Georgia Prepares To Meet Auburn Saturday In SEC Championship

Winner Is Likely Headed to the College Football Playoff

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - by special report

It’s only appropriate. In a year that has been about a revenge tour from last season, the Georgia football team will go to the SEC Championship Game with a chance to avenge its only loss from this season.

The Bulldogs clinched the SEC Eastern Division after beating rival Florida on October 28. It was the earliest a spot in the SEC Championship Game had been clinched since 2009. The Bulldogs had a great regular season, going 11–1. In the second game of the year, the Bulldogs defeated Notre Dame 20–19 on a late field goal. Later in September, they defeated #17 ranked Mississippi State 31–3, solidifying themselves as title contenders. After victories over lesser conference foes, the Bulldogs had a chance to clinch the SEC East with a victory over Florida. They dominated the Gators 42–7. After a win over South Carolina, the Bulldogs were ranked #1 in the CFP poll and #2 in the AP Poll. However, that week they were defeated handily by Auburn for their first loss of the year. The Bulldogs bounced back and defeated Kentucky and rival Georgia Tech to set up a rematch with Auburn.

Auburn and Georgia will meet again Saturday for the SEC title. Auburn clinched its spot by upsetting No. 1 Alabama 26-14 on Saturday. The SEC East hasn’t produced the conference champion since 2008, when Florida won it. No current Georgia player has played in the SEC championship.

The SEC championship game will essentially be a game for the College Football Playoff, with the winner almost certainly receiving a spot in the playoff.

The rematch will come three weeks to the day that Georgia (11-1) was embarrassed by the Tigers, 40-17.

But that game was at Auburn, where the Tigers are unbeaten this season. The SEC championship will be at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Auburn (10-2) will also be banged up, with star tailback Kerryon Johnson leaving Saturday’s win with a shoulder injury.

But it will bring the same defense that shut down Georgia’s vaunted running game and the same offensive line that produced the Bulldogs’ worst defensive showing of the season.

This is the first time Georgia and Auburn have met in the SEC Championship Game since it began in 1992. It will be the first SEC championship since 2010 that will be a rematch of the regular season.

Georgia will wear white jerseys as the designated road team (that alternates between the East and West divisions).

In Auburn’s regular-season game against Georgia, penalties and mistakes plagued the Bulldogs, and the team finished the day accumulating just 46 rushing yards, a total that includes the yardage lost in Jake Fromm's four sacks. Georgia had a bit more success through the air against Auburn, with 184 yards from the receiving corps led by Javon Wims. Still, Fromm finished the day completing just 46.4 percent of his passes when Georgia’s offensive line was tested by Auburn’s defensive front.

The last time Auburn played in the SEC championship game was in 2013, when the Tigers went on to beat Missouri. Following that win, Auburn then lost in the national title game to Florida State.

Georgia’s most recent appearance in the conference championship game was in 2012 when the Bulldogs’ final drive came up 5 yards short of what could have been a SEC title and a probable appearance in the national title game.

Putting the big game in perspective, Georgia's head coach Kirby Smart said, “You don’t make the moment bigger than it is. I mean, our team’s got to go out there of going out and preparing, doing the best that we can. That’s what it is. I’ve been in a lot of big games as a coach, I don’t see it being any different being a head coach. I wanted to win those as a defensive coordinator just as bad as I wanted this one.”

Smart coached in the SEC championship five times as Alabama’s defensive coordinator, winning it three times. That included the last time Georgia was in the title game, five years ago at the Georgia Dome.

“The moment’s not too big for these kids,” Smart said. “They’ve got to go execute and play a good football team. There’s no over-riding message. There’s no speech that’s going to be given that’ll make them Superman. They’ve got to go out there and do a good job. We’ve got to go out there and play our game. And go out there and work to get better. And that’s what we’ll do.”

This will be the first SEC championship game with CBS announcer Brad Nessler replacing Vern Lundquist, who retired in 2016. The game will be televised nationally by CBS.

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