Here are five things to know about the 2017 Georgia Bulldogs:
1. How they got here: The Bulldogs could become the third team in program history to reach 12 wins, joining the 1980 national championship group and the 2002 Sugar Bowl champs. Georgia swept the SEC East for the first time, out-scoring the division 247-72. UGA’s seniors are 39-12, but the 31 individuals haven’t tasted a conference championship. The Bulldogs most recently won the SEC in 2005.
Freshman Jake Fromm is 10-1 as a starter and has outperformed modest expectations. His team is fifth nationally converting 49 percent of third downs. He’s only the seventh freshman to start at Georgia, and the second to have started his first game on the road, joining Eric Zeier in 1991.
2. Old-fashioned football: Georgia is winning at the point of attack and bullying opponents with a five-deep running back group led by Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, two of the best backs in school history. The Bulldogs have the best rushing offense in the conference (265.7), but fared even better against SEC opponents with a staggering 281.4 rushing yards per game.
Consistency along the offensive line has helped. Isaiah Wynn, Lamont Gaillard and Andrew Thomas have started every game at left tackle, center and right tackle respectively. Kendall Baker has started 11 straight games at left guard.
3. Historic rushers: Chubb is the fourth-leading rusher in SEC history with 4,522 yards. He and Hershel Walker are the only Bulldogs to have three 1,000-yard seasons. Michel, meanwhile, is 97 yards from his own 1,000-yard season. Georgia has never had two 1,000-yard rushers in one year.
4. The defense ain’t bad either: It didn’t take Kirby Smart long to build an Alabama-lite. Georgia’s defense ranks fifth nationally in points allowed per game (13.8). At one point, the Bulldogs had prevented an opponent scoring in 31 consecutive drives. Georgia held six of the eight SEC teams it faced to 14 points or less.
UGA features arguably the best ensemble of linebackers in the country, including Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy and Natrez Patrick. Smith, a potential first-round pick in the next NFL draft, has 100 tackles, including 12 against Auburn. Trent Thompson and John Atkins have anchored a defensive front that ranks No. 2 in SEC in rushing defense.
5. The rematch: Despite 121 meetings, Georgia hasn’t faced Auburn twice in a season, and this will be only the fifth time the teams met when each was ranked in the top 10. Georgia had previously met a team twice in a season four times: North Carolina (1895), Presbyterian (1943) and LSU (1943 and 2003). Georgia lost both games against North Carolina and won both games against Presbyterian. The Dogs lost both games to LSU in each season. The 2003 season ended with Georgia’s loss to LSU in the SEC Championship game.