The “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” is absolutely one of the best rivalries in all of college football. When Auburn and Georgia meet on the football field it usually feels like a high stakes match-up and the 125th installment is no different. The match-up is the marquee game in college football between two top 10 teams and will be a primetime kick-off at 7:30 PM Eastern on ESPN. Gameday will also be in Athens, Georgia for the game.
“Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry Preview”
History and Streaks
This will be the first time these two programs have met outside of the month in November in the regular season since 1936 when they played on October 24th. That may become the new norm in the seasons moving forward. Playing in October was not a wrinkle added due to an altered schedule. This was going to be the plan in the original schedule released.
Auburn comes into this game looking to end a few streaks. Firstly, the Tigers have not won in Athens since 2005 when the Tigers were victorious 31-30. The Bulldogs have owned the series over the last 15 meetings going 12-3, including winning the last three. Auburn has not beaten Georgia since the 2017 regular season when the Tigers won 40-17. The two met again that season in the SEC Championship Game but the script was flipped, and the Bulldogs won 28-7. Georgia leads the all-time series 60-56-8.
When Auburn has the ball
It has been a long time since this could be stated, but the best part of the Auburn offense is their passing attack. Well, after one week anyways. Bo Nix showed maturity and progression in Auburn’s 29-13 victory over Kentucky to open the 2020 season. Nix completed 16 of 27 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those tosses were to junior receiver Seth Williams. The pass patterns looked much different than what had been the norm with the Auburn offense. That is a credit to new offensive coordinator Chad Morris. More options for Nix in the 10-20 yard range will make this team hard to stop.
To win this game against Georgia, the run game must be more of a factor than it was against Kentucky. Auburn only rushed for 91 yards in the game and Nix was the leading rusher for 34 yards. The Tigers cannot be one dimensional and expect to move the ball consistently against what could be the best defense in the nation. The Bulldogs brought back seven starters from last season’s unit that led the country fewest points allowed and third in yards allowed. Georgia allowed just 280 yards against Arkansas and have talent at all three levels. The unit is led by linebacker Monty Rice but has plenty of pass rushers in front of him and talented defensive backs behind him.
When Georgia has the ball
Who will play quarterback for the Bulldogs? That is a question all too familiar during the Kirby Smart era at Georgia. It was a struggle on offense for the first half for Georgia, and they trailed Arkansas 7-5 at halftime. D’Wan Mathis got the start but was pulled in the second quarter in favor of Stetson Bennett. Bennett played solid in the second half and overall went 20 for 29 with 211 yards and two touchdowns. J.T. Daniels did not play due to not being cleared to play. He has been cleared to play against Auburn this week.
Like Auburn, the run game is key. Kentucky did a good job last week in the first half of controlling the line of scrimmage against the Tigers. Auburn allowed 120 rushing yards in the first half with an average of 4.8 yards per carry. That statistic shifted in the second half and Auburn held Kentucky to just 25 yards rushing. Which Auburn defense will show up in Athens?
Well, Georgia is a team that does want to run the ball and that is a big part of Smart’s philosophy. That was a struggle against Arkansas. Georgia rushed for 121 yards but did it on 42 attempts with a 2.9 average per carry. If Auburn can have that kind of impact on Saturday, it will not matter who is behind center for Georgia. Kevin Steele will direct his defense to get after the quarterback and cause turnovers as they did against the Wildcats. A big boost will more availability for Big Kat Bryant. Bryant was limited in the opener due to injuries.
“Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” Prediction
Do not expect a bunch of points in this matchup of top ten teams. Both defenses will look to eliminate the other teams rushing attack and put it all on the quarterback’s shoulders. If that is the case, Auburn has the advantage due to the experience of Bo Nix. Look for Auburn to win with a score of around 17-13.