Its championship weekend on the college gridiron and there isn't a more exciting time to be a fan. Championship matchups from all the major conferences with playoff spots on the line are sure to entice any fan into checking out a little football for the weekend. While I could sit here and looks at these matchups for days, let's take a few minutes and look at the play-in game in the SEC Championship game with the Auburn Tigers and Georgia Bulldogs adding another chapter to their rivalry nicknamed the Deep South's Oldest.
The Ultimate Rematch
The 2017 conference title game will be a rematch from two weeks ago when Auburn embarrassed then #1 ranked Georgia 40-17 in Jordan Hare Stadium. Georgia entered that contest in Auburn as a -2.5 point favorite. After an initial touchdown gave the Bulldogs a quick 7-0 the lead, Auburn pushed Georgia around the rest of the way. Penalties, mistakes and being dominated both sides of the allowed Auburn to get the big win.
Auburn Will Win
The Tigers enter this contest fresh off beating bitter interstate rival Alabama 26-14 last week to claim the SEC Western division crown. Since they lost 27-23 to LSU on 10/16 Auburn has been quite possibly the hottest team in all of college football defeating two #1 ranked teams over the past three weeks. Auburn will look to be the first two-loss team to make the playoffs.
Auburn will look again to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The 1st matchup had the Tigers rushing for 237 yards on 46 carries(5.2/per) while holding the vaunted Bulldogs run game to only 46 yards on 32 carries(1.4/per). Quarterback Jarrett Stidham was 16/23 throwing for 3 touchdowns. Many people will ask what has changed in three weeks that will allow Georgia to magically slow down the rush and allow the running game to get going.
The biggest obstacle to Auburn's postseason plans could be the health of star running back Kerryon Johnson, who was injured in the second half of the Tigers win over Alabama. Johnson absolutely torched the Bulldogs in the initial meeting rushing for 167 yards and catching two passes for 66 yards with a touchdown. Johnson has a shoulder injury and nothing has been made public to date. Keep an eye on the reports but Johnson is the type of guy that will give it a go if there is any way possible.
Georgia Will Win
The Bulldogs spent Saturday tuning up for the SEC Championship by pasting in-state rival Georgia Tech 38-7. Georgia's offense remained its consistent self by rushing for 247 yards on 43 carries. The defense held the sixth opponent to 10 or fewer points while dominating the Georgia Tech option attack. Jake Fromm made throws when he needed to as he went 12-16 for 224 yards with two touchdowns. It was a complete effort from the Bulldogs versus an overmatched opponent.
Overmatched opponent will definitely not be used to describe Auburn in the upcoming matchup. In the first matchup, Auburn held the talented running back duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to 27 and 21 yards respectively. That has to change this weekend if Georgia is to have a chance to compete and make it to the playoff. These two are the 2nd and 3rd leading rushers in Georgia history and you have to think at least one has a decent performance in the rematch.
Auburn opened as a -2.5 point favorite and currently sits between -2.5 and -3 at various offshore shops. Rematches are a funny thing as they often don't look anything like the original. Georgia fans are hoping a change of scenery from Jordan Hare to the Mercedes Benz stadium in Atlanta will help do the trick for the Dawgs. I think they get the run game going a little more this weekend and cut down on the crushing penalties and mistakes. Georgia 21-Auburn 20 in an epic addition to the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry.