ATHENS — There probably won’t be a moment for the rest of the season when the average Georgia fan doesn’t flash back to the disaster in Jacksonville two weeks ago and think, “Imagine how big the Auburn game could have been.”
But this Auburn game is still pretty big.
Welcome to game night. The No. 15 Bulldogs face the No. 9 Tigers tonight at Sanford Stadium. With losses to South Carolina and Florida, the odds remain against the Bulldogs launching themselves back into the inaugural college football playoff picture. But defeating Auburn would strengthen their hopes of winning the SEC East and, at least theoretically, keep their playoff hopes alive.
This has been a widely anticipated game for two reasons: 1) Auburn has been one of the nation’s top ranked teams all season (ranking third until last week’s loss to Texas A&M); 2) It marks the return of tailback Todd Gurley after a four-game NCAA suspension for profiting off of his autograph.
My view: If Gurley is healthy, the Dogs have the potential to win every game they play the rest of the season — tonight, in two weeks against Georgia Tech, in the SEC championship game and the postseason. Most players coming off a four-week absence show rust. But it’s not like Gurley is coming off an injury. He has been practicing with the team and I don’t expect it will take him long to get up to game speed.
Auburn’s defense has been shaky most of the season, but the Tigers, like Georgia, can run the ball. These are the top two rushing teams in the SEC (Auburn 1, Georgia 2) and two of the top scoring teams (Georgia 1, Auburn 3).
As for the SEC East, here’s the situation:
— By virtue of Florida losing to South Carolina, the Gators (4-4 in the SEC) cannot tie Georgia or win the East. What that means is Georgia (5-2) technically could lose to Auburn and still win the East if Missouri (4-1) loses two of its final three games (remaining schedule: tonight at Texas A&M, at Tennessee, home vs. Arkansas).
— If Georgia wins tonight and Missouri loses, the Dogs will win the East regardless of Missouri’s last two games because the Dogs own the tiebreaker edge. If both teams win, Georgia needs Missouri to lose one of its next two games.
That’s it for now. I’ll be commenting during the game. The cyber-floor is yours.
Links to Todd Gurley photo galleries, which will be updated:
•A recent writer’s dozen from the digital jukebox
— MyAJC: As hoops open, Tech looks far more ready than Georgia — AJC: Weekend Predictions: Dogs, Jackets cross bridge, Falcons back to normal — MyAJC: Ladies and gentlemen Georgia vs. Georgia Tech (in basketball, yes now) — AJC: If Georgia wins out, would it sway playoff committee? — MyAJC: All eyes are on Gurley (even if you can’t find him) — AJC: Hart should deal both Uptons and Gattis — MyAJC: Falcons’ division hopes hinge on beating teams other than Bucs — AJC: Short takes on Falcons’ win over Tampa Bay — MyAJC: If Georgia Tech has come together, we’ll find out against Clemson, UGA — AJC: Short takes on Georgia Tech’s win over N.C. State — AJC: Weekend Predictions: Falcons’ find their penicillin — the Bucs — MyAJC: Amid Atlanta misery, can Hawks really be shining light? — AJC: Election Day: Vote to keep or fire coaches (polls) — MyAJC: Georgia blows it all with inexcusable performance — AJC: Short takes on Georgia’s stunning loss to Florida — AJC: Weekend Predictions: No Gurley (oooh, scary); but Dogs over Gators — AJC: Rules are dumb but that’s no excuse for Todd Gurley — MyAJC: Mark Richt deserves credit for holding Georgia together — AJC: NCAA mum but Muschamp expects Gurley to play vs. Florida — AJC: Will Arthur Blank make move with Mike Smith (and reader poll)?