The final installment of our SEC Championship Game Q&A with College and Magnolia focuses on the Plainsman defense and the Bulldog offense. C&M’s Jack Condon, a rabid Tiger, proprietor of the first quintuple-levered bitcoin ETF, and breeder of champion Rhodesian ridgebacks, stopped by once again to rid us of any illusions that this one isn’t an uphill battle.
MD: Everyone has been focused on Kerryon Johnson's shoulder. But are there any players from that Tiger defense who are banged up heading into Atlanta?
JC: Right now, everyone should be present and accounted for. In Kevin Steele's meeting with the media on Sunday night, he intimated that everyone on defense practiced and that the Tigers should be good to go on that side of the ball. We had some questions leading into the Alabama game, with Tre Williams and Tray Matthews, who were coming off of nicks against ULM the week before, but both played and played really well in the win. Confidence is high on the defense, for good reason, since they seem to be at full strength and foaming at the mouth after what they did to the Tide last weekend.
MD: Auburn's performance against Georgia's running attack in the first game was nothing short of amazing: 46 yards on 20 carries. Can the Tigers do that again?
JC: Based on the silly nature of that number -- limiting your running backs to a yardage total that low -- I can't imagine that it gets duplicated, at least not as effectively as it did the first time around. Obviously, I can't see Chubb/Michel/Swift going for 300 or anything like that, and I don't think anyone expects that, but they'll definitely get more yards on Saturday. It's just a question of how they get the yards.
Are the holes opened up more and they can provide more consistency for the Bulldog offense? Or are they just trying to run over and over in the hopes that something will break for them? I know Georgia got down in a hurry in the second half, but still, giving that group only 20 carries on the day is a little surprising. Also, I know Auburn limited the opportunities with some three-and-outs and short possessions by the Georgia offense, so that didn't help. I would guess that Georgia's going to make more of an effort to run the ball and they'll try to stick to that plan more this time around, and Auburn will have to be ready to stop it again. Of course, if it turns into a situation where Georgia falls behind again and has to throw, then we could see a similar result.
MD: What is the aspect of the Auburn defense that Gus Malzahn and company can least afford to have backslide the second time around?
JC: I think it's the pass defense from front to back. We haven't really let anyone run over us all that much, and so I don't expect that the run defense will be an issue. The spot where Georgia will be able to frustrate us will be in the passing game. It took Auburn's defense much longer to adjust to the Ole Miss attack when we played them earlier in the season, and if Georgia can duplicate that, they may have a better shot, since they've definitely got a better defense than the Rebels do. Fromm needs to get time to make those short/intermediate passes and the occasional deep ball shot as well, but the question is if Auburn's front gives him time to do it. Against Alabama, Kevin Steele called two blitzes. Two. Our front four controlled the line of scrimmage and the Jalen Hurts was having to escape pressure time and again.
MD: Write the headline: What will be the summary splashed across the digital front page when this SEC Championship Game is in the books?
JC: All in all, I'm nervous about this game for all the obvious reasons -- it's another game against a really good team in Georgia, it's the SEC Championship, we won't have that home crowd, you guys want revenge, hard to beat a team twice, etc. -- but I think when it's all said and done, Auburn's defense is the story in this one, holding Georgia to a similar output offensively and pacing the Tigers to a conference title. So, if that happens, we'll probably make a play on Gus returning to the homeland of Waffle House and go with something like "Smothered, Covered, Scattered -- Tigers Beat Dawgs to Win SEC". I don't care if you think it's lame.
The Bottom Line
Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs will have to play a clean, well-called game in order to take down the hottest team in America. With the possible exception of Kerryon Johnson the Tigers came out of their Iron Bowl showdown with Alabama bruised, but not broken, and playing with more confidence than ever before.
Jake From will need some help both from his receivers and his offensive coordinator in order to stay out of the situations that meant trouble in the first matchup. And Georgia absolutely must make that Auburn defense pay for its rare lapses, something they were unable to do on November 11th.