MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The Georgia Bulldogs are off to their best start since 1982.
They started 11-0 that season and then lost to Penn State in the Sugar Bowl. Thirty-five years Georgia fans have waited for this kind of start to a season. That’s a lifetime in football. Back in 2002, Georgia started 8-0 and then lost to Florida. They started 7-0 in 2005, and then lost to Florida. Well, they’ve gotten past Florida this year and last week they beat South Carolina.
Now, this week, Georgia plays at Auburn, a team they’ve beaten 11 times in the last 15 seasons. This is the biggest Georgia-Auburn game since the Sugar fell out of the sky in 1982 – when the great Larry Munson asked the Georgia defense to hunker down – and they did. Here’s what’s funny about this game. While every Georgia fans want the Bulldogs to win to keep this undefeated season going, Georgia doesn’t have to win it. It’s not a do-or-die game.
Georgia clinched the SEC East last weekend, so they’re going to Atlanta to play for the SEC Championship regardless of what happens in Auburn. They could lose to the Tigers, but then they’d have to win out to win the national title. Don’t expect head coach Kirby Smart to make that a rallying cry to his team this week, and I don’t think that’s something we have to worry about.
There is no doubt – Auburn will be a huge challenge for Georgia. It’s a tremendous matchup – on paper. Georgia will have to contain Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson, who is second in the SEC this season in rushing yards – just ahead of Georgia’s Nick Chubb. But can Auburn stop Chubb and Sony Michel, the best duo in the country at running back? Georgia must put pressure on Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham, and if it does the Auburn running game will have to succeed against a tremendous rush defense for the Bulldogs. Georgia matches up well with Auburn. While the Bulldogs haven’t played a running back like Johnson, has any running back so far done serious damage against this Georgia defense? Not yet.
And remember Georgia’s depth. The Bulldogs have the players to run in and out of there to keep fresh, which could be important late in the game. This game may simply come down to Georgia’s improving offensive line. If it plays as well Saturday as it has so far this season, the line of scrimmage will open holes for those running backs and protect Fromm when he passes the ball. It might be that simple.
This Georgia team is starting to get attention. It obviously has the love from the college football playoff committee, as the Bulldogs are the number one team in the country. But if Georgia beats Auburn, an undefeated regular season will be very possible. And, more people are going to jump on the bandwagon and believe this could be a special season.
This may not be a game Georgia has to win Saturday, but until they prove they can’t win in these big games, why should we think they can’t do it? The Bulldogs are special, and a win on the plains might convince everybody.