturday.
Score Prediction: Georgia 24, Auburn 17
Bennett Page, sports writer
This will be Auburn's third rematch in an SEC championship game. The Tigers beat Tennessee twice in 2004 and South Carolina twice in 2010. There seems to be a myth around college football that it's hard to beat the same team twice in the same year, but the regular season winner is 5-1 in SEC championship rematches.
That being said, this isn't going to be like last time. Auburn isn't going to win by 23 points, and Georgia is going to rush for more than 46 yards. A big part of Auburn's success will depend on the health of Kerryon Johnson, but the Tigers are good enough to win this game without him. He will play in some capacity, it's just the capacity that's in question. Chip Lindsey said that Kam Martin can run the ball 25-30 teams if needed, so the Auburn coaches are clearly confident in their backup running backs.
Auburn is going to win this game, not because of Kerryon or Jarrett Stidham, but because of the defensive line. Jeff Holland and co. are going to terrorize Jake Fromm, just like they did three weeks ago. Chubb and Michel will find much more success than they did in the first game, but I don't see the team running for more than 175 yards. To win, they would have to get well over 200. Auburn's offense is going to put enough points on the board for the defense to win this game.
Score prediction: Auburn 34, Georgia 20
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