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Georgia at Auburn

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Matchup: Georgia at Auburn
Venue: Jordan-Hare Stadium from Auburn, Alabama
Date: Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013
Time/TV: 3:30 pm. ET - CBS
Line: Auburn -3 ½, Over/Under 64
Last Meeting: 2012, Georgia (-15 ½) 38 at Auburn 0

Amid the rush to make Alabama vs. Florida State the official matchup for the final BCS Championship Game in January, there’s a team that’s quietly been going about its business. This squad controls its own destiny to win an SEC Championship.

It has a new head coach, one that helped lead it to its last national championship just three years ago. This team resides on The Plains and plays at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

I’m obviously talking about the Auburn Tigers, who had a nightmare season in 2012 and fired their head coach less than two years after he led the school to its first national title since the 1950s.

Guess what? The school made the right move in handing Gene Chizik a pink slip. The real leader from a coaching standpoint on that 2010 team was the offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, whose name sits next to Missouri’s Gary Pinkel at the top of every list pertaining to national Coach of the Year candidates in 2013.

When Malzahn left to take the Arkansas St. head-coaching job following the 2011 campaign, Auburn’s fortunes headed south immediately. Upon his return, everything has gone right for AU.

If Malzahn can guide his team to a win over Georgia on Saturday afternoon, the 2013 Iron Bowl will also be the SEC West Division Championship Game. And the Tigers will be at home Saturday and when it takes on the Crimson Tide.

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As of early Friday night, most betting shops had Auburn (9-1 straight up, 8-2 against the spread) listed as a 3 ½-point favorite with a total of 64. Gamblers can take UGA on the money line for a +145 return (risk $100 to win $145). For first-half bets, AU is favored by two with a total of 31 ½.

Auburn went to Neyland Stadium last weekend and dealt out woodshed treatment to Tennessee in the form of a 55-23 clubbing. The Tigers took the cash for the seventh straight game.

Nick Marshall was the catalyst in Knoxville. The junior quarterback ran for 214 yards and two touchdowns and also threw for a score. But the Tigers threw the ball just seven times all day because the Volunteers couldn’t stop their ground attack. Tre Mason ran for 117 yards and three TDs.

Mason has run for 1,038 yards and 16 TDs this year. Marshall has 734 rushing yards and seven TDs. Mason and Marshall are averaging 5.9 and 7.1 yards per carry, respectively.

Marshall is completing 58.5 percent of his attempts for 1,301 passing yards. He has an 8/5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Sammie Coates is his favorite target and he’s hauled in 26 receptions for 648 yards and five TDs.

Since suffering its lone loss by a 35-21 count at LSU in Week 4, Auburn has won six in a row with four of those wins coming by margins of 18 points or more. During the six-game winning streak, Auburn has covered the spread by at least 8.5 points each time out.

Georgia (6-3 SU, 1-7-1 ATS) is mired in a 0-6-1 ATS slump. The Bulldogs haven’t covered a number since a Week 2 home win over South Carolina.

Mark Richt’s team was the favorite to win the SEC East, but it has to win Saturday and have a lot of other things go right to return to Atlanta this season.

UGA’s demise actually started in a game it won at Tennessee. The Bulldogs pulled it out in overtime thanks to the heroics of senior QB Aaron Murray, but they’ve yet to find the form they had before a rash of injuries hit in the second half against the Vols.

Some of the injured that day, like WR Michael Bennett and safety Tray Matthews, have returned. Some, like RB Keith Marshall and Justin Scott-Wesley, are out for the season.

RB Todd Gurley, who missed three games after spraining his ankle in the first half of a 44-41 win over LSU, came back and led UGA to a 23-20 win over Florida two weeks ago. Gurley scored a pair of first-quarter touchdowns to put the Gators in comeback mode for the rest of that game.

However, after missing so much time, Gurley was winded early and often against UF. He rushed just 13 times for 75 yards in last week’s 45-6 non-covering win over Appalachian St. My point is that Gurley’s conditioning isn’t back to where it was going into the LSU game, and Marshall isn’t around to help shoulder the load.

But UGA still has Murray, who has thrown for 2,477 yards with a 20/7 TD-INT ratio. The Bulldogs’ leading receiver, Chris Conley, is going to be a game-time decision after missing the victory over the Mountaineers. Conley has a team-high 30 catches for 418 yards and four TDs.

For the season, Gurley has rushed for 625 yards and six TDs while averaging 6.2 YPC. He also has a pair of TDs receiving.

Georgia has won the last two meetings against Auburn by a combined score of 83-7. The Bulldogs cruised to a 38-0 win over AU last season as 15 ½-point road favorites.

Totals have been an overall wash for Auburn (5-5) this year, but the ‘under’ is 4-2 in its home games. The Tigers’ games have played to an average combined score of 59.0 points per game.

The ‘over’ is 6-3 overall for UGA, 2-2 in its four previous road assignments. The Bulldogs’ games have averaged a combined score of 64.3 PPG. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Eastern on CBS.

  
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