Written By: Ryan Lippert|@Lippert42
The first weekend of all the major college football conferences besides the Big 10 being in play was an exciting one filled with great games and even a few surprises. This coming weekend looks to match or possibly be even better as we have several key matchups to look forward to. However, while there are great games in each conference, this week’s College Football Game of the Week is staying in the SEC. The seventh-ranked Auburn Tigers make their second straight appearance in the game of the week following a solid 29-13 win over the Kentucky Wildcats. They will be facing a tougher task this weekend as they will travel to Sanford Stadium for a matchup with the fourth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs who are coming off a 37-10 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks. With the expectations set high for one of the key games of the season in the SEC, let’s take a deeper look at this week’s College Football Game of the Week between the Georgia Bulldogs and Auburn Tigers.
Who Will Lead Georgia’s Offense?
Following the departure of Jake Fromm to the NFL, the Bulldogs were left with a big hole to fill at quarterback. It seemed like they had found the answer as former Wake Forest starting quarterback Jamie Newman announced he was transferring to Georgia. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic hit, and Newman decided to opt-out of this season to prepare for the NFL Draft. Then, former USC Trojan JT Daniels also decided to transfer to the Bulldogs but was not medically cleared to play.
With both transfers out of the picture for their season opener, Kirby Smart turned to freshman D’Wan Mathis as their starter. After a rough start to the first half against Arkansas, throwing for only 55 yards and an interception, Mathis was benched in favor of junior Stetson Bennett. Bennett came in and threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Bulldogs to victory. However, a starter has not been named yet as both quarterbacks are in consideration and Daniels has also been cleared to play.
Whoever gets the start will look to get star wide receivers George Pickens and Demetris Robertson going as they combined for only 76 combined receiving yards and a touchdown last weekend. Sophomore Kearis Jackson led the team with six receptions for 62 yards against Arkansas. It will also help if they can get the run game going led by star running back Zamir White who had 13 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown against the Razorbacks.
This offense is facing an Auburn defense that gave up 384 total yards to Kentucky last weekend but stood tall when it mattered, coming away with three turnovers. If they want any success, especially on the ground, they will have to find a way to block linebackers K.J. Britt and Owen Pappoe who both had great games against the Wildcats. Edge rusher Big Kat Bryant couldn’t quite get going but he is always a threat to get to the quarterback.
Bo Nix Looks to Build Off Solid Opening Performance
Auburn quarterback Bo Nix continued to show the college football world that he is the real deal last weekend as he had a great performance against a talented Kentucky secondary. Nix threw for 233 yards for three touchdowns and no interceptions while also leading the team with 34 rushing yards. This can be credited in large part to an outstanding performance from junior wide receiver Seth Williams who finished with six receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns. He will also look for open opportunities for receivers Eli Stover and Anthony Schwartz who also played key roles in last week’s win.
The biggest area of concern for the Tigers is their running game. As I already mentioned, Nix led the team with 34 yards on the ground. As far as running back carries were concerned, they have split three ways between Shaun Shivers, D.J. Williams, and true freshman Tank Bigsby. Shivers led the trio with 29 yards while Williams scored the only rushing touchdown.
Things won’t get any easier for them on the ground as they are facing a Georgia defense that held Arkansas star running back Rakeem Boyd to only 21 yards on 11 carries last weekend. The Bulldogs’ defense is led by stud senior linebacker Monty Rice who will be joined by an impressive sophomore in Nakobe Dean who led the team with seven tackles last week. Their secondary, led by senior defensive back Richard LeCounte is also fairly impressive. They held Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks to 200 yards through the air and one touchdown while coming away with two interceptions.
This game is an interesting one to predict for me. Yes, Georgia is the higher-ranked team and had a blowout victory last weekend. However, Auburn is on a much different level than Arkansas. I think this one will come down to quarterback play for the Bulldogs. Talent-wise, JT Daniels gives them the best chance to win. If he isn’t ready, I think they have to go with Bennett and try to pound the ball in the run game.
While I think this game will be close for the most part, I see Auburn just being too talented to lose this one. Bo Nix is a special talent and has a rising star in Seth Williams to throw to along with two other outstanding receivers in Stove and Schwartz. They’ll stick to what they do best and have another very successful day through the air. Also, Auburn’s defense will just prove to be too much as they have an outstanding front seven for stopping the run. If they do that, I don’t see Georgia winning this game by throwing the ball. I have the Tigers pulling away to win this one on the road 34-21.