No. 2 Georgia pits top defense against Nix, No. 18 Auburn
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By JOHN ZENOR
After Bo Nix and Auburn were able to scramble their way through LSU's Death Valley they are now looking to put up points on Georgia's stifling defense.
The second-ranked Bulldogs (5-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference), fresh from two straight league shutouts and virtually unscathed defensively this season, visit Nix and the No. 18 Tigers on Saturday.
Auburn (4-1, 1-0) managed its first win at LSU since 1999, thanks largely to Nix's ability to make plays on the move. Now they face the nation's top defense, a group that has only allowed one meaningless touchdown late in a blowout win over South Carolina.
"One of the better teams that we've faced and one of the better teams I've faced really in college," NIx said. "They have one of the best defenses I've faced and the challenge is definitely there. But I think we're willing to accept it."
The Bulldogs just brushed off one upstart challenger, then-No. 8 Arkansas, to a 37-0 tune. But a group that leads the nation giving up just 4.6 points and 178.6 yards per game is used to facing teams aiming to be the first one to win that matchup.
"Every team we play, we figure we're going to get their best and they're going to get our best," Georgia safety Christopher Smith said. "It's extra motivation for them, extra motivation for us because every game during the season is a playoff game and we both want to win this game very badly. "
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, who has filled in while JT Daniels has out with a lat injury, made his first college start last season against the Tigers. Bennett led No. 4 Georgia to a 27-6 win over No. 7 Auburn, passing for 240 yards and a touchdown. Georgia coach Kirby Smart hasn't indicated which quarterback will start Saturday.
Auburn's offense has some names quite familiar to Georgia fans. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is a former Bulldogs quarterback and coordinator and offensive line coach Will Friend is also an ex-Georgia assistant. Plus Auburn wide receiver Demetris Robertson transferred from Athens during the offseason.
"We didn't want to see D-Rob go," Smart said. "I've always thought a lot of D-Rob. He'd gotten better and the situation we're in now is because some guys decided to leave. That's why we're so thin along with injuries."
It's only the second time since 1936 the two teams have met outside of November. The Bulldogs won on Oct. 3 last year in the second game of a season shortened by the pandemic. Auburn pushed for the move to avoid facing its two biggest rivals - and the current SEC powers - Georgia and Alabama to end each regular season.
`TRUE' ROAD GAME
The Bulldogs already have played two games away from Athens, but the visit to Auburn will be different. This will be the first game this season the Georgia fans will be outnumbered. Georgia red dominated the stands in their 62-0 win at Vanderbilt on Sept. 25. The opener against Clemson was played at a neutral site in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"We know our guys are getting ready to go into a very tough environment, which playing at Auburn is probably one of the toughest places to play in the SEC," Smart said.
Georgia center Sedrick Van Pran wanted to be Superman when he was a boy. Actually, he wanted to be Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, who used the Superman nickname, and he wanted to play in Newton's home stadium.
Van Pran said Newton was his favorite player when he grew up in New Orleans and he dreamed of playing at Jordan-Hare Stadium. He said he showed that love as the starting quarterback for his flag football team.
"I used to wear the Superman socks and I wanted to be like Cam Newton," Van Pran said. "I grew up since I was a little boy just wanting to be like him."
AP Sports Writer Charles Odum contributed to this report.
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Updated October 7, 2021