Any time there’s a top 10 matchup early in the college football season, the game is must-watch television. The stage is set for another primetime showdown in the first matchup of the 2020 season featuring two Top 10 opponents. In a battle of SEC powerhouses, No. 7 Auburn travels to Athens for a showdown with No. 4 Georgia.
Both teams are 1-0 to begin the year. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 pm ET on ESPN. Georgia is a six-and-a-half point favorite, with the over/under set at 44.5.
Tigers on the Prowl
Auburn started their season at home with a 29-13 win over No. 23 Kentucky. The Tigers were six-and-a-half point favorites in that one, and easily covered the spread.
Sophomore quarterback Bo Nix looked poised and professional, completing 16 of 27 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns. Nix was also Auburn’s leading rusher, compiling 34 yards and five rushing attempts. His composure while throwing two fourth-quarter touchdowns showed the maturity you would expect from a senior, not a sophomore.
“Bo made a couple of really good throws for touchdowns,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. “I thought Seth Williams made two big-time plays right there to help us.
“I’m just excited for our team. It gave us a good measuring stick of where we’re at.“
Seth Willams was Nix’s favorite target on the day, hauling in six catches for 112 yards and two scores. His impressive catch on a corner fade to break the game open in the fourth quarter will be on the highlight reel and draft tape for a long time.
Williams will likely be a second-round pick, or perhaps a late first-rounder, in the 2021 draft. Look for him to have at least one big play for Auburn against the physical, experienced Georgia cornerbacks.
Auburn will need strong performances from running backs D.J. Williams (sophomore) and Shaun Shivers (junior) to keep the Georgia defense guessing and to open up the passing game for Nix. The two combined for 50 yards on 14 carries against Kentucky. D.J. Williams also found paydirt, punching the ball in from a yard out for a first-quarter score.
Defensively, the Auburn defense was tenacious against Kentucky, recording two sacks, eight TFLs, five pass defends, two fumble recoveries, and an interception. Roger McCreary appeared to have returned the interception 100 yards for a pick-six, but the play was brought back due to a targeting penalty call. If the defense can slow down the running game, Auburn will keep the game close.
Georgia’s Week 1 performance against Arkansas was a big win, as expected, but left some bettors out in the cold. Late into the fourth quarter, Georgia settled for a field goal, stretching the Bulldog lead to 37-10 and capping a run of 32 unanswered points. Unfortunately, 37-10 held as the final score, meaning Georgia failed to cover the 28-point spread by just one point.
Freshman starting quarterback D’wan Mathis struggled for Georgia early, completing eight of his 17 pass attempts for a meager 55 yards and an interception. Junior Stetson Bennett replaced Mathis under center in the second quarter, and the Bulldog offense came to life. After trailing 7-5 at the half, Bennett marched Georgia down the field, completing 20 of 29 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns.
Running back Zamir White bulldozed his way into the endzone for a fourth-quarter score. White led Georgia’s rushing attack with 71 yards on 13 carries.
Defensively, Georgia had an excellent game, intercepting Arkansas quarterbacks three times (Richard LeCounte grabbing two of them), forcing a fumble, and recording two sacks. The Bulldogs also recorded a safety, but they will have a markedly tougher assignment against a formidable Auburn team.
The biggest concern for Georgia was the mental mistakes. Georgia was flagged 12 times for 108 yards in penalties, and Mathis’ interception was a wild throw well behind his receiver. Auburn will make Georgia pay if the Bulldogs don’t clean things up.
The Pick Is In
The deciding factor for me comes down to the quarterback controversy for Georgia. The Bulldogs have not announced a starting quarterback for Saturday’s contest.
While it wouldn’t necessarily be a big upset, given both teams’ rankings in the Top 10, a more composed Auburn team will cause Georgia problems. Take Auburn (+6.5), and if you’re feeling adventurous like me, take them to win outright.
FREE PICK: Auburn (+6.5)