Second-ranked Georgia will look to remain undefeated when it hosts Auburn in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry on Saturday in Athens, Ga.
Georgia (5-0, 2-0 SEC) has defeated the Tigers (3-2, 1-1) five straight times stemming from a win in the 2017 SEC title game, giving the Bulldogs victories in 14 of the teams’ past 17 meetings.
The Bulldogs rallied from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit to pull out a 26-22 win at Missouri on Saturday night, while Auburn squandered a 17-0 second-quarter lead in a 21-17 loss to visiting LSU.
Auburn committed four turnovers, including a fumble that was returned for a touchdown and an interception on LSU’s 9-yard line early in the fourth quarter.
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett has completed 69.5 percent of his passes for 1,536 yards with five touchdowns and an interception.
“(Bennett) is a winner. He makes plays, he’s plenty fast enough to run the ball, he’s plenty fast enough to scramble around and make plays,” Auburn coach Bryan Harsin said. “He finds the open receivers, he’s accurate, and he manages their offense really well.”
Bennett’s three favorite targets are tight end Brock Bowers (20 receptions 342 yards, two TDs), receiver Ladd McConkey (20 catches, 266 yards, one TD) and running back Kenny McIntosh (22 receptions, 237 yards).
Kendall Milton (44 carries, 271 yards, four TDs) anchors the ground game along with Daijun Edwards (37 carries, 202 yards, one TD).
With Bennett under center the past two meetings, the Bulldogs have outscored Auburn 61-16. The Tigers haven’t won at Georgia since 2005.
Auburn, however, features the best running game the Bulldogs have seen so far. Auburn’s Tank Bigsby has rushed for 326 yards and four touchdowns on 69 carries and Jarquez Hunter has 139 and four scores on 34 carries.
“(Bigsby’s) explosive,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “He is a great guy out of the backfield to catch the ball. He catches screens well. He is vertical on his run game. He is tough.”
Quarterback Robby Ashford, who has completed 54.1 percent of his passes for 709 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions, is also a threat running the ball. Ashford, who Georgia recruited heavily before he chose Oregon prior to transferring to Auburn before the season, has 50 carries for 223 yards and a score.
“His best plays sometimes are plays that end up being broken plays,” Smart said. “The guy can take off and really hurt you, beat with you his arm, especially on scrambles.”
Georgia likely will be without defensive tackle Jalen Carter for one to two weeks with a knee injury. Carter, who ranks as a probable top-five selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, injured the medial collateral ligament in his left knee when he took a shot to that area against Missouri.
“We don’t know how long it’s going to be, but it doesn’t look good for this week,” Smart said.
Auburn edge rusher Eku Leota, who is second on the team with tackles for loss (five) and sacks (two) is out for the season after tearing his pectoral muscle against LSU, Harsin said on Monday.
“Eku is a big loss,” Harsin said. “He’s an emotional leader and one of the top guys on this team.”
Auburn and Georgia have met 126 times, including annually since 1944. Georgia leads the all-time series 62-56-8. The Bulldogs and Tigers have met every season since 1892 except for 1893, 1897, 1917, 1918 and 1943.