Pregame analysis of Auburn's game vs. Georgia:
What: Auburn Tigers (6-3, 3-3 SEC) at Georgia (8-1, 6-1)
Rankings: Auburn is No. 24 in the College Football Playoff rankings and unranked by the Associated Press or coaches polls. Georgia is fifth in all three sets of rankings.
When: Saturday, 6 p.m. Central
Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
Line: Georgia by 14
TV/Radio: TV: ESPN; Radio: WTDR-FM, 92.7 (Oxford), WMSP-AM 740 (Montgomery), SiriusXM 190 (Streaming 961)
1. Stidham in rhythm: It’s no secret that Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham has taken a step back statistically this season. After completing 66.5 percent of his passes for 225.6 yards a game last season, he’s down to 60.6 percent and 217 yards per game this season. Through Auburn’s first 11 drives Saturday against Texas A&M, he was just 11 of 21 for 114 yards. But with the Tigers down 10 with a little more than seven minutes remaining, they asked Stidham to run a two-minute offense with plenty of pace and few substitutions. He responded by completing seven of his final eight passes for 125 yards and leading a pair of touchdown drives that gave Auburn a come-from-behind victory.
2. Waiting for Whitlow: Auburn began preparations this week with a clean injury report, as head coach Gus Malzahn said Tuesday that he expected everybody to practice and be available Saturday at Georgia. Top running back JaTarvious Whitlow was available against Texas A&M this past week, but he was not particularly effective as he continued to deal with the effects of an ankle injury suffered two weeks earlier at Ole Miss. He mustered just 16 yards on eight carries against Texas A&M.
3. A veteran presence: Auburn replaced junior Kaleb Kim with redshirt freshman Nick Brahms at center between its third and fourth games of the season, and that move stuck for the next five. After the bye week, however, the Tigers re-inserted Kim into the starting lineup for this past Saturday’s game against Texas A&M. Malzahn said after the game that Kim dealt with an injury early on in the season, but putting him back in once healthy gave the Tigers “the stability of the veteran guy.”
4. One-man wrecking Coe: He hasn’t done it with quite as much flare or panache Jeff Holland as did last year, but redshirt sophomore Nick Coe is having himself a standout season as Auburn’s starting Buck. This past Saturday against Texas A&M, he had two tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and two quarterback pressures. On Monday, he was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week after a second straight game.
Georgia’s running backs vs. Auburn’s run defense: The Bulldogs boast arguably the best rushing offense in the SEC, averaging 223.8 yards a game and 5.8 yards a carry led by running backs Elijah Holyfield (103 carries, 674 yards) and D’Andre Swift (99 carries, 622 yards). Auburn’s defense ranks fourth in the conference surrendering just 3.5 yards a carry and has held opponents below their season rushing average in 12 of its last 13 games (not including openers).
Player of the week
Ryan Davis, wide receiver, senior, 5-foot-9, 185 pounds: Auburn’s leading receiver is closing in on program history after a huge performance in last week’s win over Texas A&M (five catches, 75 yards, one 20-yard passing touchdown). His final reception in that game — a 47-yard catch and run to set up Seth Williams’ game-winner — was the 152nd of his career. He needs only one more to tie Courtney Taylor’s all-time record for career receptions (153).
By the numbers
5.4: Auburn cornerback Noah Igbinoghene’s passer rating when targeted against Texas A&M, which was the best in the SEC by a wide margin, per Pro Football Focus.
11: Number of sacks Auburn has over its last two games (six at Ole Miss, five against Texas A&M). It’s the first time the Tigers have had five sacks in consecutive games since 2004.
123: Number of times Auburn and Georgia have met in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 58-56-8.
406: Number of completions Stidham has at Auburn, which makes him the sixth quarterback in program history to top 400.
Auburn is riding some momentum off its come-from-behind win over Texas A&M, but that final result masks the fact that the team struggled both on offense and defense throughout most of the game. A two-minute approach on offense late in the game worked to great effect, but it’s hard to tell if Malzahn will stick with that in Athens. Georgia looked somewhat vulnerable in a 36-16 loss against LSU in Baton Rouge on Oct. 13, but it dominated ranked Florida and Kentucky teams the last two weeks.
Georgia 31, Auburn 20