The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry featuring No. 2 Georgia playing host to Auburn on the SEC on CBS Game of the Week is one of the marquee contests on the Week 6 schedule. The Bulldogs have looked anything but the reigning national champs, turning in sloppy play in each of their last two victories and needing a fourth-quarter comeback to top Missouri on the road. The Tigers have dropped two of their last three, including last week's 21-17 loss to LSU when they blew a 17-point lead.
The Bulldogs are led by quarterback Stetson Bennett IV,who, despite the Bulldogs' struggles the last couple of weeks, is second in the SEC in passing (307.2 yards per game) and has only tossed one interception through five games. The Tigers' have settled on redshirt freshman Robby Ashford under center. The dual-threat weapon had his best day through the air in Week 5 when he racked up 337 yards and tossed two touchdowns.
LIVE updates: Follow along with all the action as Georgia battles Auburn in the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry.
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Georgia vs. Auburn: Need to know
Where are the wide receivers?: Georgia tight end Brock Bowers has been the star of the receiving corps this year. The sophomore has a team-high 342 yards and is the only Bulldog with multiple touchdowns, even though he only has two. Georgia has to find some weapons outside, and that might hinge on the status of Adonai Mitchell, who has only played in two games due to an ankle injury. The sophomore made the trip to Missouri last week, but didn't see the field.
"AD is hopeful again," said coach Kirby Smart. "He was close to being able to go we thought last week. We took him with the intention of seeing if he could go. Pregame thought he looked pretty good, but didn't feel comfortable putting him out there. We are hopeful he's able to this week, and we don't know until we get out there and get closer to the game. He is much closer this week than he was last week. Getting Arian [Smith] back helped with that. All the reps the freshman got helped. Got to continue to get those guys better."
This could be a great chance for Smart to develop his downfield threats. Auburn is ranked middle-of-the road in virtually every meaningful passing defense stat, and a couple of weapons outside of Bowers will go a long way toward the Bulldogs repeating as national champions.
Coffee is for closers: That classic scene the movie "Glengarry Glen Ross" also applies to Auburn's offense in the worst possible way. In the last eight games against Power Five opponents, the Tigers are averaging 2.6 points per game in the second half (excluding overtime). It didn't score a single point in either of the last two games in that same timespan. Coach Bryan Harsin addressed the problem during his Monday press conference.
"To me, it really comes down to trying to eliminate those negative plays, and then just being more consistent," he said. "That's play calls. That's execution. That's all those things, and not just one in particular. That's just the glaring reason why it's things that we all have to improve on and get better. Our adjustments come out at half. We have to be able to find ways to continue to put points on the board. It's not just the half of football, you get to play all four quarters."
It's one thing to lay goose eggs against Missouri and LSU, it's an entire different thing to do it against the defending national champs. If coach Bryan Harsin doesn't earn a trip to the coffee pot, he might have to abandon his small piece of real estate in the Auburn football complex by the end of the weekend.
Where's the offensive line?: Georgia's offensive line play had been solid through the first four games, but was dreadful last weekend against Missouri. It gave up nine of its 16 tackles for loss this season, and that was the biggest reason why it averaged just 4.69 yards per carry -- its worst mark against a Power Five opponent this year.
"We didn't play really well up front," Smart said. "They had a lot of momentum. We got to do a better job preparing our guys, but we also got to do a better job in-game of making good decisions and putting ourselves in a situation to be successful or more successful at least."
Auburn's defensive line hasn't exactly been impressive this year. But if the Bulldogs' offensive line has a repeat performance of what it did last week in Columbia, it could open the door for a front seven that has been playing better lately.
Georgia vs. Auburn prediction, picks
Auburn couldn't have hand-picked a worse time to catch the Bulldogs in Sanford Stadium. Ashford won't have the same production through the air due to a stout Georgia defensive front and a secondary that will take advantage of pressure that front seven generates. The sloppy play the last two weeks will force Smart to keep his foot on the gas more than he normally would, and lead the Bulldogs to an easy cover. Prediction: Georgia (-30)
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