Auburn vs. Georgia: Predictions for SEC Championship Game 2017

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistNovember 26, 2017

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 11:  The Auburn Tigers offenses prepares to run a play against the Georgia Bulldogs defense at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 11, 2017 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Iron Bowl set the table for the 2017 SEC Championship. Auburn knocked off the No. 1 program in the country to secure a rematch with Georgia Saturday at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. 

Whenever Alabama loses a football game, it's a big deal. On Saturday, head coach Nick Saban fell short against a perpetual thorn in his side:

There's a great deal of respect for Saban's track record at Alabama and LSU, but when Auburn plays well throughout the season, it's a tough program to beat even for the iconic collegiate head coach.

You can call it fate or optimism, but Tigers quarterback Jarrett Stidham saw this destination for his squad a year ago:

Running back and jumping passer Kerryon Johnson made the trip to Atlanta possible for the Tigers. He ran for 104 yards, scored as a ball-carrier and threw a touchdown pass.

Unfortunately, the junior tailback exited the game with a shoulder injury. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn didn't have specifics on the ailment, per Ryan Brown of WJOX 94.5 FM:

The Tigers offense would take a major hit without Johnson. Let's project expectations for the SEC Championship Game.

             

What: 2017 SEC Championship Game

Who: Auburn Tigers vs. Georgia Bulldogs

Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

When: Saturday, December 2

Time: 4 p.m. ET

National TV: CBS

          

More Touches for Kam Martin?

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 2:  Running back Kam Martin #9 of the Auburn Tigers breaks free for a touchdown against the Georgia Southern Eagles during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game at Jordan Hare Stadium on Saturday, September 2, 2017 in
Butch Dill/Getty Images

We'll start with the obvious. The Tigers won't rule out Johnson unless he suffered a severe shoulder injury. Auburn will want Georgia to expect to face the 1,000-yard running back. However, the coaching staff will likely prepare sophomore ball-carrier Kam Martin for more touches. According to Brown, Malzahn isn't worried about Martin's injury:

At less than 100 percent, don't expect the junior running back to see 30 carries like he did against the Crimson Tide.

Without Johnson and Kamryn Pettway, who's been out since his three-touchdown performance against Arkansas in October, Martin would take the spotlight in the backfield. It's not ideal, but Malzahn must embrace the next-man-up approach.

On November 11, Johnson rushed for 167 yards and ran down the sideline for a long 55-yard touchdown reception in the win against Georgia. If he can't suit up, it's a major headache the Bulldogs don't have to worry about.

              

More Pressure on Jarrett Stidham's Arm

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 25:  Jarrett Stidham #8 of the Auburn Tigers warms up prior to the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Regardless of Johnson's status, the Tigers will need their quarterback to deliver in the pocket. He's been efficient and held turnovers to a minimum through the 2017 campaign. The Baylor transfer has only recorded one 300-plus yard passing game, but he's executed when necessary and avoided careless errors.

On Saturday, the Tigers may need a little more from Stidham to beat the Bulldogs. He doesn't have to view the upcoming matchup as a passing duel with Georgia signal-caller Jake Fromm. However, it's important for the Auburn passer to keep the chains moving if the ground attack sputters without its lead back at 100 percent. 

Look for Stidham to establish his throwing rhythm early in the game. The backfield's success will determine how much heavy lifting the quarterback needs to win the contest.

                 

Don't Expect a Blowout in Auburn vs. Georgia Part 2

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 11:  Marlon Davidson #3 of the Auburn Tigers pressures Jake Fromm #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 11, 2017 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Expect a close SEC Championship Game. It's tough to beat any worthy opponent twice in one season—let alone in blowout fashion.

Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart will put Week 11's 40-17 defeat on repeat for his players as motivation throughout the week. Fromm and senior running back Nick Chubb will lick their chops at an opportunity to avenge an ugly road loss.

This time, Georgia will have home-field advantage at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Bulldogs should also field the more potent ground attack with Chubb and Sony Michel. The duo won't finish with another dud under the bright lights.

The Bulldogs will soak in the atmosphere and claim the SEC title. The victory would put Georgia back in the College Football Playoff conversation with Alabama lurking as a one-loss non-conference champion. Georgia needs style points in the win to elevate its resume. 

Nonetheless, the Bulldogs win a big matchup with Auburn to finish their one-loss 2017 campaign.

Prediction: Georgia 27, Auburn 17

Related

    Report: Former No. 1 QB Transferring from ASU

    College Football logo
    College Football

    Report: Former No. 1 QB Transferring from ASU

    Joseph Zucker
    via Bleacher Report

    Moos: Jab at Meyer, Harbaugh Was 'Tongue in Cheek'

    College Football logo
    College Football

    Moos: Jab at Meyer, Harbaugh Was 'Tongue in Cheek'

    Mike Chiari
    via Bleacher Report

    Georgia Lands Former Irish Starting DE Hayes

    College Football logo
    College Football

    Georgia Lands Former Irish Starting DE Hayes

    247sports
    via 247sports

    Bama Players Get Nat'l Title Rings, Then Troll UCF 👀

    College Football logo
    College Football

    Bama Players Get Nat'l Title Rings, Then Troll UCF 👀

    Scott Polacek
    via Bleacher Report