No. 9 Auburn gets good news ahead of Georgia tilt
Auburn got some good news regarding injury issues as it began preparations for Saturday's outing at Georgia.
Coach Gus Malzahn announced that sophomore quarterback Sean White, who came on in the second half last week after not starting against Vanderbilt, will start against the Bulldogs. Running back Kamryn Pettway, who looked to have pulled a muscle late in the 23-16 win over the Commodores, may be cleared to play when the Tigers (7-2, 5-1), ranked No. 9 in the College Football Playoff rankings, and the unranked Bulldogs (5-4, 3-4) mix it up starting at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
In addition wide receiver Tony Stevens and linebacker Tre' Williams, are on track to play after sitting out the game against Vanderbilt.
Starting running back Kerryon Johnson played last week but is only “80 percent” from the ankle injury that sidelined him the previous game.
“We're a pretty beat-up team,” Malzahn said.
But a hot one as well.
The Tigers have won six in a row and are on pace to set up what could be a classic Iron Bowl matchup against undefeated Alabama to close out the regular season.
If the Tigers get the road win over the Bulldogs, they could play their way into the SEC Championship Game by beating Bama no matter what the Tide does this week against Mississippi State. Both the Tigers and Tide have non-conference affairs next week with Auburn hosting Alabama A&M and Alabama hosting Chattanooga.
Georgia is on the fringe of the SEC East, mathematically still in contention but needing not only a win over Auburn but several other breaks to get a share of first place in the division.
The Bulldogs also are looking for a so-called “signature” win in coach Kirby Smart's first season, and Auburn certainly presents an opportunity for that.
The series between the Bulldogs and Tigers is billed as the Deep South's oldest rivalry with the two teams meeting for the 120th time since they first squared off in Atlanta in 1892. The series was interrupted in 1917 and '18 for World War I and again in 1943 for WW II.
“It's one of best, I mean, it's one of greatest rivalries in college football, when you talk about Georgia and Auburn,” Smart said. “I think historically it's been very balanced. I mean, there's some similarities in the two stadiums, similarities in the programs.”
For a stretch in the 1980s, the game featured a matchup featuring two coaches facing their alma mater. Then-Georgia coach Vince Dooley is an Auburn grad. Then-Auburn coach Pat Dye is a Georgia man.
“I mean, you look at coach Dooley, coach Dye, where they came from, there's a tie that bonds,” Smart said. “It's an interesting rivalry. It's always heated. It never ends because it goes on recruiting trail. Both schools recruit the same area primarily. I mean, it's an interesting deal. And they got a great program and I certainly think we do too.
“So it makes for great college football.”
Smart's team is coming off a heart-stopping, 27-24 win over Kentucky in a game decided on a field goal as time ran out. That stopped a two-game skid for the Bulldogs, who had dropped their previous two games to Vanderbilt and Florida.
Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason completed 17 of 31 passes for 245 yards with a touchdown against Kentucky and junior running back Sony Michel had 127 yards on 19 rushes with a touchdown.
Auburn was unexpectedly pushed nearly to the brink in getting by Vandy. White, who hadn't taken a snap in practice the week before, came off the bench to complete 10 of 13 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown to rally the Tigers from a 13-10 halftime deficit.
Cornerback Joshua Holsey then came up with a key interception with 36 seconds left deep in his own territory to secure the win.
“We faced probably about as much adversity as we faced in a win in a long time,” Malzahn said. “We had some injuries and some guys weren't able to play. We had one of our top defensive guys kicked out of the game early.
“We had some guys that really stepped up and did a super job. In every year that we've won a lot of games there has been a game like this where our guys found a way to win.”