SEC Championship Game – Auburn vs Georgia: If you saw the mass of humanity on the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium last weekend, how can you not know Auburn has been a completely different team at home than we’ve seen on the road at Clemson and LSU, its only two losses this year?
It was energy unlike we’ve seen from the Tigers since Gus Malzahn’s first season in 2013 when they last took down Georgia and Alabama in the same season. The SEC Championship Game will serve as a play-in game to the College Football Playoff.
No. 6 Georgia will play No. 2 Auburn in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday afternoon in the first-ever title meeting between the two schools in this setting since the divisional split. The winner gets ultimate bragging rights, an SEC title and a ticket punched to the College Football Playoff.
Georgia is fresh off a throttling of Georgia Tech in Atlanta 38-7 at Bobby Dodd Stadium, while Auburn handled Alabama 26-14 in Jordan-Hare Stadium last week to take the SEC West crown.
The defense played magnificent. The offense, it burned Alabama on so many third downs it was hard to keep count. If any quarterback in the SEC deserves to unseat reigning offensive player of the year Jalen Hurts of Alabama it’s Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham. But if there is one player on one team that deserves it period, it’s the Tigers’ Kerryon Johnson,
Now we come to this rematch in Atlanta against No. 6 Georgia (11-1). No. 2 Auburn (10-2) gets to show us it can be an elite team away from home.
In Atlanta, in 71,000-plus Mercedes-Benz Stadium, 2 1/2-point underdog Georgia gets to play the revenge card in front of about 45,000 barking Bulldogs. That number may be on the low side. Georgia fans have had three weeks to gobble up tickets, knowing their team was already bound for Atlanta. Auburn fans are playing catch-up. Let’s say Auburn fans have gotten their hands on another 15,000 tickets to go with their 16,300 allotment. Those numbers could get drowned out by Georgia.
The fact that five of the last six SEC title rematches were won by the team that won the first meeting isn’t likely to mean a whole lot with Georgia in the game. Even after a 40-17 beating.
In the first meeting, just about everything that could go right went right for Auburn. For Georgia, just about everything that could go wrong did, which kept Auburn drives alive. Four personal foul penalties. Muffed punts. Missed field goals.
Saturday’s game isn’t going to be another blowout. It’s going to produce the drama the Iron Bowl didn’t.
After Auburn upset then-No. 1 Georgia by 23 points on Nov. 11, a video circulated of Auburn coach Gus Malzahn celebrating in the moments following his CBS postgame interview. As he walked off the field, he can be heard saying, “We whipped the dog crap out of them, didn’t we?”
Just when it looked like the Bulldogs would have to wait a year for their revenge, to make Malzahn and Auburn eat those words, they get their shot this weekend. They also get the defense that stuffed Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and the running game for 46 yards and the offense that ran all over the Bulldogs. Georgia, which has one of the nation’s top defenses, couldn’t stop Kerryon Johnson, who ran for 167 yards. They also have to contend with Stidham, who burned Georgia’s defense for 251 yards. If Georgia was hoping to catch a break with Johnson nursing a shoulder injury from the Alabama game, it’s not going to happen. He’ll be on the field and likely as big a pain as he was the first time around.
Auburn can be the first two-loss team to make the playoffs by dealing the same misery it dealt to freshman quarterback Jake Fromm three weeks ago. The Tigers do that and Georgia’s offense is in trouble. Stopping the run is almost a gimme for Kevin Steele’s defense. A word of caution for the Tigers: They were 4 of 13 on third down against Georgia, a long way from 9 of 18 against Alabama.
— Auburn 24, Georgia 20