- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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NO. 5 GEORGIA AT AUBURN
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.
Records: Georgia 8-1 (6-1 SEC), Auburn 2-7 (0-6)
Last week: Georgia beat Ole Miss 37-10, Auburn beat New Mexico State 42-7
What’s the Story?: For the 21st time in the history of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, Saturday’s outcome will determine either a division or conference championship. Georgia is 11-8-1 in previous meeting under those circumstances and it needs another win on Saturday in order to claim its second straight SEC East title. Auburn has had a horrible season, but it played No. 7 LSU and No. 13 Clemson close, so there is a precedent for a closer game than the 15-point spread might indicate. An Auburn win would rank among the season’s biggest upsets, however.
Five headlines: Check out our recap of this week’s biggest storylines from Thursday.
Players to watch:
1. Alec Ogletree: The junior inside linebacker is an absolute tackling machine. By notching 11 stops last week against Ole Miss, Ogletree has led the Bulldogs in tackles in eight of the last 10 games in which he's appeared. He also made an acrobatic interception and tossed Rebels running back Jeff Scott to the ground for Georgia’s first safety of the season.
2. Todd Gurley: Facing an Auburn defense that has been vulnerable against the run, it would appear to be favorable circumstances for Georgia’s star freshman tailback to have a big game. Gurley is second in the SEC with an average of 95.2 rushing yards per game, while Auburn is last in the SEC in rushing defense at 199.2 yards allowed per game.
3. Jarvis Jones: Jones didn’t make nearly the racket against Ole Miss that he did the week before against Florida, but he freed teammates to make plays by occupying so much of the Rebels’ blocking attention. This week he could have an opportunity for another big game while facing an Auburn offensive line that has allowed more sacks than any other SEC team.
1. Tre Mason: The sophomore back hasn’t always had many opportunities to run with Auburn trailing in so many games. But he has been a productive player when the Tigers feed him the ball. He’s eighth in the SEC with 78.4 rushing yards per game (127 carries, 706 yards, 6 TDs).
2. Daren Bates: Check out the stiff arm Bates delivered while returning a fumble for a touchdown in last week’s win. The senior linebacker is not just one of the Tigers’ toughest defenders, he is also their leading tackler with 86 stops (which ranks third in the SEC). Bates and Auburn’s defense will probably have to turn in their best performance of the season to pull the upset on Saturday.
3. Jonathan Wallace: The freshman quarterback started for the first time last week -- becoming the third quarterback to start for Auburn this season -- and led the Tigers to a non-conference victory. Auburn ran the ball on 45 out of 62 plays, however, and it will not have that luxury this week. Wallace will have to be at least competent as a passer for Auburn to have a chance.
Georgia’s secondary vs. Auburn’s quarterback
Wallace has attempted 26 passes as a college quarterback -- 16 of which came last week against New Mexico State -- so experience is not on his side. Meanwhile Georgia’s secondary is starting to perform at the level that was expected of the veteran group before the season. Cornerback Damian Swann, in particular, has been involved in four turnovers in the last two weeks. The group will probably play with serious aggression against Wallace and Auburn’s receivers in hopes of generating more takeaways.
By the Numbers
1. In Georgia’s five games against teams that now have losing records, quarterback Aaron Murray completed 70 percent of his passes (101-for-144) for 1,555 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions. In the four games against winning teams, Murray completed 58 percent (62-for-107), for 893 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions.
2. With UGA senior Marlon Brown lost for the season with a knee injury, Malcolm Mitchell’s presence on offense could be even more valuable. The sophomore is averaging 5.6 catches for 77.3 yards over the last three games (17-232) and caught touchdown passes in the last two games.
3. Since rushing for a season-high 164 yards in a win against Tennessee, Georgia tailback Keith Marshall is averaging 23 rushing yards per game (33-92) in the last four games and has not scored a touchdown.
On Deck: Georgia hosts FCS powerhouse Georgia Southern (7-2) next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET. Auburn will host Alabama A&M (7-2).