Who: No. 5 Georgia (8-1, 6-1 SEC) at Auburn (2-7, 0-6)
When: Saturday, 6 p.m. CT
Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451) | Auburn, Ala.
Radio: Auburn IMG Sports Network (WVRK-FM 102.9 in Columbus)
Line: Georgia -15.5
What to know about the Bulldogs: Pure and simple, if they win, they’re in to the SEC championship game. If not, Florida goes, and it’s a disappointing season in Athens. So the stakes are fairly high … quarterback Aaron Murray, who will make his 37th consecutive start Saturday, is on track to become Georgia’s all-time most efficient (154.85) and accurate (61.3 percent) passer, as the junior continues to climb the school record charts in many major categories. He’s thrown seven TD passes in two games against Auburn … Georgia has forced 50 3-and-outs this year, a 5.5 per game average which ranks third in the country … two receivers, Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown, have torn their ACLs this year, while defensive end Abry Jones underwent season-ending ankle surgery … the Georgia offensive line has featured the same five starters all year long: from left to right, Kenarious Gates, Dallas Lee, David Andrews, Chris Burnette and John Theus.
When last they met: No. 14 Georgia 45, No. 24 Auburn 7 … Nov. 12, 2011 in Athens: Aaron Murray’s four touchdown passes, and Isaiah Crowell and Carlton Thomas combining for 259 rushing yards, throttled the Tigers. The Bulldogs gashed Ted Roof’s defense for 30 first downs and 528 total yards, converting on 12-of-15 third-down plays and holding the ball for nearly 41 minutes. Auburn quarterback Clint Moseley was 11-for-22 for 140 yards and threw a pick-six. In a few positive moments for the visitors, Emory Blake caught six balls for 101 yards, Michael Dyer ensured back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, and C.J. Uzomah threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Philip Lutzenkirchen in some TE-to-TE action.
All-time series: Auburn leads by a slim margin, 54-53-8. In Auburn, however, the Bulldogs hold a 15-9-2 lead, having won five of the past eight meetings at Jordan-Hare Stadium going back to a 23-all tie on Nov. 12, 1994. The series spent many years playing neutrally in Atlanta, Montgomery, Macon, Savannah and Columbus, not landing at Jordan-Hare until 1960, when the matchups began alternating years between campuses. Because of an SEC scheduling quirk, the game will take place again in Auburn next year. The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry is the seventh oldest in the country, and within five years will move into the top four unless Kansas-Missouri, Kansas-Nebraska or Texas-Texas A&M kiss and make up.
Which Tiger is licking his chops: Junior defensive end Corey Lemonier, who made himself a lot of money the last time Auburn hosted a traditional rival under the lights. If he brings that same intensity Saturday that he did against LSU – and getting Dee Ford back on the other side of the line sure helps – Lemonier will verify Mark Richt’s words when Georgia’s coach called him one of the best in the league. Keep your eye on Gabe Wright, too. The Carver product continues to be talked up by defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, and the Tigers desperately need some push up the middle from the DTs.
Who’s keeping the Auburn coaches up at night: Woof. Boy. Take your pick. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray? Freshman running back Todd Gurley, who leads SEC tailbacks in rushing? Senior flanker Tavarres King? Freshman outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins? (At least Jenkins’ fellow OLB, Jarvis Jones (Carver), isn’t hard to stop. Chad Slade said so.) Seriously, Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said there’s about 6-8 NFL players on that Bulldogs defense. Good luck out there, Jonathan Wallace.
Extra point: Two of Mark Richt’s former defensive coordinators are now on the Auburn sideline – VanGorder and secondary coach Willie Martinez. VanGorder’s son, Mack, is a redshirt freshman strong safety who transferred from West Virginia to Auburn upon his dad’s hiring this year. VanGorder’s daughter, Morgan, runs cross country and track at Georgia.