Auburn at Georgia

The Sports Xchange

November 07, 2018 at 6:21 pm.

KICKOFF: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
SITE: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
SERIES: Georgia leads the series 58-56-8. Georgia won the last meeting 28-7 in the 2017 SEC Championship Game.
RANKINGS: Auburn No. 24, Georgia No. 5


–RB Jatarvious Whitlow found the going tough against Texas A&M. Hampered by ankle and shoulder issues, Whitlow carried eight times against the Aggies for just 16 yards, giving him a team-high 642 for the year. He needs to get back to his earlier pace if he is to give Auburn a 1,000-yard rusher for the 10th consecutive season.

–WR Seth Williams caught only two passes for 22 yards in the win over the Aggies, but they paid off big. Both were 11-yard scoring strikes with the second coming with 1:41 left in the game to give the Tigers the 28-24 victory. A freshman, Williams has 16 receptions for 332 yards (20.8 average) and four touchdowns. “Seth is a freak,” QB Jarrett Stidham said. “He will continue to be a freak for a very long time. I have full confidence in him. I get to see him grow each week.”

–DE Marlon Davidson has blocked three field goal attempts this season, making him No. 2 in the nation in blocked kicks. A force up front in a defense that has recorded 29 sacks, Davidson has 2.5 sacks among his 36 tackles. He also has batted down two passes and been credited with a team-high nine quarterback hurries.


–QB Jake Fromm is hovering around the school-record for completion percentage in 2018. He ranks second in the SEC at 67.7 percent. Georgia’s school record is 67.9, set by Hutson Mason in 2014. This year, Fromm has completed 130 of 192 passes for 1,762 yards with 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

–RBs D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield both set career highs against Kentucky, rushing for 156 and 115 yards, respectively. The Bulldogs lead the SEC with an average of 222.7 rushing yards per game.

–WR Mecole Hardman is leading the SEC in punt return average at 26.7 yards per game. He’s also Georgia’s second-leading receiver with 26 catches for 368 yards and four touchdowns.

–LB D’Andre Walker continues to be the Bulldogs’ top pass-rusher, leading the team with five sacks. He has also forced three fumbles to go along with 28 tackles, with 6.5 going for loss.


With Georgia having already clinched the East and Auburn mathematically eliminated in the West, their meeting Saturday between the hedges has nothing riding on it as far as the Southeastern Conference race is concerned.

But it’s not all about bragging rights either.

Kickoff at Sanford Stadium in Athens is 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.

The No. 6 Bulldogs (8-1, 6-1 SEC) still have hopes that a fast finish will get them a spot in the College Football Playoff for a second consecutive season. The No. 24 Tigers (6-3, 3-3 SEC) are looking to carry momentum into their Iron Bowl matchup with No. 1 Alabama in two weeks.

“It’s a rivalry game,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “I mean, so many of our kids were recruited by them and so many vice versa. It’s always a rivalry game, and I think that a big part of that is being at your best when your best is needed.

“The challenge for our guys, we’re playing at home, at night, in our stadium, which I think is really important to our fans, important to our players to protect our home turf, and we want to put our best effort forward.”

The game is the first of three consecutive home outings for the Bulldogs, who likely need to win all three plus the likely matchup with No. 1 Alabama in the SEC title game Dec. 1 in Atlanta. Massachusetts and Georgia Tech come to Athens to finish out the regular season.

“We have enough motivation with what we have going this year,” running back Elijah Holyfield said. “We have a chance to play for many more things down the road, and we are just looking forward to playing the game Saturday against a good team, executing and playing our best.”

Auburn is looking to continue the momentum that started building after back-to-back losses to Mississippi State and Tennessee in October. The Tigers finished last month with a 31-16 win at Ole Miss and, after a week off, began November with a comeback 28-24 victory over Texas A&M.

But dig deeper and the Tigers’ vulnerability is exposed. The Tigers rushed for 269 yards against a subpar Ole Miss defense, but struggled with a very uncustomary 19 yards on 21 rushes against the Aggies last week.

The Tigers rank an uncharacteristic 13th out of 14 teams in the SEC in rushing offense, averaging just 120.8 yards per game..

“We’re not happy at all with the rushing numbers,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “Everybody here knows that. There’s a lot of things that we need to work on and correct and we will continue to do that.”

The Bulldogs are tied for fourth in rushing defense, giving up 137 yards per contest, but are coming off a game that saw the defense holding SEC leading rusher Benny Snell of Kentucky to just 73 yards and Kentucky as a team to 84 yards on 35 rushes.

Smart is expecting a physical contest.

“I think every time you play one of Gus’ offenses, it’s time consuming,” Smart said. “It’s frustrating. He does a lot of misdirections. They come right at you and hit you in the mouth like they did last year.

“They’ve got really good skill players to take shots with, and they do a great job on special teams, always have. So it’ll be a tremendous challenge for our guys, as they move on from the Kentucky game into this game, and I know our players and our coaches have a lot of respect for the way Auburn plays the game.”

Georgia has the SEC’s top rushing attack with Holyfield (674 yards) and D’Andre Swift (622) spearheading a rushing offense that has produced an average of 233.8 yards a game.

“They know how to run the football,” Malzahn said. “They’ve got a good offensive line with some good backs.”