Well now, let’s go ahead and congratulate the Georgia Bulldogs. With last week’s 34-17 rout of Kentucky, they have already been ordained as the SEC East champions. And it came as early as the first Saturday of November and they have already locked up a showdown with Alabama a month from now to decide the SEC championship. The Bulldogs also see themselves sitting at No. 5 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, within striking distance of a coveted top-four spot, so there is plenty of incentive for the Silver Britches. But beware the pitfalls of looking ahead boys as a dangerous Auburn team comes calling.
Speaking of the Tigers, their roller-coaster season started out in the top 10 but back-to-back losses to Mississippi State and Tennessee led to a freefall out of the rankings completely. Now, rebound wins over Ole Miss and Texas A&M the last two weeks have the Plainsmen on the cusp of returning to the Top 25. And if you recall, they also played the role of spoiler last season to the big bullies of their conference. Can they do it again? Let’s find out.
Auburn at Georgia
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Georgia -14
Three Things to Watch
1. Bulldogs' ground game
Something happened with the Georgia running game last week vs. Kentucky. It just grew up before our eyes. Despite the Wildcats coming in as the 15th-ranked defense team against the rush, the Bulldogs piled up 331 yards on the ground, getting career highs from D’Andre Swift (156 yards) and Elijah Holyfield (115). Better yet, 255 of those 331 yards came BEFORE first contact. Yes, that’s how dominant Georgia's O-line was last week. They took on a completely new attitude after getting shut down by LSU a couple weeks before. Will the Dawgs keep it up for another week? Watch the second half. Against the Cats, Georgia ran for 244 yards over the final two quarters alone.
2. The heat under Gus Malzahn’s Barcalounger
Yes, we all saw this week that Auburn athletic director Alan Greene gave his vote of confidence to Malzahn and said he is “our coach of the future.” But you know how flimsy these votes of confidence are. Some are made in November before a firing in December. As weird as it sounds, the Auburn head honcho is actually very close to going on the hot seat (especially with those overly-rabid AU fans). He got a reprieve when his Tigers scored 14 points in the final six minutes to beat Texas A&M last week, but if they lose here to Georgia that puts them at 6-4 with a nearly-assured loss to Alabama ahead. Would a 7-5 season sit well with the fans on the Plains? It will be interesting to see what the Tigers’ mentality is, whether they’ll play tight or loose. Keep an eye on how conservative the play-calling is here from Malzahn and his staff, or if they take a Devil-may-care attitude and let it fly.
3. Auburn's offensive line
Even though they’ve improved the last two weeks, the Bulldogs' defensive front seven has been much maligned this season. And now, they have a few injuries to overcome as well. But on the other side, the Tigers ran the ball for just 19 yards on 21 carries vs. the Aggies. If they emulate that again this week, they’ll be in trouble. A good run/pass mix is going to be really important against Georgia. But the injury bug has not helped AU either. Running backs Kim Martin and JaTarvious Whitlow have both been slowed by recent ankle injuries, which resulted in fourth-stringer Malik Miller getting the start vs. A&M. Still, they must produce here.
The last two weeks the Bulldogs have come out on fire, taking a very quick 10-0 lead on Florida and then, after four offensive plays, they had a 7-0 lead on Kentucky. Both games ended up being blowout wins for the Dawgs. If that kind of quick start happens again here vs. Auburn, it’ll set a good tone for a certain W against the youthful Plainsmen.
But keep in mind that the Georgia offensive line has become a bit of a M.A.S.H. unit with Lamont Gaillard and Cade Mays both getting hurt last Saturday. Prior to that, tackle Andrew Thomas had injured both of his ankles in consecutive weeks, but powered through it to play well in the win over Kentucky. So that could hamper the Bulldog offense a bit. But all things being equal, Georgia has been playing well enough to pull this win off here.
Prediction: Georgia 31, Auburn 14
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.