This season may not have gone exactly as played for Auburn, but the Tigers have the chance on Saturday to make a huge statement against the No. 6 team in the country. Georgia claimed the SEC East crown with a win over Kentucky last time out as Auburn picked up momentum with a big win over Texas A&M.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
Jarrett Stidham has to go off
Stidham has been slowly getting better after a pretty miserable start to the season.
In the upset of Texas A&M, Stidham passed for 239 yards and a couple of scores. These are not monster numbers by any means, but they are numbers that will keep a defense off balance and allow an offense like the one Auburn employed to get moving any put up points.
Stidham also bolstered his connection with wide receiver Darius Slayton during the Aggies game. Slayton caught eight passes for 107 yards and did a great job of working all over the field to get open. The Georgia pass rush is not strong, so Stidham will get time to sit in the pocket and throw the ball. His accuracy on those mid-to-deep range throws will be a huge factor in this game.
Get to Jake Fromm
As weird as the Auburn season has been – the loss to Tennessee looks worse by the week – there is no doubt that this is still a very talented football team. While the offense has been patchy as the line has had to bed in four new starters, the defense has generally been impressive.
That fact is certainly true of an defensive line that ranks up there with any in the conference. The Tigers rank eighth in the country with 3.22 sacks per game and the likes of Derrick Brown and Markaviest Bryant are going to be tasked with getting to Fromm and making his life miserable.
The Georgia offensive line is not at its healthiest at this point in the season either, meaning that some of the talented and experienced Auburn defensive linemen will be matches up against players that they can beat in one-on –one matchups. Georgia will need to throw the ball to win, so preventing Fromm from having time in the pocket is a huge key.
Contain the Georgia running game
The Bulldogs have made their name over the last few seasons as being a run first offense. In 2018 that narrative changed a little as Fromm threw the ball more and the Bulldogs looked to be without a stud (or two) in the backfield in the mold of a Todd Gurley or a Nick Chubb.
That narrative swiftly changed last week against a Kentucky defense that was ranked as the best in the conference entering the game.
Georgia piled up a season-high 331 yards rushing on 50 attempts as they manhandled the Wildcats. The 34-17 score line was never in doubt as the likes of Elijah Holyfield and D’Andre Swift ripped off runs at 6.6 yards per carry.
Auburn is fourth in the country with almost nine tackles for a loss per game in 2018. The Tigers have also held teams under their season rushing average in 12 of the last 13 games. With the Georgia running game developing late in the year it will be up to the Auburn front seven to shut down the backs and make Georgia win the game in a different way.