Whether wearing an Alabama or Georgia uniform, some things never change for Maurice Smith when it comes to Auburn.
“Oh, yeah, I hate ‘em,” said the Bulldogs defensive back who went 2-1 against Auburn while at Alabama, with the loss coming in 2013 in the “Kick Six” classic.
Georgia (5-4, 3-4 SEC) returns home Saturday to play the No. 8 Tigers (7-2, 5-1 SEC) in a 3:30 p.m. game on CBS. It’s the first of three straight games in Sanford Stadium to close out the regular season.
“We haven’t played well at home, so I think this is definitely a challenge, but confidence from this week, it will carry over and I think we’ll have a great game,” Smith said after Georgia slipped by Kentucky 27-24 Saturday night on a 25-yard field goal as time expired.
Auburn can still reach the SEC championship game from the West by beating Georgia and Alabama.
Georgia has won eight of the past 10 in the series, including four straight at home.
“We haven’t won much lately,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “We have to find a way to solve that. I really like our team. I like the way they responded at Ole Miss (a 40-29 win in Oxford on Oct. 29). The thing about this team is they are going to fight.”
The Tigers are third nationally in rushing at 299.8 yards per game but could be without SEC leading rusher Kamryn Pettway. He left Saturday’s win over Vanderbilt when he “pulled something” in his leg on a 61-yard run, Malzahn said. Pettway ran for 173 yards to give him 1,106 on the season.
Georgia gave up 186 rushing yards to Kentucky, 33.5 below the Wildcats average, but coach Kirby Smart still saw areas that concern him.
“Our tackling on defense is the most frustrating thing,” he said. “We get hats in the right spot and we don’t get the guy on the ground. Give them credit, they’ve got good backs, but we’ve got to tackle better in the stretch run, especially against Auburn.”
On a night when Georgia got a much-needed 215 yards rushing, freshman quarterback Eason was 17 of 31 for 245 yards and a touchdown against Kentucky. He was 4 of 4 for 42 yards on the 67-yard, nine play drive to set up the winning field goal.
“I thought Jacob managed it well,” Smart said. “He made some good decisions with the ball.”