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Sound Off: Competition cranks up a notch for both No. 1 Georgia, No. 10 Auburn

Chip Towers

ATHENS — Thanks for tuning in to the Zaxby’s Sound Off with Chip & Seth, where DawgNation beat writers Seth Emerson and Chip Towers discuss their opinions on the Georgia football team. Each week, your intrepid reporters offer up some thoughts and predictions on the Bulldogs. This week, they review Georgia’s 24-10 win over South Carolina last Saturday and preview the Top 10 matchup between your No. 1-ranked Georgia Bulldogs (9-0, 6-0 SEC) and No. 10 Auburn (7-2, 5-1) this Saturday.

Neither Chip nor Seth thinks the Bulldogs have anything to feel down about in the wake of beating the Gamecocks by “only” two touchdowns. They’re in agreement that South Carolina is probably the second-best team in the SECs East this season.

Chip and Seth both see the game against Auburn as the most evenly matched contest for Georgia since it traveled to South Bend, Ind., to take on Notre Dame in September. In fact, it’s that 20-19 win over the Fighting Irish — now No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings — that has propelled the Bulldogs to the top spot in the rankings.

Our reporters didn’t exactly see eye to eye on that Notre Dame contest in retrospect, by the way. Chip thought it was a more dominating victory for UGA than Seth did. But they both wholeheartedly agree that Auburn will represent the most challenging opponent since that game. Likewise, Georgia will be the Tigers’ most difficult opponent since that 14-6 loss to Clemson in Week 2. Clemson remains No. 4 in the CFP rankings.

Both Chip and Seth are having a hard time drawing a bead on Auburn. The 11 sacks the Tigers allowed against Clemson would seem an indication that they have offensive line issues, and Auburn is continuing to deal with injuries up front. Then again, the Tigers’ have allowed fewer than 1½ sacks per game since then. So between addressing the situation with a lineup shuffle and facing lesser competition, it would appear Auburn has a handle on it now.

Defensively, the Tigers will field by far the best unit Georgia has faced. Defensive end Jeff Holland leads the SEC with 8 sacks, and Auburn has the best defensive line the Bulldogs’ rebuilt offensive will have seen this season. Both pass protection and running the football will be at a premium on Saturday.

Our UGA beat writers are curious to see which Auburn team will show up and whether “the moment will finally catch up with Georgia,” as Seth puts it. While the Bulldogs have been on the road for some big contests, namely that tilt against Notre Dame, they have yet to encounter the type of loud and intense atmosphere they’ll experience inside Jordan-Hare on Saturday. That goes double for freshman quarterback Jake Fromm.

In any case, it’s a huge contest that could prove to be a swing game for both teams. It would seem there would be little to stop Georgia if the Bulldogs can get through this one. Likewise, an Auburn win will keep its SEC West hopes alive and take a little pressure off coach Gus Malzahn, whose teams have not performed well in these high-profile games of late.

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