On Nov. 7, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit called out Georgia’s freshman quarterback: “Can Jake Fromm throw the ball on third-and-7 at Jordan-Hare consistently?”
Fans in Athens were incensed. Up to that point, Fromm had averaged more than 9 yards per passing attempt on the season. Of course he could hit a third-down completion! When Georgia-Auburn kicked off the following Saturday, the Bulldogs found themselves facing — you guessed it — third-and-7 on their very first drive.
Just as Georgia fans predicted, Fromm came through. He hit Javon Wims on a tough throw down the left sideline for 28 yards. On the next play, he found Terry Godwin for 26 yards and the Bulldogs soon had a 7-0 lead.
Herbstreit looked like a fool. And then … the rest of the game happened. Fromm completed just one pass in the next 30 minutes, and Auburn bullied its way to a 40-10 lead before Georgia added a meaningless fourth-quarter touchdown.
How did it happen? And can Georgia avoid a similar fate?
Along with Hans Heiserer, I broke down the SEC Championship Game on Bud Light’s Predictions Among Friends, which you can view here. This post is an in-depth look at the big game and few interesting end-of-season topics.
No. 3 Auburn vs. No. 6 Georgia
Saturday at 4 p.m. ET (CBS)
After Georgia took a 7-0 lead on Nov. 11, the Bulldogs offense hit a wall. Its next 28 offensive plays netted just 37 yards, an average of 1.3 per snap. Included in that stretch: four sacks, six punts and zero points.
Auburn’s defensive line dominated the football game. Georgia’s all-star running backs, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, had no room to work. When Fromm dropped back to pass, he had weak protection and nowhere to throw the ball.
If you watched the final 28 minutes of Auburn’s Iron Bowl victory, you saw a familiar pattern. Alabama — which runs a similar run-heavy offense to Georgia but has the added dimension of Jalen Hurts’ scrambling ability — came up empty in crunch time, netting zero points on three fourth-quarter trips into Auburn territory.
Saturday, the Tigers defensive front will be able to slow down Georgia’s elite running game. It will be able to keep Fromm uncomfortable.
On the other side of the football, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey will have more surprises in store after out-scheming Kirby Smart the first time around. Jarrett Stidham’s 66-yard screen pass touchdown to Kerryon Johnson was the perfect example of a knockout blow via X’s and O’s. At the time, I thought it was just Auburn’s day. After the Iron Bowl, I know it’s Auburn’s year. The pick: Auburn.
Here’s a quick recap of the other topics Hans and I covered on Bud Light’s Predictions Among Friends show.
Who will be the All-SEC first-team quarterback? It’s a close call between Alabama’s Hurts, Auburn’s Stidham and Missouri’s Drew Lock, but I’m going with the latter option. Neither Hurts nor Stidham has needed to carry their team this season; Bama and Auburn have won with elite defenses and strong running games. Lock has played a creampuff schedule, but he tops the other two in total numbers (including an SEC-record 43 touchdown passes) and value to his team (Missouri started 1-5 and finished 7-5 as he heated up).
SEC Player of the Year? Kerryon Johnson. Auburn’s defense has been the key to the Tigers’ success, but if we’re looking at individual performances, Johnson is the guy. He powered the offense during the first month of the season (11 rushing touchdowns in Auburn’s first three conference games) and became more of a receiving threat as the season went on. Two of his best games came against the toughest opponents: Georgia and Alabama.
Coach of the Year? I’m tempted to toss Ed Orgeron a bone after LSU’s miracle midseason turnaround, but this year the award belongs to the winner of the conference championship game. Because I’m picking Auburn to emerge victorious, I’ll go with Gus Malzahn in this category. He was one loss away from potentially being fired or leaving town, and he managed to run the table over the final five games (including two wins against the country’s No. 1-ranked team).
Who will have the hottest seat in 2018? Many of the usual suspects have already been weeded out. I’ll go with Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, whose team fell apart down the stretch after a promising start. Fans and journalists alike were talking about a potential 8-1 start, and now his team sits at 7-5. Consider 2018 Stoops’ final chance to elevate the program.
How many more national titles will Alabama win under Nick Saban? This might be the toughest question to answer, especially considering that Alabama is still alive in the College Football Playoff race this season. Every time we count out Saban and Bama, they strike back with a vengeance. But all dynasties must come to an end at some point (right?). I’ll give Saban one more title before he hangs up his polo.
Which SEC team is a dark horse in 2018? Ole Miss should be primed to do some damage. The Rebels’ recruiting woes won’t really catch up with them until 2019, and they’ve got plenty of starters coming back next season. Can they win the West? Probably not. But — regardless of whether Shea Patterson or Jordan Ta’amu is behind center — they’ll be ready to go touchdown-for-touchdown with just about anybody.
Best nonconference game on 2018 slate? If Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson sticks around for another season (he won’t), then Alabama-Louisville in Week 1 will be must-see TV. Instead, I think all eyes are going to be on a Week 2 game between Clemson and Texas A&M at College Station. The Aggies have yet to decide on a coach, but if they can land a decent-sized fish, that game will be a major milestone for the new era of A&M football.
How do you see the SEC Championship Game playing out this weekend? Let us know in the comments section below.
The post SEC Predictions, Week 14: Auburn-Georgia rematch will be more of same appeared first on SEC Country.
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