(9) Auburn Tigers at (15) Georgia Bulldogs (-2.5, 68.5 o/u)
The timing of beleaguered running back Todd Gurley’s return couldn’t be any better for the No. 15 Georgia Bulldogs (7-2, 5-2 SEC), as they get set to host the No. 9 Auburn Tigers (7-2, 4-2 SEC) this weekend.
Gurley and his offensive firepower – 773 yards with eight TDs in five games – will be a welcome site for the Bulldogs, who are seeking their third SEC East title in four seasons. The Bulldogs have had mixed results without their star running back, breezing past Missouri, Arkansas, and Kentucky (all on the road), but dropping a home game to Florida.
Though Nick Chubb played well in Gurley’s place, the team is happy to see Gurley return. Georgia center David Andrews said, “There’s no doubt that he’s an electric player and the best at what he does. I can’t wait to look up and see that No. 3 running down the field. I’m ready to go out there and play with him.”
Auburn is also aware of Gurley’s importance to the Georgia offense and is focusing its defensive efforts on stopping the future NFL star.
Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said, “It’s going to be tough now. They’ve got two backs that can start for anybody. Going back and looking at their early season films, Gurley’s like a time bomb. When is he going to get that 95-yard kickoff? When is he going to hit that 40-yard run? When is he going to catch that 35-yard screen pass?
“You got to be exactly right on him every time because he’s either going to break the physical tackle or he’s going to out-run the space tackle. He’s a specimen. I’m sure they’ll be glad to get him back.”
Last weekend, Auburn blew its chance at a playoff spot, losing at home to Texas A&M 41-38. The close loss to the 7-3 (and now-No. 24) Aggies doesn’t look too bad on paper, until you consider that Texas A&M was without starting QB and former Heisman-contender Kenny Hill and was a massive 20-point underdog. As in their loss to Mississippi State earlier in the year, turnovers were part of the problem for the Tigers against Texas A&M, as two late fumbles killed their comeback effort.
While the playoffs are not out of reach for Auburn, they can still make it to a good bowl game and play spoiler against their division rivals Georgia and Alabama. However, an injury to leading receiver D’haquille Williams means Sammie Coates, Quan Bray, and Ricardo Louis have some big shoes to fill in the Auburn offense.
Despite Gurley’s high profile return, look for the defenses to dominate in this SEC battle, meaning the under (67.5) is the right play.
(Photo credit: J. Glover [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/legalcode], via Wikipedia Commons. Photo has been cropped from its original.)
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