Ahead of the 123rd edition of The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, The Plainsman posed questions for Michael Hebert, assistant sports editor for The Red and Black. Here's how he sees the action playing out Saturday inside Sanford Stadium.
1. Swift and Holyfield combined for a monster game against Kentucky. What do you see the pair doing as an encore?
The Kentucky game was the first time I've seen the two of them really complement each other like probably a lot of the fans thought would be the case heading into this season.
D'Andre Swift had a nagging groin injury that he first suffered in spring practice earlier this year, and he must have re-aggravated it earlier this season, because he admitted at an availability earlier this season that he had been dealing with it "for awhile." It seems that he's starting to get back to feeling like himself, which he admitted after the Kentucky game.
That being said, and to answer your question, with the way Elijah Holyfield has been running the ball all year coupled with a healthy Swift, I wouldn't be surprised if the two could possibly go for an encore again against Auburn, given that the offensive line plays well also.
2. The loss to LSU seems a mulligan at this point. What did Georgia learn about itself in Baton Rouge?
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
There are a lot of people who like to compare the loss to LSU earlier in the season to the loss Georgia had against Auburn in 2017.
While it seems that Georgia has bounced back much like they did last season, the way they've bounced back this year is different. Georgia simply got away from its identity on offense at LSU, and in games since, more and more players have started to grow up. Offensively, Georgia went back to a smash mouth, running team that has an intelligent quarterback in sophomore Jake Fromm that can make plays with his arm when needed.
Defensively, Georgia's players heard the noise after the LSU game that they can't stop the run and aren't the same defense from a year ago, and one player in particular that has stepped up at the middle linebacker position is sophomore Monty Rice. I think they really took all the outside noise to heart and in the two games since, the entire defense has really improved.
3. Who are some key pieces in Jim Chaney's offense that most Auburn fans wouldn't know?
You know, that's a good question, because the running joke around those who cover Georgia seems to be that offensive coordinator Jim Chaney doesn't use the tight ends enough.
Now, I'm sure Auburn fans know about junior tight end Isaac Nauta after his touchdown in the 2017 SEC Championship game, but Nauta truly is one of the best tight ends in the country as far as a combination of both blocking and receiving. He, along with another junior Charlie Woerner, are often overlooked, as we saw in the Florida game. I think those two guys are especially big time weapons.
Another one that I'm sure a lot of people know about because of his polarizing status as a recruit is freshman Justin Fields. Its a big question how Georgia's offense really intends to use Fields in the long run, but for now, he's a capable running quarterback that can get a key first down on big third down plays when needed.
We've yet to see what he can do with his arm in game, (although if short snippets of practice and all of his high school tape shows, he's got a pretty good one) but I would say he's a weapon if Georgia chooses to use him. Lastly, I'll go with another freshman, running back James Cook. Cook got some early playing time at the beginning of the season but has kind of gotten lost in the mix with the play of Swift and Holyfield.
However, Cook is a home-run threat, much like a lot of the guys on Georgia's team. I wouldn't be surprised if Chaney chose to use him in the screen game or maybe even in the wildcat offense.
As far as defense goes, we saw a major influx of freshman players see the field against Kentucky, so the question is definitely timely.
I'll start with a guy who has recently been inserted into the starting lineup due to injuries, and thats freshman defensive lineman Jordan Davis. The guy is rather large (listed at 6-foot-6, 320 pounds) and is excellent at getting push to allow linebackers to get free to make tackles near the line of scrimmage. That's something Georgia missed with the injury to junior David Marshall, and Davis certainly has done a good job in relief.
For all the talk on senior cornerback Deandre Baker, who I believe is one of the best cornerbacks in the country, a guy alongside him in the defensive backfield, junior Tyrique McGhee, has certainly been playing well as of late. He had an interception and a forcer fumble against Florida and is known for being a guy to do that pretty consistently in his career. McGhee was out to start the season with a foot injury, so he's much like Swift in the fact that he's starting to play a lot like he did last season now that he's more healthy.
5. Score prediction?
This is a rivalry game where the two teams really don't like each other much and Gus Malzahn's offense has given Georgia problems in the past. With that being the case, I think Auburn might keep it interesting, at least for the first half.
But what Georgia has done in most of its wins this year is really wear down the opponent in the second half by leaning on the offensive line and the running game, and the defense starts to tighten up as well. I see that being the case with this game also, and I'm going to take Georgia to win, 35-17.
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman