(Photo credit: Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK)
On a Saturday lacking heavyweight matchups, count on the SEC to kick up some intrigue.
Two-time defending champion Georgia hits the road to meet the Auburn Tigers and the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs are leaving Athens for the first time all season.
Top-ranked and favored to three-peat, Georgia hasbeen largely untested through four weeks.
First-year Tigers coach Hugh Freeze doesn't have nearly the weapons held by his counterpart, Kirby Smart, but his team presents another measuring stick for the Bulldogs.
Georgia cruised to a 49-21 home win over UAB last week. But the Bulldogs were not particularly dominant in a 24-14 victory over SEC foe South Carolina the week prior.
Is there betting value on 14.5-point underdog Auburn, or is Georgia about to put together a complete effort and rout the Tigers?
We have news, trends and quotes -- along with our spread pick and a prop pick for good measure.
--Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET
--Location: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.
--Point Spread, Total: Georgia -14.5, Total 45.5
If Auburn wants to bring more than a scare on Saturday, the ground game must be efficient against a Georgia defense that has allowed opponents' rushing attacks success.
Auburn will try desperately to create first downs with an early run game. Unfortunately, that is an open secret and, with the Tigers' one-dimensional offense, the plan could be scuttled before halftime.
Not good, given the limited resources from the Auburn air attack, which ranks among the worst in SEC passing metrics.
Auburn (3-1) tries to dominate on the ground, but Georgia likely will stifle the Tigers rushing attack and force a shift to the passing game.
Georgia's defense is allowing only 87 rushing yards per game this season.
Tigers quarterback Payton Thorne managed only 44 passing yards in last week's 27-10 loss at Texas AM.
How are the Tigers expected to deal with a Georgia defense that is getting healthier?
Georgia has all the capability to bury poor passing teams, and should be able to turn this into a rout.
Add the fact that Smart motivates his team in hostile environments. When favored on the road, Georgia is 25-2 straight up and 19-8 against the spread.
The pick: Georgia 34, Auburn 14.
Georgia (4-0) aims to push its winning streak to 22 games.
This matchup offers Georgia quarterback Carson Beck an opportunity to firmly announce his presence as a leader as he makes his first career road start.
The junior has completed 72.7 percent of his passes, throwing for six touchdowns and only one interception.
Beck had a career-high 338 yards and three touchdowns last week.
The Bulldogs have won five straight regular-season games over the Tigers since a 40-17 loss on Nov. 11, 2017. Just weeks later, Georgia beat Auburn 28-7 in the SEC title game.
Georgia scored touchdowns on all six visits to the red zone last week when it rolled up 582 yards of total offense despite three turnovers.
When Auburn faces similar talent (Power Five games, for example), it tends to struggle. The Tigers barely beat a middling Pac-12 team, Cal, 14-10, and then were dominated on the stat sheet and on the field by Texas AM, gaining only half the Aggies' yardage amount.
In those two games, Cal and Texas AM, Auburn failed to reach 230 yards of total offense.
Thorne has thrown four touchdowns and three interceptions in four games and was replaced by Robby Ashford last Saturday.
Freeze was leaning toward giving Thorne another start.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are far from one-dimensional -- as one would expect when their recruiting classes are consistently filled with future NFL players.
Running back Daijuan Edwards averages almost six yards a carry and all-everything tight end Brock Bowers already has 22 receptions for more than 250 yards.
THEY SAID IT
"It's not all Payton, but sometimes it is and he owns it. We had a good meeting (Sunday) night and we just got to try this week to get a plan in place that we can all execute and all understand. And that falls on (offensive coordinator) Philip (Montgomery) and his staff and ultimately on me."
-- Auburn coach Hugh Freeze on starting quarterback Payton Thorne.
Let's guard against a nasty back-door cover by teasing the margin to Georgia -9.5 and using that in a BetMGM same-game parlay with Georgia to score more than 27.5 points.
The prop: Georgia -9.5 with Georgia over 27.5 points scored (-115).
--Field Level Media