AUBURN, Ala. — It’s almost time for the Auburn Tigers to board a team bus and travel across the state line to play in the SEC Championship Game.
Auburn has dreamed of playing in Mercedes-Benz Stadium for months, and thanks to a complete team effort for most of the season that’s where the Tigers will play Georgia for a berth in the College Football Playoff.
Georgia is still one of the top teams in the country. The Tigers had success shutting down dynamic rushers Sony Michel and Nick Chubb when the teams met in early November. Mimicking that outcome Saturday will be extremely difficult.
Still, the Tigers had an edge up front both in terms of their offensive and defensive lines. That advantage, along with the assumed participation of running back Kerryon Johnson (shoulder) could help Auburn as it battles for another conference title.
As always, our SEC Country staff has spent the week speaking with coach Gus Malzahn, coordinators and players on the Auburn campus (and participated in lots of teleconferences). Now it’s time to make a game prediction.
Justin Ferguson: Auburn 31, Georgia 20
Georgia’s loss to Auburn was the Bulldogs’ only subpar performance of the season, yes. UGA was sloppy and could definitely play cleaner, especially in a pseudo-home environment in Atlanta. But Auburn has won big games this season with its play in the trenches, and I don’t see Georgia completely flipping that advantage in a matter of three weeks. It’ll be closer, and UGA might lead early, but Auburn is the deeper and hotter team, even if Kerryon Johnson can’t go.
Lauren Shute: Auburn 27, Georgia 17
I have been almost dead-on with my predictions for the Auburn-Georgia and Auburn-Alabama games over the last few weeks. This one is tough simply because Kerryon Johnson is being listed as day to day (even if we remain confident he’ll play). The SEC title game will be much closer than the first meeting in Jordan-Hare. I’m sure of that. In the end, though, I don’t think Auburn’s defensive front is a hurdle that Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm can overcome. That group is playing its best football and that won’t stop, regardless of Johnson’s status. Auburn should be able to hold Georgia to no more than 17 points again and muster enough offense to get to the College Football Playoff.
Benjamin Wolk: Auburn 24, Georgia 13
Nothing has happened in the last 2 1/2 weeks to make me think the SEC Championship Game will be much different than the game at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Georgia will come with more juice, you’d think, than it did in Auburn, when it had already qualified for the SEC title game. But, ultimately, Auburn has dominated everyone on both lines of scrimmage all season, and I don’t expect that to change enough in this one to make a sizable difference.
Zac Blackerby: Auburn 34, Georgia 24
I think Auburn handles this game throughout and Georgia finds itself unable to move the football for most of the game. Like the last meeting, Georgia will be able to find points late in desperation time, but I believe Auburn will be dancing on the sidelines. Georgia’s inability to form an effective offense against the Tigers defense a few weeks ago may have angered the Bulldogs, but I have a hard time seeing a totally different outcome just a few weeks later.
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