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game day The Auburn Plainsman

The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry AUBURN VS. UGA

ADAM SPARKS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

12:30 p.m. - Tiger Walk • 1:15 p.m. - Four Corners • 1:41 p.m. - March Around • 2:12 p.m. - Eagle Flight • 2:15 p.m. - Pregame • 2:30 p.m. - Kickoff


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The Auburn Plainsman: GAME DAY VS. GEORGIA

THURSDAY, NOV. 9, 2017


THURSDAY, NOV. 9, 2017

The Auburn Plainsman: GAME DAY VS. GEORGIA3

Number 1, for the ages

Playoff implications plentiful as Auburn hosts the top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs

FILE PHOTO

Kerryon Johnson (21) runs the ball during Auburn’s football game against Georgia on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, in Athens, Ga.

By NATHAN KING Assistant Sports Editor College football history remembers the last time there was a home stretch this meaningful on The Plains. 2013 was a magical year for Auburn, one in which everything seemed to fall perfectly into place, as if the heavens made it so (save the last 17 seconds of the late-game nightmare against Florida State in the new year). However, four years ago, the playoff system wasn’t yet in use. Fans were close to the conception their beloved four-team formula for calculating a champion, as the 2014 National Championship marked the last time the Bowl Championship Series was used. A lot went right for Nick Marshall, Tre Mason, Chris Davis and the terrific Tigers of destiny that was out of their control. Beating No. 1 Alabama and No. 5 Missouri certainly didn’t hinder their chances, but the third-ranked Tigers also needed domino No. 2 Ohio State to fall in the Big Ten title game in order to book January tickets to Pasadena, California. Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes entered Lucas Oil Stadium as a six-point favorite over the Michigan State Spartans, however media was giving Braxton Miller’s offense an overwhelming bode of confidence to get the job done. Sparty shell-shocked the No. 2 team in the nation by spotting an early 17-0 lead. Ohio State responded in a massive way, scoring 24 unanswered to take a 24-17 lead in the third. Hope was dwindling quick back on The Plains. The final quarter in Indianapolis included a go-ahead Spartans score to make it 27-24, followed by a momentum-shifting blocked punt by Ohio State. Michigan State stopped Miller on fourth down with under five minutes remaining, continuing its loose grip on BCS madness. Astonishment then ensued on all three sides. MSU runningback Jeremy Langford galloped his

way to a 26-yard dagger of a touchdown run to ice the game and Ohio State’s hopes of a national title berth. Michigan State beat the touchdown favorites by 10 points. Ohio State’s season came crashing down to a disappointing finish. And for Auburn, the miracles just kept coming. 2017 is different. Destiny is being decided on the field instead of up above. All of the cards are in the hands of the highest-ranked two loss team in the country. The remaining gauntlet will reveal if the Tigers are bluffing or if a royal flush is to come. No. xx Auburn has a unique opportunity to make a late push toward their first appearance in the College Football Playoff. The Tigers first welcome No. 1 Georgia to town in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry before taking on Alabama in the Iron Bowl two weeks later. As the men on the Jordan-Hare gridiron see it, games like these are why they came to the hollowed ground paved by the likes of Pats Dye and Sullivan, Bo Jackson and Cam Newton. “We’re looking forward to it,” Tigers junior wideout Ryan Davis said after the win over Texas A&M in College Station. “It’s a big game, it’s a big rivalry. “That’s why you come to Auburn, for games like Georgia. They’re in front of us right now.” If Auburn can upset Kirby Smart’s group, it may play the top-ranked squad in the nation twice in the span of three weeks. Before Gus Malzahn and company can think about a conference-title, national championship related postseason, they first must upset the Dawgs, who have been indomitable this season to all nine of their opponents, and as of late to Auburn, which has dropped nine of the last 11 to the red and black. Thanks to a program resurgence by Athens legend Smart, Georgia is back on top and has secured a spot in Atlanta’s SEC Championship Game for the first time since losing to Alabama in 2012.

» See PREVIEW, 4


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The Auburn Plainsman: GAME DAY VS. GEORGIA

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PREVIEW » From 2

The Bulldogs are light years ahead of where most though they would be. As recruiting and rebuilding models go in the SEC, the Dawgs have set the new standard. If Georgia fans had been told back in Week 1 that they would have already sealed a trip to Atlanta by the time Auburn rolled around, skepticism would ensue. Sophomore starting quarterback Jacob Eason, who was heralded as a high-ceiling QB in the preseason, sprained a ligament in his left knee in the season opener against Appalachian State. Smart’s master plan had been foiled -- the coach could no longer redshirt 5-star true freshman Jake Fromm to precisely separate his two gunslingers. Instead, Fromm’s redshirt was burned, and the Warner Robins, Georgia native hasn’t disappointed since. A historic Week 2 victory over now-No. 3 Notre Dame in South Bend solidified what most had been witnessing: offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was adapting the offensive to Fromm’s play style. Fromm relies heavily on the two-headed monster that lines up beside him in runningbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. The Bulldogs one-two punch has immense experience and talent behind which Chaney’s wheel turns. Chubb and Michel go three and eight respectively in SEC rushing yards, so the pressure of running the offense of the No. 1 team in the country hasn’t been heavy on Fromm’s shoulders. Saturday’s game might change that. Kevin Steele’s Auburn defense prides itself on stopping the run. The Tigers allow only 126 rushing yards per game, while the UGA rushing attack averages 279, good for eighth in the nation. Something has to give. Even without 2016 leading rushing Kamryn Pettway available, Auburn boasts a 237 yards per game clip in the rushing department. Kerryon Johnson has spent his junior year aiding a dark horse Heisman campaign with 868 rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns. His scores are tied for the third-most in Division I college football. Even more impressive: Johnson has only played in seven of Auburn’s eight games this season after suffering an injury in the season opener against Georgia Southern. For his efforts in limited action, the Madison, Alabama native is averaging 136 total yards and a pair of total touchdowns per outing. “Really, we’ve got to go in with the mindset the same way we do any other game,” Johnson said. “Obviously, it’s a big one, but you can’t overhype it in your brain and you go out there and you start playing too fast and you make mistakes. In my mind, we’re going out, we’re playing Georgia. Who cares about the rankings? Never looked at them. I won’t in the future. I’m going to go out there and play my ball.” Chip Lindsey’s offense will need all of its available horsepower churning at full speed against Georgia’s fifth-ranked rushing (89 ypg), third-ranked scoring (11.7) and fourth-ranked overall defense (254 ypg). If the defenses load the box to stop the plethora of electric tailbacks, the game will be won through the air. Fromm leads the conference in QB rating, while Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham ranks third. Georgia’s ace has experience picking up big-time road victories, evident in the 20-19 win over Notre Dame. Stidham is 1-2 this season against teams currently ranked in the CFP Top 25, the lone victory coming at home against now-No. xx Mississippi State. The win came just a week after Georgia’s 31-3 shellacking of Dan Mullen’s unit.

» See PREVIEW, 14


THURSDAY, NOV. 9, 2017

The Auburn Plainsman: GAME DAY VS. GEORGIA5

Talented tailback tandem

Georgia RBs Chubb, Michel set to clash with stout Tigers run defense By JAKE WRIGHT Sports Writer

The two-headed monster of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel travels to The Plains this weekend, headling an efficient Georgia offense. Either runningback has been Georgia’s leading rusher in the last three Auburn vs. Georgia games, and both have performed well in their senior seasons. Auburn’s defense is ranked in the Top 25 against the run, so Chubb and Michel against Auburn’s Front 7 should be most important matchup on Saturday. Auburn has held runningbacks in check for most of the season. Auburn’s rush defense allows 126 yards per game which is good for 24th nationally and has allowed only six rushing touchdowns through nine games. Last week, Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams was the first running back to surpass the 100yard mark against Auburn all season. The Tigers have held four opponents under 100 yards total rushing yards. Auburn has held every opponent under 200 yards rushing as Mississippi State ran for the most against Auburn with 194 in Auburn’s 49-10 win. Auburn has not yet faced a duo this season like Chubb and Michel, however it has in the recent past. Chubb ran for 101 yards last season against Auburn in Athens, and in 2014 he ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Michel led the Bulldogs ground attack in 2015 with 77 yards.

This season, Chubb has four 100-yard games and four games with multiple touchdowns this season. Michel has added another 100-yard game and a two touchdown game. Against Vanderbilt, Michel ran for 150 yards and Chubb added 138. Both tailbacks are in the top 40 nationally in yards per carry, while Chubb is 27th nationally with 867 rushing yards this year and Michel is 51st with 710. As a team, Georgia is No. 8 nationally in rushing yards per game with 279 and 26 rushing TDs on the season, averaging almost six yards per carry. To add to the backfield talent, freshman D’Andre Swift led Georgia with 94-yards vs Missouri. Swift, Chubb, and Michel all finished with over 70 rushing yards in that game. “They can keep a fresh guy in there.” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said, “When you’re facing just one guy that’s special, there’s a chance of him wearing down, but they’ve got two guys and they’re very talented.” At quarterback, Georgia starts true freshman Jake Fromm. The Bulldogs have a tendency to lean heavily on their two senior backs. Auburn will need to stack the box to try and negate Georgia’s rushing attack. Ideally, Auburn would like to fill the right gaps to stop Georgia from being successful at running the ball on early downs. Deshaun Davis, Tre’ Williams and Darrell Williams, among Auburn’s other linebackers, will need to play downhill in order to meet Chubb and Michel at the line of scrimmage.

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The Auburn Plainsman: GAME DAY VS. GEORGIA

THURSDAY, NOV. 9, 2017

Left Tackle: Austin Golson - 73 Prince T. Wanogho - 76 Bailey Sharp - 66

Running Back: Kerryon Johnson - 21 Kam Martin - 9 Devan Barrett - 5

Left Guard: Mike Horton - 66 Marquel Harrell - 77

H-Back: Chandler Cox - 27 Tight End: Sal Cannella - 80 Jalen Harris - 85 Wide Receiver: Darius Slayton - 81 Nate Craig-Myers - 3 Ryan Davis - 23 Will Hastings - 33 Eli Stove - 12

Center: Casey Dunn - 50 Right Guard: Braden Smith - 71 Wilson Bell - 74

Defensive End: Marlon Davidson - 3 Nick Coe - 91 OR Big Kat Bryant - 1 Defensive Tackle: Dontavius Russell - 95 Tyrone Truesdell - 94 Defensive Tackle: Derrick Brown - 5 Andrew Williams - 79 Buck: Jeff Holland - 4 Paul James III - 10 OR T.D. Moultry - 55

Right Tackle: Darius James - 78 Calvin Ashley - 70

Middle Linebacker: Deshaun Davis - 57 K.J. Britt - 33 OR Chandler Wooten - 17

Will Linebacker: Tre’ Williams - 30 Montavious Atkinson - 48 Sam Linebacker: Darrell Williams - 49 Richard McBryde - 51 Field Corner Jamel Dean - 12 OR Javaris Davis - 13 Field Safety: Stephen Roberts - 14 Daniel Thomas - 24 Boundary Safety: Tray Matthews - 28 Nick Ruffin - 19 OR Jeremiah Dinson - 20

SPECIAL TEAMS

Quarterback: Jarrett Stidham - 8 Malik Willis - 14 Ryan Davis - 23

DEFENSE

OFFENSE

AUBURN DEPTH CHART

Boundary Corner: Carlton Davis - 6 Traivon Leonard - 21

Kicker: Daniel Carlson - 38 Anders Carlson - 26 OR Sage Ledbetter - 31 Punter: Aidan Marshall - 41 Ian Shannon - 43 Long Snapper: Ike Powell - 69 Bill Taylor - 60 Holder: Tyler Stovall - 29 Punt Returner: Stephen Roberts - 14 Ryan Davis - 23 Kick Returner: Noah Igbinoghene - 4 Stephen Roberts - 14 Ryan Davis - 23

Nickel: Daniel Thomas - 24

Running Back: Nick Chubb Soney Michel Tight End: Issac Nauta Jeb Blazevich Wide Receiver: Terry Godwin Riley Ridley Javon Wims Wide Receiver: Michael Chigbu Mecole Hardman Ahkil Crumpton

Left Tackle: Isaiah Wynn Dyshon Sims Left Guard: Kendall Baker Patrick Allen Center: Lamont Gaillard Sean Fogarty Right Guard: Solomon Kindley Dyshon Sims Right Tackle: Andrew Thomas Ben Cleveland

Defensive End: Jonathan Ledbetter Defensive Tackle: Trenton Thompson Tyler Clark

Sam Linebacker: Lorenzo Carter D’Andre Walker Cornerback: Malkom Parrish Tyrique McGhee

Defensive Tackle: John Atkins Julian Rochester

Strong Safety: Dominick Sanders Jarvis Wilson

Defensive End: David Marshall

Free Safety: J.R. Reed Richard LeCounte III

Will Linebacker: Roquan Smith Reggie Carter

Cornerback: Deandre Baker

Middle Linebacker: Natrez Patrick Davin Bellam

Star: Aaron Davis

SPECIAL TEAMS

Quarterback: Jake Fromm Jacob Eason Brice Ramsey

DEFENSE

OFFENSE

GEORGIA DEPTH CHART Kicker: Rodrigo Blankenship David Marvin Punter: Cameron Nizialek Marshall Long Long Snapper: Trent Frix Holder: Cameron Nizialek Punt Returner: Terry Godwin Mecole Hardman Kick Returner: Mecole Hardman Jayson Stanleyw


THURSDAY, NOV. 9, 2017

The Auburn Plainsman: GAME DAY VS. GEORGIA7

Tigers look to Saturday as chance to right recent UGA ship By BENNETT PAGE

Sports Writer This Saturday, Auburn will attempt to turn the tide on a series that hasn’t treated them kindly in recent years. The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, between Auburn and Georgia, has been a game that the college football world has always looked to in early November for hard-fought battles and exciting finishes. This is a game where records have always been thrown out the window and where the mediocre team usually manages to hold its own against the giant. In recent years, there have been some exciting and some not-so-exciting finishes. Almost all of them have gone in Georgia’s favor, regardless of where the game is played or the record of each team. The frightening and saddening statistic for all Auburn fans: Georgia has won nine of the last 11 matchups in this rivalry. The two Auburn wins were Cam Newton’s impressive performance in 2010 and the “Prayer at Jordan-Hare” in 2013. Without the 2013 miracle and the heroics of Newton, this rivalry could look even worse. For some reason, Auburn has just seemed to consistently play below their talent level when it comes to facing the Bulldogs. Auburn hasn’t strung together back-to-back victories against

the Dawgs since 2004-05. If the Tigers have any hopes of getting to the College Football Playoff, they are going to have to beat Georgia twice just in the next few weeks. So, what has plagued Auburn? Why haven’t the Tigers been able to beat the Bulldogs, even in years like 2016 when the Tigers clearly have the more talented team? Under offensive genius Gus Malzahn, surely it is because of defensive struggles, right? In the two games in this 11-year stretch that Auburn has won, the Tigers have scored at least 40 points, combining for 92 points in those two games. In the 11 losses, the Tigers have only scored a total of 106 points with an average of 11.7 points per game. Gus Malzahn served as either offensive coordinator or head coach in six of those losses and has only been able to score over twenty points once. Four of the games saw the Tigers score seven points or less. Auburn’s defense hasn’t been great either, giving up 30 points in eight of those 11 games. However, when your team is failing to score 20 points, it is going to be difficult to get the win. Auburn’s defense under Kevin Steele performed well in 2016, only giving up 13 points but falling 13-7 after the Tigers failed to get a first down in the second half and only gained 32

second-half yards. Going into this year’s matchup, the Bulldogs are 9-0 and sit comfortably at No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings. They have already clinched the SEC East and will play either Alabama or Auburn in the SEC championship. If Auburn loses on Saturday and Alabama defeats Mississippi State, Alabama will officially clinch the SEC West. Auburn controls its own destiny and will go to the SEC championship if it wins out. If the Tigers manage to defeat Georgia, Alabama and Georgia again, the Tigers will likely have earned a spot in the playoff. This series has proven to be the downfall of a lot of good Auburn teams in the past. In 2016, the Tigers were 7-2 and No. 9 in the country. This year, the Tigers are also 7-2 and are No. 10 in the country. Their playoff hopes will either shoot up dramatically Saturday or disappear entirely. Georgia is dominating its opponents in head coach Kirby Smart’s second season. So far, however, Notre Dame is the only overly impressive win on their schedule. Going up against Auburn’s strong defense may be trouble for the Dawgs, especially with freshman quarterback Jake Fromm playing his first game

» See UGA, 15

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The Auburn Plainsman: GAME DAY VS. GEORGIA

THURSDAY, NOV. 9, 2017

Welcome to the big leagues

QBs Jarrett Stidham, Jake Fromm to meet in possible conference shakeup Sports Writer As the top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs and No. 10 Auburn prepare to battle inside Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday, much is talked about—and for good reason—about both team’s high-powered rushing attacks. But for Jarrett Stidham and Jake Fromm, Saturday’s matchup is what they’ve been waiting all year for, the chance to prove themselves on a national stage. Fromm began the season as an afterthought for the Bulldogs. Opening day starter Jacob Eason was entering his sophomore season after throwing for 2430 yards and 16 touchdowns and leading Georgia to an upset of Auburn a year ago. But when Eason injured his knee in the season opener against Appalachian State, Fromm seized the opportunity to start and never looked back. The true freshman passed a huge test in his first career start, throwing for 141 yards and a touchdown as the Bulldogs beat Notre Dame on the road. If winning in one of college football’s most hostile environments wasn’t convincing enough, Fromm cemented himself as the starter by throwing for 201 yards on just 12 passes in a 31-3 blowout of Mississippi State. Coach Kirby Smart has done a good job putting Fromm in position to succeed, and hasn’t overwhelmed his young quarterback. Fromm has thrown more than 20 passes in a game just

three times this season as the Bulldogs have been reliant on a running game that is averaging 279 yards per game. Fromm has so far avoided the turnover bug that often plagues young quarterbacks, throwing just four interceptions in his eight starts. “They are efficient throwing the football,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “That has probably been the most impressive thing—the way he has protected the football. He’s been on the money on some of those throws, specifically in the red zone, and has been very accurate.” Unlike Fromm, Stidham came into the season with sky-high expectations. Auburn fans hoped the Stephenville, Texas native would help Auburn challenge the SEC’s best and maybe compete for a National Championship. Stidham’s name was even thrown into the Heisman Trophy conversation. Few expected the roller coaster season Stidham has had. Doubters began to emerge after Stidham struggled in wins over Georgia Southern and Mercer and was sacked 11 times in a loss to Clemson. But Stidham recovered nicely, turning in nearly flawless performances against Missouri, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss. Stidham was written off again after the offense failed to gain a first down in the second half in a heartbreaking loss to LSU. But the redshirt sophomore proved his resilience again, leading the Tigers to two straight wins as Auburn now controls their own destiny in the SEC. Both teams will look to win the game on the ground, but if the game is close in the fourth quarter, look for Fromm or Stidham to make a statement late.

JAKE FROMM(11) COURTESY OF UGA SPORTS COMMUNICATIONS

ADAM SPARKS / PHOTOGRAPHER

By PETER SANTO


THURSDAY, NOV. 9, 2017

The Auburn Plainsman: GAME DAY VS. GEORGIA9

FILE PHOTO

Georgia’s Sony Michel (1) avoids Auburn defense as he carries the ball in the second half. Georgia vs Auburn in Auburn,Alabama on Saturday, Nov. 14.

TAILBACKS » From 5

This is where the game will be decided. Auburn’s defense must force Fromm into third and longs and make him try to beat them with his arm, something that Malzahn knows will be no easy task. “They are pretty efficient when they throw it, but I think from a coach’s standpoint, no matter what it is, you’ve got to stop what they do best.” Malzahn said, “If they threw the ball, you would have to take away the pass, but they actually run the ball very well, so, obviously, that is where it starts.”

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The Auburn defense tackles Georgia’s Sony Michel (1) during the first half against Georgia on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016 in Athens, Ga.

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The Auburn Plainsman: GAME DAY VS. GEORGIA

THURSDAY, NOV. 9, 2017

RECEIVERS INCREASING PRODUCTION AFTER DAVIS’

DISMISSAL By NATHAN KING Assistant Sports Editor

By TYLER ROUSH ADAM SPARKS / PHOTOGRAPHER

Sports Reporter

Ryan Davis (23) runs with the ball in the first half. Auburn vs LSU on Saturday, Oct. 14 in Baton Rouge, La.

Before Auburn’s season-opening win over Georgia Southern, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn identified two wide receivers he expected to have breakthrough seasons. Ryan Davis, and Darius Slayton. “[Davis is] explosive when he has the ball in his hands,” Malzahn said. “Slayton is another guy that is a little bit older. Those two guys need to lead the charge as far as the receiver group.” Davis leads the team in receiving with 461 yards and has five total touchdowns, including one 62-yard pass to Slayton in Auburn’s 52-20 win at Arkansas. Prior to Auburn’s 51-14 victory at Missouri, Davis was identified by Malzahn as an emergency quarterback. The head coach noted his work ethic and determination. “[Davis] has worked extremely hard,” Malzahn said. “He is one of those guys who really wants the ball and he attacks the ball.” Davis, who had more yards through six games than his entire 2016 season, has become a playmaker on a rolling Tiger offense that is averaging 44 points in SEC play. In addition to his contribution to an explosive offense, Davis boasts one of college football’s lowest drop rates. His reliability, along with his consistency -- Davis is averaging 9.6 yards per reception, 51.2 yards per game -- has built confidence with quarterback Jarrett Stidham. Malzahn attributes Davis’ success with experience and, again, his work ethic. “He is one of the more veteran guys on our receiving corps,” Malzahn said. “He has played a lot of ball and I know our quarterback has a lot of confidence in him.” Davis and Slayton’s production has been a welcome sight for Jarrett Stidham, who lost his primary deep threat target in Kyle Davis earlier in the season. The wideout missed Auburn’s entire 2017 spring practice for “personal reasons” before missing the Tigers’ season opener vs. Georgia Southern this season due to suspension. “Any time as a head coach a player has to be dismissed, that hurts,” Malzahn said. “Every situation is different. We have a lot of great kids on this team and any time that happens it’s another opportunity for someone else. That’s just how I look at it.” Slayton and Ryan Davis have seized that oppurtunity. Slayton slid into Kyle Davis’ long-ball role. The versatile 6-foot-2, 190-pound receiver was tar-and-feathered by the Auburn fanbase after a disappointing outing against LSU, which fea-

ADAM SPARKS / PHOTOGRAPHER

Darius Slayton (81) in the first half. Auburn vs LSU on Saturday, Oct. 14 in Baton Rouge, La.

tured only one catch and several drops in an upset loss in Death Valley. The following week at Arkansas, the Norcoss, Georgia native flipped the script, snaring four passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. The score wasn’t from his QB1, however. It was from the third quarterback on the roster: Ryan Davis.

“Any time as a head coach a player has to be dismissed, that hurts. We have a lot of great kids on this team and any time that happens it’s another opportunity for someone else. That’s just how I look at it.” — GUS MALZAHN Davis faked a reverse, reared back and fired to his fellow receiver. The play showcased experimental and explosive playcalling, a trend lacking tremendously in Auburn’s loss to LSU the week prior. “Me and Darius and the rest of us, we always throw around a football to mess around. But to get an opportunity to do it in a game, it was just exciting,” Davis said after the win over the Razorbacks. “For me, it felt good throwing one.” The hot streak continued in last week’s win over Texas A&M. Slayton caught a pair of Stidham’s throws, good for 100 yards and a long touchdown again, this one for 53 yards. His performance against the Aggies brought his season yardage to 401 yards, 245 of which have come in the last two games. The Tigers receivers have a task ahead of them that isn’t just tall -- No. 1 Georgia’s pass defense has been nearly insurmountable. Teams are passing for an average of only 165 yards per contest, and the Bulldogs have only allowed eight touchdowns through nine games. Stidham has been exceptional finding his guys in victories, with an average completion percentage of 73 in seven victories. In losses however, against a pair of top 20 passing defenses, the QB struggled to the tune of a 44.4 percent clip, a mark that won’t get the job done vs. UGA.


THURSDAY, NOV. 9, 2017

The Auburn Plainsman: GAME DAY VS. GEORGIA11


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The Auburn Plainsman: GAME DAY VS. GEORGIA

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2016

Behind Enemy Bylines: No. 1 Georgia

FILE PHOTO

Maurice Swain (90) tackles Georgia’s Sony Michel (1) during the first half of Auburn’s football game against Georgia on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016 in Athens, Ga.

By NATHAN KING Sports Writer Nathan Berg, assistant sports editor at the Red and Black, answered a few questions from The Auburn Plainsman ahead of Auburn’s matchup with Texas A&M this Saturday 1. Georgia is having one of its most successful seasons in recent history. What has been the primary reason for the Dawgs’ big SEC wins? The entire team has been playing lights out since week one, but no matter the opponent, Georgia will live and die by its pair of elite running backs in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. After appearing to have lost a step last season following his knee injury the season prior, Chubb is back to his old self, and head coach Kirby Smart has even suggested on occasion that Chubb is even more explosive than he was before the injury. Michel has been running with a new level of purpose and power, and has been electric while on the field. Those two have helped to carry Georgia’s offense after it was forced to turn to a freshman quarterback. 2. Jake Fromm is now undoubtedly the leader of Jim Chaney’s offense. Auburn will likely load the box to stop Chubb and Michel, how can Fromm beat the Tigers through the air? The key for Fromm has been and will continue to be about decision making. Fromm doesn’t quite have the arm strength of Jacob Eason, but he has proven to be at least if not more accurate, and can make any throw Chaney’s offense requires from him. That being said, the run has set up the pass well each and every week, and Fromm consistently finds his wide receivers in one-onone matchups. But Auburn has the strongest defensive line the Bulldogs have faced this season, so things could be a bit more challenging in this one. Against a tough defense like Auburn, Georgia will most likely attempt to get things going on the ground and rely on the defense to keep things in its favor. 3. Georgia’s defense is the best that Auburn has faced since Clemson. What offensive approaches have proved the most effective against UGA this year? Running the ball against Georgia is extremely difficult to do. Florida found a little success there in a game in which the Bulldogs displayed uncharacteristically poor tackling, but Georgia has been effective against just about every other rushing attack it’s faced. However, the team is sus-

ceptible through the air, as the secondary is the clear weakness of this team. Quarterbacks like Drew Lock, Jake Bentley and Kyle Shurmur have found success against Georgia passing the ball, so the Tigers are going to need to rely on the arm of Jarrett Stidham if they want to pull the upset. 4. Auburn is itching for a rematch after last year’s letdown. What is the mindset of Kirby Smart’s team heading into arguably the biggest game of their season? Having talked to the players on Tuesday (Nov. 7), they are trying to avoid getting caught up in the hype of this game. Kirby Smart has established a Saban-esque culture around the team of not allowing themselves to be distracted by anything other than the next game, and the players have bought in. This team doesn’t look at any game on the schedule other than the one on Saturday, and it does not take into account history, record or ranking when preparing for opponents. For Georgia, this is just another game. 5. Who are a few unsung heroes for the Bulldogs that Auburn fans should be on the lookout for? Who might be Georgia’s X-factor? While Lorenzo Carter and Roquan Smith will get the attention on the defensive side of the ball, defensive back J.R. Reed has been one of the best consistent producers on the team, and could certainly be considered one of Georgia’s “X-factors” to this point in the season. Reed is a transfer from Tulsa who was on the practice squad, but he has developed into a ballhawk who is one of the hardest hitters on the team. He also has a knack for getting to the quarterback on safety blitzes, and is responsible for Georgia’s only non-offensive touchdown on the season. He’s certainly a player to be on the lookout for come Saturday. 6. Score prediction? How will this huge matchup play out? On paper, Auburn matches up well with Georgia. Stidham is one of the conference’s premier passers, and solid quarterback play has been just about the only path toward scoring on Georgia this season. Auburn’s strong defensive front is the best one Georgia has faced so far, and if it can stop Chubb and Michel, it could be a long day for Fromm and company. Still, this is a team which has consistently stepped up when it needs to, and seems to have an intangible ability to make plays when necessary. I predict Auburn will jump out to an early lead, but Fromm’s poise and leadership will bring the Bulldog back into it, culminating in somewhere around a 27-24 victory in dramatic fashion.


THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2016

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The Auburn Plainsman: GAME DAY VS. GEORGIA 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF TOP 25

1. Georgia

9. Washington

2. Alabama

10. Auburn

3. Notre Dame

11. USC

4. Clemson

12. Michigan State

5. Oklahoma

13. Ohio State

6. TCU

14. Penn State

7. Miami (FL)

15. Oklahoma State

8. Wisconsin

16. Mississippi State

17. Virginia Tech 18. UCF 19. Washington State 20. Iowa 21. Iowa State 22. Memphis 23. NC State 24. LSU 25. Northwestern ADAM SPARKS / PHOTOGRAPHER

Kerryon Johnson (21) runs the ball in the second half.Auburn vs Ole Miss on Saturday, Oct. 7 in Auburn,Ala.


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The Auburn Plainsman: GAME DAY

PREVIEW

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Stidham has been stellar in wins against SEC opponents, averaging 250 yards per game and tossing seven TDs in seven wins. In losses against Clemson and LSU, the former Baylor Bear completed only 19-of-50 passes and was sacked 14 times. Granted, Clemson’s Front 7 accounted for 11 of those. Auburn’s ever-shifting offensive line hasn’t found much success against highly-touted defenses, a trend that will need to shift if Stidham is to lead the Tigers to victory in the passing game. The redshirt sophomore, fresh off an impressive 267-yard, three touchdown outing against the Aggies in his home state of Texas, is relishing the implications of the Top 10 showdown. “I think it’s a big opportunity for us,” Stidham said. “Georgia is a great team. We haven’t had much success the last few years against them, so I like where this team sits right now. I think we’re ready to play.” After Auburn vaulted to its highest ranking ever in the playoffs of No. 9 last season, they were upset by the unranked Dawgs in Athens last season, 13-7. Quarterback Sean White, who revealed later that he played the game with a shoulder injury, headed the Auburn offense that couldn’t pick up a single first down in the second half of play. Georgia has had Auburn’s number in recent years. Midseason, the Bulldogs represented where Auburn wants to be -- a roster stacked with recruiting depth that sees itself in playoff contention at the end of the season. Now the Tigers are in that position: in control of their playoff destiny. Auburn has the same road out now as if they were 9-0, losses vs. Clemson and LSU now insignificant. A home loss Saturday makes the Iron Bowl just a chance to mess with possibly 11-0 Alabama. A win, however, cements Malzahn’s seat as head coach and sets up a winner-take-all Iron Bowl. Sounds a bit like another football season fans might recall.

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2016

secstandings SEC EAST 1st - Georgia (9-0, 6-0) 2nd - South Carolina (6-3, 4-3) 3rd - Kentucky (6-3, 3-3) 4th - Florida (3-5, 3-4 ) 5th - Missouri (4-5, 1-4) T-6th - Tennessee (4-5, 0-5) T-6th - Vanderbilt (4-5, 0-5)

SEC WEST 1st - Alabama (9-0, 6-0) 2nd - Auburn (7-2, 5-1) 3rd - Miss. State (7-2, 3-2) 4th - LSU (6-3, 3-2) 5th - Texas A&M (5-4, 3-3) 6th - Ole Miss (4-5, 2-4) LAUREN BARNARD / AUBURN ATHLETICS

Ricardo Louis (5) scores the game winning touchdown. Auburn vs. Georgia on Saturday, Nov. 16 in Auburn,Ala.

7th - Arkansas (4-5, 1-4)


THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2016

The Auburn Plainsman: GAME DAY15

UGA Âť From 7

in Jordan-Hare Stadium.If the Bulldogs manage to continue their undefeated season by beating the Tigers, and Auburn follows that up with a loss to the Crimson Tide of Alabama, Gus Malzahn could very well be on his way out at the end of the season. Auburn has to break off from the losing nature of this rivalry if the Tigers want to keep both their SEC and National Title hopes alive. A loss would definitely be the end of any playoff hopes and would

likely be the end of any SEC title hopes if Alabama wins. The good news for Auburn fans is that each of those two wins against Georgia in the last 11 years has led to a win against Alabama, a win in the SEC championship, and a trip to the national championship. Auburn may not win against Georgia often, but when it does, it tends to lead to a good finish for the Tigers.

ADAM SPARKS / PHOTOGRAPHER

Malik Willis (14) breaks loose down the sideline for a touchdown in the second half.Auburn vs. Mississippi State on Saturday, Sept. 30 in Auburn,Ala.


Game Day v. Georgia 11.09.2017  

11.09.2017 Game Day v. Georgia