Stakes haven’t been this high for the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry in years and both No. 1 Georgia and No. 10 Auburn are putting together an effort worthy of the big stage on Saturday by staging a pretty good first half of football on the Plains. In a game with serious College Football Playoff implications on both sides, it was the Tigers who managed to grab the edge at the midway mark though as they took a 16-7 lead into the locker room of the closely fought contest.
That margin could have been even larger for Gus Malzahn’s team if they were able to convert some long drives from field goals into touchdowns. Still, given the front seven they were facing off against, they’ll take it at this point as Kerryon Johnson powered his way to a 76 yard rushing effort. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham provided a nice balance to the offensive attack with his arm too in throwing for 125 yards to seven different receivers, none with a better catch than Darius Slayton‘s 42 yard touchdown with just over four minutes left in the second quarter.
Going into halftime without the lead is a different situation than Georgia is used to this season and comes as a surprise after they marched right down the field on their opening possession to cap off an eight-play, 70 yard touchdown drive. Young signal-caller Jake Fromm has been solid in his biggest test of the year but managed 86 yards through the air on just four completions. The Bulldogs’ terrific backfield tandem of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb were both kept in check to the tune of only 39 yards on the ground but the latter did pass legendary Auburn tailback Bo Jackson for fourth place on the SEC career rushing list in the first quarter.
As Tigers fans with a memory of what happened in their game against LSU will tell you, this one is far from over for both teams. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a heavyweight fight in the SEC between top 10 teams and the second half should cap off quite the rivalry game given how both sides played through the first two quarters.