ATHENS — Georgia football safety J.R. Reed carries a great deal of influence in the Bulldogs’ locker room, and it’s a good thing.
Georgia could be ripe for an upset after scoring two must-win victories away from home in Florida against the Gators and at Kentucky last week.
“What they’ve done this season doesn’t matter, what we’ve done this season doesn’t matter, all that matters is Saturday,” said Reed, a junior whose 24 consecutive starts are twice as many as anyone else on defense. “Anything can happen, especially this week, it’s not going to be a cakewalk.”
Both the No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (8-1, 6-1 SEC) and the Tigers (6-3, 3-3) have had to do their fair share of rebuilding after losing key personnel on the line of scrimmage from a season ago.
Both Georgia and Auburn enter the 7 p.m. game on Saturday (TV: ESPN, Radio: WSB 95.5 FM, 750 AM) having won their past two games after disappointing losses on Oct. 13. The Tigers were shocked by Tennessee at home, 30-24, while the Bulldogs were humbled at LSU, 36-16.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart pointed out this will be the third meeting between the teams in a year, and he was quick to turn his team’s attention to the matchup.
“When it comes to Auburn you know how that goes, they don’t like us and we get it,” Smart said in the aftermath of his team’s 34-17 win at Kentucky. “Our guys, we respect Auburn, they’ve got a good football team. … . we know we’ll be in for a really good game.”
The teams split last year’s meetings, with the Tigers winning decisively in Auburn 40-17 and the Bulldogs getting a 28-7 win in the SEC title game.
“It’s a physical rivalry, and the first game was very physical, and the second game was very physical, so everyone will be playing their butts off and everyone will give it their all and it will be a four quarter game.
“They were predicted to be us, and we were predicted to beat them, and they beat us, then we beat them,” Smart said, “so anything can happen in this game, predictions don’t matter.”
As far as Reed is concerned, not too much should be made of winning the East at this stage of the season, either.
The veteran defensive back makes it clear the focus needs to be on the future — but not beyond Auburn.
“Winning the East doesn’t mean that much, it’s nice to win the East two times in a row, but now it’s on to Auburn,” Reed said. “I haven’t really thought about Alabama at all until I get on their schedule.”
And no, Reed said, he doesn’t waste time thinking about the Dec. 1 matchup.
“I don’t daydream about Alabama at all,” he said. “They’re on our schedule now, but we’ll worry about Auburn.”
A Georgia loss could derail the Bulldogs’ College Football Playoff hopes even if they were to beat Alabama on Dec. 1.
A loss in one of the three remaining games — at home against UMass (4 p.m.) and Georgia Tech (noon) — coupled with an SEC title game defeat would surely drop the Bulldogs from a coveted New Year’s Six spot into one of the secondary bowls.
Georgia football safety J.R. Reed
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