With puffed out cheeks and incredible heartburn, we bring you the illustrious College & Magnolia staff picks for the 125th edition of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. Who will #BARNHARD? Who will BARN mildly? Who ain’t even barnin’ at all?
Auburn @ Georgia (-6.5) (O/U 44.5)
In my mind, this game is a true toss up. UGA will have the best unit on the field Saturday with their defense but I think they might also have the worst unit in their offense. Stetson Bennett looked good in relief. He took care of the ball and gave his playmakers a chance to make plays. Defensively, UGA was as solid as you would expect. As Auburn fans well know, it’s never easy to beat UGA especially in Athens.
But I like Auburn’s chances this weekend. In my non homer opinion, Auburn has the passing attack to keep this UGA defense on its heels and at least move the football. Defensively, if the Tigers can carry over their 2nd half performance against a better UK OL they have a chance to shut this UGA run game down & force whomever is at quarterback to consistently make plays through the air.
The most important key to Auburn’s victory is the offensive line. Can this rebuilt unit give Nix the time to get the ball to his wideouts? Can they pick up that needed 3 & short to keep the drive alive? I don’t expect Auburn to chew the Dawgs up on the ground but if they can be good situationally that might be all AU needs.
Turnovers & special teams will be huge in this game. Both Arkansas & Kentucky had a chance to pull the upset but both melted down with some terrible turnovers and bad special teams play. I don’t see either Auburn or UGA having similar meltdowns but one big returns or one ill advised throw could be the difference.
This series has hurt me more than any other. So many times Auburn has come into this game with a better team only to leave beaten often by insane margins. I understand folks’ hesitance to buy into this team getting it done. After all, it’s not like Gus Malzahn has excelled in top 10 road matchups.
But I believe in Bo Nix. I believe in this Auburn defense. I believe in Seth Williams and these wide receivers. And I believe this team gets it done in a stressful but ultimately cathartic way this weekend.
Auburn 23 UGA 17 (Auburn wins outright; under)
I know I’m not alone in feeling all tied up in knots this week, and maybe that means we all realize that this game is important. If you were privy to the College and Mag group chat you’d know that there’s a thought that this game could end up being a turning point in Gus Malzahn’s career. He’s failed to beat Alabama, Georgia, or LSU on the road during his tenure, and despite some excellent chances in all three venues, Saturday night’s game might be the best opportunity Auburn has had to beat the Bulldogs in Athens.
We saw what happened last week, and we laughed and laughed as they trailed 7-5 to Arkansas at halftime. Still, the most Georgia-quarterback-named Georgia quarterback turned up and put up some points in the second half and made them all feel a little better. Arkansas is no real threat yet, and still they had the Bulldogs on the ropes for much longer than Kirby Smart would have liked. Georgia’s got exactly one playmaker in George Pickens, even though he only caught 4 passes for 47 yards. The offensive line looked like a mess, and Arkansas missed some serious opportunities to roll up big plays against a defense that’s among the best in the country.
Auburn, meanwhile, turned the corner in the second half against Kentucky. The defensive line came to play (you’d know that if you studied your AU Nerd articles) and the offense kept pressure off of Bo Nix, whose trust allowed Seth Williams to bless poor Kentucky defenders. We need to see more out of the running game, and we need to avoid a slow defensive start that would give a tepid Georgia offense some confidence, but I think Kevin Steele’s more than up to the task.
I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate admitting the small bubble of hope in my stomach, but I think that this actually is a turning point for Auburn and Gus. What an entire season usually builds up to will happen in the second week of the year, and I think that ripping off the band-aid will be beneficial for Auburn. We’re going to see Nix and Williams show a top team that they’re a top combination in the SEC, and we’re going to force a couple of turnovers from whoever plays quarterback for the Bulldogs. Those are the difference, and I think both Chad Morris and Kevin Steele get exotic Saturday night. Auburn 23-20 (Auburn wins outright; under)
So, in case you didn’t know, I’m from Valdosta, Georgia. For those of you that don’t or have never lived in Georgia, this is my Iron Bowl. This is the reason I hate this game every year. Because winning it is fantastic. Losing it is so much worse. Therefore, since I have already started to have an evening beverage to calm my stomach for a game that is more than 72 hours away, I have recruited my good friend and selected brother Brad Tillery to give my prediction for me (because if it were me, I would say Dawgs 55-0 in the hopes that the it would trick the heathen Football Gods into giving us a win).
Brad: If you’re going by recent history, Georgia wins this game. They’ve won 8 of the last 10 in the series. Auburn hasn’t won in Athens since 2005. Even favored Auburn teams have played terribly against the Dawgs over the last 15 years. But history is just that: history. Auburn comes into the game with an experienced QB who protects the football, a plethora of talent at the skill positions, and a salty defense that should make life hell for whoever Georgia decides to put behind center Saturday. The Auburn offensive line could be a concern against the UGA front seven in the run game, but I expect Chad to lean heavily on Bo Nix’s right arm in this one. I also trust the AU defense to force a turnover or two as well against an inexperienced Georgia offense. Special teams should favor the Tigers here too.
A lot of younger Auburn fans may not realize that there was a time when Auburn dominated this series in Athens. It’s been 15 years since we’ve been able to pick some of the hedges as souvenirs. That streak ends Saturday.
AU - 20
UGA - 14
(Auburn wins outright; under)
I feel like it’s been said before and it needs to be said again: This is a Must Win for Gus Malzahn. You have Georgia early on the schedule after years of having to worry about playing Georgia and Bama nearly back to back. Not this year. While you’ll have some in the stands, you don’t have a full stadium of people barking at you to deal with because of COVID. You’ve got the more experienced QB in this game as I don’t think anyone knows for sure what to expect out of the QB position for UGA this weekend.
And despite all of this, I’ve been burned multiple times when I try to Barn Hard. So this week, I’m taking the cautious approach.
The reason? Quite frankly, the 2016 game has scarred me. Never go into Athens (over) confident. Everyone thought for sure that would be the day Auburn would break through and win in Athens. Even Georgia fans that I came across in Athens before the game thought that. It didn’t happen.
This is your chance Auburn to shift the narrative in the league, to turn the heat up on Georgia in both recruiting and the shape of the SEC for years to come. To whip the dog crap out of Kirby on his homefield.
But the bottom line is this: Gus has to win the big one on the road before I can trust picking Auburn in this kind of game. So that said..... I hope like hell I’m wrong and we get the break-through win we have been waiting on for years but.......
Georgia 20 Auburn 17 (Georgia wins, Auburn covers; under)
Ryan S. Sterritt
This is the one you have to win if you’re Gus. No excuses. You have the established quarterback. The healthy offense. The good first week. With a 2-6 career record against Georgia, this is the one you Have. To. Have.
It’s going to be tough sledding for the Auburn offense. They figured things out in the second half vs Kentucky, and looked pretty polished in doing so, but this Georgia defense is loaded with talent. By my count, they’ve got four different guys in Tankathon’s Big Board Top 100, including two corners. Auburn is going to have to run the ball better than they did against Kentucky, which I think is possible, but not a given. I also think they know Seth Williams is a superstar, and they’re going to give him double coverage all day long. That leaves it up to Chad Morris and Bo Nix to figure out what the weak spot is. Are Anthony Schwartz and Eli Stove going to be left wide open? Will Bo need to run the ball? They don’t pay me the big bucks to figure that out, but I can’t wait to see.
On the other side of the ball, this is a chance for this defense to really show out. The Georgia offense looked wretched in the first half, and *fine* in the second half against Arkansas, but that Arkansas defense ranked 88th in the country in defensive SP+ last year. Even if they’re marginally improved, they’re still not good. Just like Seth will be the UGA defense’s focus, George Pickens is THE guy in the Georgia offense. I imagine he will see a healthy dose of Roger McCreary, but there’s no telling who wins that battle. Who knows what Georgia will be trying at quarterback, and while they have elite talent at running back, the ground game really looked rough against Arkansas.
Overall, I like Auburn in this one, and I don’t really see how Georgia is getting a touchdown in this game, unless you really believe last week was week one jitters. I think the Auburn playmakers get enough done on offense to post up a few scores, and something tells me whoever is taking snaps for Georgia is going to have a long night. Auburn breaks the drought in Athens, 27-20. (Auburn wins outright; over)
I think this game is one that we’ll look back on in 2 years and be able to make sense of where there are some potential program shakeups in the conference. The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry has gone from one of my most anticipated weeks of the year to something I dread.
Oh, you thought it was because of the feeling that we are going to lose? No. Nah. Not that. I can live with that. No, I’m tired because it is getting increasingly more difficult to find fresh, relevant content that appropriately conveys just how long it has been (14,518 days as of this writing) since Georgia last did something other than underachieve as a program. It’s a burden, along with consistently reminding Spencer Hall of how Wes Byrum is, in fact, pretty cool, that I proudly tote along with so many of you fine people. But let’s be honest…we all got a gift with the Braves winning a playoff series so that we could remind the world that their last playoff series win was 19 years ago, which was 21 years after Georgia’s last title. Like, what a blessing! But that aside, I’m really having to do some deep dives.
Like, I realized today that my house, which was built 30 years ago, is in a neighborhood that most definitely did not exist 40 years ago. I live in Birmingham. Basically my mind drifted to realizing that the entire bane of so many folks’ existing, the 280 corridor, literally did not exist because it was all woods and farmland 40 years ago outside of Lloyd’s Restaurant. Georgia’s greatest accomplishment is essentially that old country kitchen restaurant that serves a hamburger steak with gravy and onions that your parents took you to with your grandparents when they were in town after church. Sure, there’s fond memories there, but my God who needs that sort of gut grenade in this already awful year?
Anyways, let’s talk about the game. And let me go ahead and once again remind all of you that I am the absolute worst at this “Barnin’” thing y’all do. The world is against us and when we overcome the world it is because Auburn Jesus has smiled down upon us. I wish I could feel differently. I really do. But the only time I’ve ever truly felt safe was when I could see the joyous smile of Cameron Jerrell Newton.
Let’s get to some keys to victory:
- For us to win this game Georgia is going to have to look less like ass than they did a week ago, but with some of that assiness sifting over to the defensive side of the ball.
- Auburn doesn’t need to rush for 150 yards to win this game, but I do think the number needs to be around 120. We have to give the defense the threat of a ground game for us to get in positions with Georgia’s secondary that are favorable.
- For Auburn to win, I am going to single out Eli Stove as a huge reason why. Everyone has spent all week talking about how amazing Seth Williams was last weekend, and everyone knows the legitimate threat Flash imposes on every single snap he’s in the game. It’s time for Eli to flourish in an offense that will let him loose. He’s the most likely to be in favorable coverages Saturday, and it’s high time he show off why he was a highly recruited kid for us like…a decade ago?
- Like others here, I expect the right side of Georgia’s offensive line to be a liability. Plainly put, their run blocking last week was an embarrassment and lacking in fundamentals. That’s an advantage because it shows they’re missing much needed reps to gel in fall camp. Wouldn’t hurt my feelings one bit to see the refs have no reason not to throw the flag on some obvious holds like last weekend.
- Knock George Pickens on his ass. We can win without doing that, but I wanted to get that in here somewhere.
Here’s the thing that sucks about this…I’m trying to go with my gut as opposed to my heart. And in these early games in a year where football is being played during a pandemic that cost the sport all of spring training and almost every team massive inconsistencies with personnel during fall camp, the most known and trusted commodity on the field Saturday is the Georgia defense. And it’s my belief that our offensive line will improve throughout the year, but asking them to give us 120 yards on the ground and keep that defense honest in week 2 after not having much time together as a unit this summer thanks to Covid is asking too much.
Georgia 17 Auburn 13 (Georgia wins, Auburn covers; under)
I joked on twitter the other day that I wasn’t healthy enough for Auburn/Georgia. I get the feeling that Saturday night will be an absolute nerve-wracking 60 minutes. COVID robbed us of March Madness, so my body is not yet conditioned for ultra-high tension Auburn athletics. Last week’s game against Kentucky was a great warm-up, but if I’m being honest, I never truly felt like Auburn was going to lose. I hardly felt any tension at all. Saturday night will be the exact opposite of this.
I know this isn’t true for all of you reading this, but Georgia is my personal biggest rival. I’d rather beat Georgia than anyone else on the schedule (that includes Alabama! Shocking!) We have no idea what we will see out of Georgia’s offense. I don’t think it’s going to matter much; neither team will need much offense Saturday night. Look for a low scoring bloodbath between these two institutions. Hit the under (trust me) and look for Seth to have a 6+ catch game.
(Auburn wins outright; under)
Auburn 27 - Georgia 0 (Auburn wins outright; under)
This is the weirdest football season of our lifetimes and it’s a terrible time to have a game that somehow decides the legacy of a coach. That said, there’s a decent chance this game has a lot more riding on it than the usual high stakes of rivalry and bloodlust. If there is one thing I know about Gus, it is that he seems to have an uncanny ability to win the games he “needs” to win. Which is why he is going to go into Athens and come out with a 5 year extension.
Auburn 29 dwags 14 (Auburn wins outright; under)
During the Braves 13-inning marathon win over the Reds on Wednesday, my smartwatch had my “resting” heart rate at over 100 for about 2 hours. I have a feeling Saturday evening is going to be even worse. Auburn absolutely should win this game. They have the better quarterback. They have the better receiving corps. They have the better linebackers. Roger McCreary probably gives them an equal secondary by himself.
I was there in 2005, and I was there in 2016. I’ll believe Auburn can win in Athens again when I actually see it. Something will go horrendously wrong. Watch out for the return game. Georgia had excellent field position all day against Arkansas, and that’s something that could be marginal enough to change this game. My heart says Auburn by 14. Alas...
(Georgia wins, Auburn covers; under)