SEC Championship Game primer: Georgia vs. Auburn, Part II

The last time Auburn and Georgia met, it wasn't even close as the Tigers beat the then-No. 1 ranked Bulldogs by more than three touchdowns.

But this game won't be in Jordan-Hare Stadium. It will be in Atlanta, on a neutral field, with three weeks to study every clip and learn from the previous matchup.

Will it make for a different outcome? We'll see.

To get you ready for the SEC Championship Game on Saturday afternoon, here's a look at some important players and matchups to watch:

Star players

Auburn: If Kerryon Johnson's shoulder won't allow him to play on Saturday, the Tigers are in trouble. He's too important to what they do offensively, not just racking up yards on the ground, but freeing up single coverage in the passing game. The junior has been an absolute scoring machine with 19 total touchdowns in addition to his 1,276 yards rushing.

Georgia: The Bulldogs can't get another season-low performance from Nick Chubb and expect to win this rematch. His 27 yards rushing against Auburn three weeks ago was the worst single-game total since October of last season, and it doomed the offense from the start. Quarterback Jake Fromm has been spectacular for a true freshman, but he can't be expected to carry the team without the help of Chubb and the running game.

Under-the-radar players to watch

Auburn: Jeff Holland is a well-known commodity in the SEC -- he's second in the conference in sacks with nine -- but he's not on the national radar yet. That could change with another solid performance against Georgia. The outside linebacker has shown a nose for the football this season with four forced fumbles in addition to his sack numbers. He has the potential to make Chubb and Fromm's day miserable.

Georgia: Don't look now, but Javon Wims might be becoming a favorite target of Fromm. The 6-foot-4 senior receiver has 11 catches over his past two games, which is more than he had through the first four games of the season. With Auburn likely to crowd the line of scrimmage, Fromm will need Wims to make plays in the passing game.

X factors

Auburn: Pay attention to what happens on first down for Auburn's offense. It's the key to everything. Gus Malzahn's offense has been on a roll of late, but the one sure way to stop it is to not allow positive yardage on first down. If you can't and he's allowed to have third-and-short situations where you can't predict run or pass, you're toast.

Georgia: A weird thing happened the last time these teams met: Fromm came out on fire, completing three straight passes as the Bulldogs marched down the field for the game's first touchdown, and then they went away from him almost entirely. Fromm didn't attempt a pass on first or second down on three of their next four drives, and by that point Auburn was in control. So don't be surprised if that changes and Georgia looks to throw to open up the running game, not vice versa.

Where they're vulnerable

Auburn: Beating two No. 1 teams in a three week stretch was impressive, but it came with a cost. Suddenly injuries are a concern for the Tigers. Johnson looked to be in serious pain as he came off the field late against Alabama, and his shoulder will be worth watching during pregame warm-ups. The same could be said of his backup as well, as Kam Martin had his bell rung in the fourth quarter of the Iron Bowl. With last season's leading rusher Kamryn Pettway still sidelined, Auburn is in a tenuous position at running back.

Georgia: For the first eight games of the season, Georgia's offensive line was a strength. And it was a pleasant surprise, too, considering how poorly the unit played a year ago. But then Auburn happened and the group went back in time, giving up far too much pressure. Holland & Co. practically lived in Georgia's backfield three weeks ago. For the Bulldogs to have a chance at getting revenge against the Tigers, that can't happen again.

Matchup to watch

Let's forget the players for a moment here. The real matchup will be of head coaches in this game. Malzahn has been on fire of late, leading an aggressive, attacking offense that was a far cry from what we saw early in the season against Clemson and LSU. With so much at stake, it will be interesting to see if he keeps his foot on the gas. And then there's Kirby Smart, who went the opposite direction. The aggressive coach who said he wanted his team to be the hunters and not the hunted suddenly played not to lose against Auburn three weeks ago, and it cost him. The best hope for Georgia is if Smart rediscovers that hard-charging, no-prisoners approach that fit him so well early this season.

What's at stake

Maybe Alabama can survive not winning the SEC title and still make the College Football Playoff. We'll have to see what happens with Wisconsin and Oklahoma. But one thing is certain: Neither Auburn nor Georgia can say the same. Lose, and you're out of the playoff hunt. Win, and you're in. It's that simple.