By Dylan Larck
Under Kirby Smart, Georgia has constantly been in second place, always behind Alabama, but this year seems different for the Bulldogs. Returning one of the most talented offenses in college football, Smart will finally try to get over the hump with Georgia.
Over the past eight years, Gus Malzahn could never get a gameplan together to beat Georgia. He had a few games where he could, one game due to a prayer, but overall, Auburn has not had the best luck against Georgia. Bryan Harsin gets Georgia at home in his inaugural season.
After the turmoil they had a quarterback last year, Georgia fans are probably happy to see JT Daniels return as the starter. Last season, Daniels threw for 1,231 yards, 10 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. Daniels is a top quarterback in college football and has plenty of weapons around him in this offense.
Georgia has one of the best running back rooms in the nation, as the top-five rushers from last year all averaged over 5.2 yards per carry. Zamir White is the lead back after scoring 11 touchdowns on the ground last season.
With their top wide receiver, George Pickens, out for the season with a torn ACL, most teams would struggle to find a new top guy, but Georgia really has nothing to worry about. Kearis Jackson and Jermaine Burton are more than capable to take that leading role after they both averaged over 14 yards a catch in 2020. Then, at the tight end position, they have 6-foot-7 Darnell Washington, and they were able to bring in former five-star Arik Gilbert from LSU.
This secondary could be one of the weakest Georgia has ever had after every defensive back with an interception last year left for the draft. Georgia will basically start an entirely new secondary next year, besides Lewis Cine, who was second on the team in tackles last season.
The front seven is a group Georgia always recruits well, as they always seem to rank highly in rush defense, but they do not return much production. They only return three starters in nose guard Jordan Davis, defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt and linebacker Nakobe Dean, who led the team in tackles in 2020. This defense will have a lot to replace in 2021, but if they can get it together when the season starts, they have the potential to win a national championship this year.
MAKE OR BREAK FACTORS:
For Auburn to win this game, it all starts with the offense. Auburn always has a hard time moving the ball against Georgia, but it will be detrimental to them if they can’t. They will need to run a balanced scheme to perfection against Georgia. This secondary is young but talented, and trying to pass too much can result in multiple turnovers. The run blocking for Auburn will need to help Tank get to the second level as much as possible.
Defensively, Auburn will need to find a way to get pressure on JT Daniels quickly. He has too many weapons to let him sit in the pocket; one of those guys will get open. The front seven will also need to be prepared for all the running backs. Although White will get the bulk of the carries, Georgia will not shy away from putting James Cook, Kenny McIntosh, Daijun Edwards, or Kendall Milton into the game too.