The 'Deep South's Oldest Rivalry' has massive playoff implications for both programs
No. 1 Georgia and No. 10 Auburn will square off in the "Deep South's Oldest Rivalry" Saturday afternoon in a game that -- aside from obvious rivalry bragging rights -- carries enormous College Football Playoff ramifications.
Auburn -- the top-ranked two-loss team in the country -- can keep hope alive to be the first two-loss team to make the playoff in history with a win, setting up one of the biggest Iron Bowls in history in two weeks at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Georgia has already wrapped up the SEC East title, but a loss would reduce the margin for error during the homestretch.
The Bulldogs are 2.5-point road favorites over the Tigers on the SEC on CBS Game of the Week.
Georgia: The Bulldogs got tested by an underrated South Carolina team last week, and true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm had to make more throws under pressure than he has all year. Like a poised veteran, he succeeded. That's a good sign, because big game pressure, rivalry pressure and that pressure generated from Auburn's stifling front seven will all come together on The Plains on Saturday afternoon in the biggest game of his young career. Luckily for Fromm, he has a stellar defense and one of the best running games in the country led by Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to fall back on.
Auburn: The Tigers can still make a playoff run, but will have to beat Georgia (twice) and Alabama during the stretch run. Coach Gus Malzahn has precisely zero wins over his two biggest rivals since that magical run in 2013. They did open things up a little bit more over the middle in the passing game in a win over Texas A&M last week, and that helped quarterback Jarrett Stidham toss three touchdown passes. Kerryon Johnson will have to establish the run and Malzahn will have to stick to some of those intermediate routes against the Bulldogs in order for those shots deep to pay off.
This comes down to one simple question: Do you trust Gus Malzahn in big games? I don't. Not after he coached scared in the Tigers two losses this year, and hasn't beaten his rivals since 2013 despite being in the College Football Playoff/BCS hunt in four of the last five Novembers. It'll be close, Auburn will force Fromm to do more with his arm than he has at any point in his career, and he will come through for the unblemished Bulldogs -- with a little help from some predictably bizarre second half play-calling from Malzahn. Pick: Bulldogs (-2.5)