Well, this has been a wacky year in the SEC. If I would have told you that Auburn would be contending for a BCS Title and Georgia would have just clinched bowl eligibility this time next year, you wouldn't have believed me. It's a prime example of how quickly things can change in college football. Auburn was at a low point after losing to Georgia 38-0. Then came the offseason and the hiring of Gus Malzahn who coached at Arkansas State and previously served as offensive coordinator for the Cam Newton-led BCS Champions.
Malzahn has definitely exceeded expectations. He has taken a 3-9 (0-8 in the SEC) Tigers squad and transformed them into a one-loss, national contender. It just shows how much of a positive impact a head coach and a winning attitude can have. Now, we enter the present.
What: #25 Georgia vs. #7 Auburn
When: Saturday at 3:30 PM
RB Todd Gurley is a key piece to the Georgia "O"
Georgia-RB Todd Gurley
Gurley is a game changer, plain and simple. He is arguably the best runningback in the nation. Many thought that he would have a Heisman caliber season, but he has dealt with being injured. In the 9 games that the Bulldogs have played, Georgia is 0-2 without Gurley, but 6-1 with him. His mere prescence opens up the Georgia offense and makes it much more lethal. Despite being injured for the month of October, Todd Gurley has rushed for 625 yards and 8 touchdowns with a 6.2 yards per carry average. This man is a baller.
Georgia-QB Aaron Murray
Aaron Murray is certainly going to go down as one of the SEC's most accomplished quarterbacks. Murray has broken numerous SEC records including most passing yards, most total yards, and most passing touchdowns. Murray's play in big games has been in question, but it has been thrust aside by Murray's clutch play this season. The veteran signal-caller is one of the top passers in the SEC and has had a phenomenal year. Murray has thrown for 2,477 yards and 20 TDs thus far in 2013. He knows the Georgia playbook like the back of his hand and is a great leader. He is also 2-1 against Auburn.
Georgia-ILB Ramik Wilson
Georgia's young defense has had its fair share of struggles. One of the bright spots is Ramik Wilson. Wilson has had a breakout season and is one of the most under-the-radar linebackers in the country. Wilson has notched 91 total tackles which leads the SEC. He will be a huge factor in the game on the Plains because he will be one of the guys with the tough job of slowing down the Auburn rushing attack.
Auburn-QB Nick Marshall
One of the biggest surprises this season is Auburn QB Nick Marshall
Marshall is one of the most heartwarming stories of 2013. The Pineview, GA, native originally signed with Georgia in the recruiting class of 2011 as a defensive back partly because he is a great athlete and is not an ideal fit for the Georgia pro-style offensive scheme. In the months before the 2011 campaign, Marshall was dismissed from the team for violating team rules. He went on to junior college and then tranferred to Auburn in 2013. He seems to have turned his life around and is having amazing success in Auburn. Marshall is a dangerous, dual-threat QB who has passed for 1,301 yards and 8 touchdowns. What is more impressive is that he has also rushed for 734 yards including a career-high 214 against Tennessee last week.
Auburn-RB Tre Mason
Mason is one of the most underrated backs in the country and has been a big reason for Auburn's success this year. The 5-10, 210 lbs. junior from Palm Beach, FL, has rushed for 1,038 yards and 16 scores. He ranks 2nd in the SEC in rushing yards.
Auburn-WR Sammy Coates
Coates has emerged as the top pass-catching threat for the Tigers. The sophomore has 26 receptions for 628 yards and 5 TDs despite Auburn's proclivity towards running the ball.
Georgia will face the Auburn Tigers for the 117th time in this classic, annual grudge-match. The "Deep South's Oldest Rivalry," as it is called, is one of the closest and most competitive in college football. The Auburn Tigers are on a roll and are back to their winning ways of the Cam Newton era. Auburn has one of the top rushing games in college football with guys like QB Nick Marshall and RBs Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne leading the charge. Now don't be fooled. Marshall can air it out, but he hasn't had to use his arm too much thanks to the dominant Tiger ground game.
Mark Richt's Bulldogs, on the other hand, have not experienced as much success this season. Due to attrition, an inexperianced defense, and special teams, the Bulldogs have lost 3 games. When healthy, Georgia boasts one of the best offenses in the country led by a talented offensive line, a veteran signal-caller, and an explosive rushing tandem in Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. The Bulldogs have suffered through the loss of a myriad of offensive playmakers to injury which has made Aaron Murray's job that much harder. Good news is that the disabled list has slowly gotten a little shorter for Georgia with the return of starting RB Todd Gurley, SS Josh Harvey-Clemons, FS Tray Matthews, and TE Artie Lynch.
Both teams defenses have been subpar this season, but both squads have talent and have gotten better as the season has progressed. Overall, look for the showdown on the Plains to be a highly-contested shootout as this game will be a big factor in the destiny of these two programs in the SEC race. If you are going to the game, make sure to bundle up and enjoy watching one of the best rivalries in the greatest conference in America. The SEC.