Georgia at Auburn

Sports Xchange

November 08, 2017 at 3:17 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
SITE: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.
TV: CBS
SERIES: Georgia leads the series 57-55-8. The Bulldogs won 13-7 in 2016.
RANKINGS: Georgia No. 1; Auburn No. 10

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Bulldogs

–RB Nick Chubb can reach another milestone. With 4,291 yards, he needs only 12 yards to catch Auburn’s Bo Jackson for fourth place on the SEC’s all-time rushing list and is just 299 yards away from second place Darren McFadden of Arkansas. Chubb has rushed for 867 yards this year.

–RB Sony Michel has 710 yards on just 90 carries, an average of 7.9 per carry. He’s rushed for 3,121 yards in his career in providing especially effective relief for Chubb.

–DT Trenton Thompson missed two games with a sprained MCL and hasn’t posted quite the numbers folks expected. But he is still a talented player and a major component on Georgia’s defensive line with 20 tackles in seven games.

–LB Roquan Smith is a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award which goes to the top linebacker. He is on pace to lead the team in tackles for the second straight year after collecting 70 in the Bulldogs’ first nine games.

Tigers

–RB Kerryon Johnson accounted for 29 of Auburn’s 52 rushes against Texas A&M for 145 yards. He rushed for one touchdown and caught a short pass for another, giving him a league-high 16 touchdowns, third-most among FBS players.

–WR Darius Slayton, a Georgia native who once was “committed” to the Bulldogs, had only two catches against the Aggies, but both were big plays. He had a 53-yard reception for a touchdown and another covering 46 yards to the 2-yard line to set up another score.

–LB Deshaun Davis leads Auburn in tackles with 44 stops. Nearly half of them (21) have been solo efforts. He also has a sack and recovered a fumble.

–LB Jeff Holland didn’t have a sack at Texas A&M but posted a career high in tackles with six. He has a team-best 8.0 sacks among his 29 tackles for the season.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

Having already clinched the East Division of the Southeastern Conference, Georgia will be looking to continue its quest for one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff.

Auburn will be playing to stay in contention in the SEC West while hoping enough dominoes fall its way to get into the playoff contention.

Such is the situation as the No. 1 Bulldogs (9-0, 6-0 SEC) and No. 10 Tigers (7-2, 5-1 SEC) clash Saturday at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kickoff is 3:30 p.m. ET with CBS doing the telecast.

The game will feature three of the conference’s top rushers, one for the Tigers, two for the visiting Bulldogs.

Auburn has the league’s second-leading rusher in running back Kerryon Johnson, who has rushed for 868 yards and 15 touchdowns despite missing two early games to injury.

Georgia counters with a 1-2 punch of Nick Chubb, No. 3 in the conference with 867 yards, and Sony Michel ready to go. Michel has rushed for 710 yards, eighth-best in the conference.

Neither, however, is close to Johnson’s league best average of 124.0 yards rushing per game with Chubb at 96.3 and Michel at 88.8 per game.

“At the end of the day, he can go where he wants to go with the ball,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said of the challenge Johnson presents. “He has great speed. He gets out a lot of his runs.”

Johnson also is playing with a purpose since the injury to teammate Kamryn Pettway was revealed after the LSU game. Last week against Texas A&M, Auburn’s first outing since then, Johnson rushed for 145 yards with 87 coming in the second half when the Tigers broke open their 42-27 victory.

“I told myself in the LSU game I didn’t make enough plays down the stretch,” said 3Johnson, who rushed for only 33 of his game total of 156 over the final two quarters of the 27-23 loss to LSU. “Great first half, but I didn’t finish the way I wanted to.

“So this game I really wanted to go out there and show to myself, to my teammates, to the fans that this is a four-quarter game, and you’ve got to play all four quarters. I was just trying to finish as hard I can.”

Despite its two losses, one of them a nonconference setback at Clemson, Auburn retains the possibility of getting to the SEC Championship game, but, barring an Alabama loss to Mississippi State later in the day, would have to win out to be assured of that opportunity. The Tigers and Crimson Tide meet Nov. 25 at Auburn.

Playing the nation’s top-ranked team in the CFP rankings and No. 2 in the media and coaches polls also adds spice to the matchup with the Bulldogs.

“I think you have to embrace the fact that you are playing the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the country on your home field,” Tigers coach Gus Malzhan said. “Our goal is to win the SEC championship, and it has been since day one, and this is the next step.

“It is a great opportunity for us, so it is a big game. We are not looking any farther ahead than Saturday, but this is a game we have been looking forward to, and it is here. There is a lot on the line for it. It is a good one.”

Last year’s loss to the Bulldogs still sticks in the Tigers’ memories. The Bulldogs beat Auburn last year in Athens 13-7 in a game in which Georgia’s only touchdown came on a pick six by Maurice Smith.

“Last year was an extremely tough loss — the fact they won the game and didn’t score an offensive touchdown,” Malzahn said. “This is one we have been waiting on. I know our players and coaches are excited about it. It is a great opportunity for us and our program. We are playing one of the best teams on our home field.”

That home field could make a difference.

Georgia’s Smart knows all too well what that environment is like from his years at Alabama. He said this game will be unlike any other his team has played this year.

“Obviously, the environment to play over there I have been there a lot throughout my coaching career,” he said. “They get loud in there and they do a really good job of creating an environment.

“They feed off of that. So, the challenges are in front of us. We will find out a lot about this team playing on the road.”

 

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