Termed the rematch, the two best teams in the SEC will duel for the crown and a spot in the College Football Playoffs for a shot at the National Championship.
Auburn is the first team to defeat two CFP #1ranked teams in the same season taking out Georgia 40-17 and Alabama 26-14 in the span of three weeks. The road to the ship does not get much tougher than that. Playing such a tough schedule comes with a big price tag All-World running back Kerryon Johnson has been beat up all season but BAMA beat him down he is questionable for perhaps the biggest game in his career. He exited the Iron Bowl last week late in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury to go along with the hammy he has been nursing all season.
Johnson is the B in the Auburn balanced attack his partner is QB Jarret Stidham together they power perhaps the nations most efficient offense. He leads the SEC in rushing yards per game (127.6) and has scored 17 touchdowns which placed him in contention for the Doak Walker Award as one of the best running backs in the country. If he does not play, it will influence the outcome of the game and how disappointing it would be to him personally making it to the door but not being able to open it. With that said should they lose will we have the two best teams in the country playing for the National Championship?
The answer is yes because injuries are a part of football and that is what makes it the ultimate team sport somebody else has to step up.
Stidham is Mr. Efficient he comes into the game sporting a 160 QBR connecting on 202-295 passes with 16 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. He averages 224 yards a game, makes great decisions takes what the defense allows striking with both his arm and feet running to pick up key first downs converting third downs.
When asked about how important it is for this team to have such a balanced offense Malzahn said
“Yeah, I think — when we hired Chip Lindsey, that was really the first thing we talked about in his opening press conference. He was hired to bring balance. He’s done exactly that. I think we’re one of the most balanced teams in our league. Really, that’s been a big key, and the better team that you play or, the more talented defense you play, the more balanced you have to be to be successful”.
Auburn believes in making the opponent pay once they reach the red zone coming out with points 48-53 times compiling a 91% efficiency rating.
Question Action Sports and News: Coach, you have gotten down into the red zone 53 times. Each time you get in there, you come out — 48 out of 53, you have come out with points. What is it about this team that makes it so efficient once it gets into the red zone?
GUS MALZAHN: I think, to be effective in the red zone, you have to be able to run it in. I think at times we’ve been effective doing that. And then, of course, you throw in Daniel Carlson that we talked about earlier, he’s just a huge weapon down there. So that’s been a big key to our success getting here is our red zone points
The Tigers have scored first in 10-12 games while the defense lead by Jeff Holland has allowed only two scores in the opening period. Getting off to fast starts is woven into their identity along with that preventive mentality Auburn goes for the juggler early planting their opponents in a hole that only two teams could climb out of LSU and Clemson.
After the 20 point debacle against LSU Head Coach, Gus Malzhan’s head was wanted on two platters. As he said, “a few weeks ago, nobody thought they would be here.” When asked about the Texas A&M job; he quickly shut it down saying “I am the coach at Auburn, and we are privileged to be here, and we are playing for the SEC Championship.” Shortly after that, news broke that the former Head Coach at Florida State Jimbo Fisher had abandoned Noles ship and took the job.
Meanwhile Georgia the former #1 team in the country did not reach that milestone by happenstance they feature perhaps the best running duo in the country Nick Chubb who returned for his senior season to win the championship and Sony Michel. They lead the SEC in Rushing Offense gaining 266 yards per game. Chubb has rushed for 4522 yards and 42 touchdowns. His sidekick Sony Michel has rushed for 3314 yards and 30 touchdowns. They are second and third on Georgia’s all-time list behind Herschel Walker. Jake Fromm has been outstanding as a freshman quarterback earning the SEC Freshman of the week honors three times. He ranks third in in the SEC in passing efficiency completing 208-377 attempts for 2458 yards 16 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. His numbers are somewhat impressive, but half the time he has thrown an interception. The Auburn Gameplan is to stack the box to take away the run and force him to win the game with his arm. This game with all the fanfare and pageantry of Mercedes Benz stadium will be too much for the youngster. However, in a few years, Jake from State Fromm barring any major injuries will be the #1 over pick in the NFL Draft.
Georgia Averages 35.5 points per game and leads the nation in Red Zone Offense at a rate of 44-45 scoring 33 touchdowns. However, they played like the walking wounded in round one putting up a paltry 17 points in defeat.
Auburn ranks third in the league in Rushing Defense at 126 yards per game. If Georgia lays an egg, the way they did in Auburn mounting their lowest performance of the season just 46 rushing yards 233 below their season average. They also allowed four sacks by that monstrous Tiger defense who shut it all down and knocked the DAWGS off the throne. That is bound to be the storyline.
This game will be won in the trenches the Big Boys of Auburn are just dominant if Georgia has not figured out some new blocking scheme Auburn will win this game 28-10 and become the #1 team in the country.