To get you ready for Saturday, ESPN reporters Sam Khan Jr. and Alex Scarborough give their picks and analysis of the SEC championship game in Atlanta. Visit our college football PickCenter page for additional information on these games and many more.
Scarborough: All right, Sam, it's time for the big one: the SEC championship game. But before we get into the rematch of Auburn and Georgia, let's set the table on our weekly game picks. I'm sorry to report that while you tried to close the gap during the final week of the regular season by taking some bold upset picks, it wasn't enough. OK, I'm not all that sorry to say that. In fact, you actually lost ground on me and now trail me in the overall standings, 82-20 vs. 76-26. But, hey, I suppose we could still do bowl picks, and you have this upcoming game to try to inch your way back up.
With that said, I wonder what your initial thoughts are on the matchup.
Khan: Win some, lose some. It's all good. I had to take some risk to try to close the gap. All in good fun, though.
As for the game, I'm intrigued that we get a rematch in the conference title game and I'm excited to see how different this game may or may not play out. The first time around, it didn't end up being nearly as competitive as we all thought it would and you and I picked the Bulldogs, which turned out to be dead wrong.
Auburn is a slight favorite, for good reason, but I think the Dawgs will play much better this time around. After having witnessed the game in person the first time around, what do you think?
Scarborough: It's a tough one for me to call because I felt like so much of the last game's outcome hinged on emotion. In other words: Auburn had it and Georgia didn't. I was caught off guard with the way Kirby Smart appeared to not have his team ready to play. The juice just wasn't there, and it showed. What's more, Smart coached not to lose, which isn't typical The man who said a week earlier that he wanted Georgia to hunt and not be the hunted basically rolled over on its back. Despite quarterback Jake Fromm starting the game out strong with three straight completions, they took the ball out of his hands until the game was already decided.
On the Auburn side, though, you had to tip your cap to Gus Malzahn and that staff. They were geared up to play and were the aggressors from start to finish. And that's exactly what that offense should be. If Jarrett Stidham keeps playing the way he has and Kerryon Johnson is able to go -- which is a big question mark -- it's hard for me to not pick the Tigers. That defense shutting down Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to the tune of less than 50 rushing yards is hard to forget.
Khan: The job Kevin Steele has done with that defense has been fantastic and it was most evident that day, when they kept Georgia's run game in check.
You said it with Stidham, and he was the reason why I felt good about Auburn at the start of the season. (I felt strongly enough to pick them to make the playoff. though, honestly, I didn't feel too good about that pick at midseason after the loss to LSU.) I don't think Fromm will be intimidated -- he certainly wasn't the first time around and he has done a great job all season -- but I do think being a veteran quarterback counts for something in a game like this, in which both defenses and both running games are good. I think the difference in play behind center can be the difference.
For that reason, I think Auburn will win again, though by not as wide a margin as before. I'm thinking more in the 24-17 range. But I think the Tigers will win and ride into the College Football Playoff.
Scarborough: I'm not just saying this, but I'm torn on this one. Same as last week with the Iron Bowl. My head says that this is simple, that Auburn is the team playing better football right now and should win. But then my gut takes over.
The fact that this game won't be on the road is a huge plus for Georgia and Fromm. What's more, I wonder how much gas is left in the tank for Auburn after this enormous three-week stretch. Will Johnson be healthy? Can the offense function without him? I just don't know. It feels likely that there could be a letdown, and I just can't see Georgia coming out flat like before. They got embarrassed in Jordan-Hare Stadium and they'll feed off of that.
If I could push, I would. But I'm going to go out on a limb and go against what feels like convention right now and pick Georgia in a close game.