UGA Insider: No. 5 Dawgs cannot afford loss to rival Auburn, for Playoff sake

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BY ANTHONY DASHER

UGASPORTS.COM

ATHENS–With a seat at the table in the SEC Championship already assured, some have wondered how focused No. 6 Georgia will be for Saturday’s game against Auburn.

Left tackle Andrew Thomas certainly doesn’t believe it will be a problem.

“I think every week we have to come with the same approach,” Thomas said. “When you become lackadaisical and things like that, that’s when you can slip up, and as a team, we’re just working to get better because to get where we want to be, we have to win out.”

Georgia (8-1, SEC East champs at 6-1) wants a return ticket to the College Football Playoff, but barring an unforeseen scenario, the Bulldogs have to win their last three games, plus beat Alabama in the SEC Championship, to make that happen.

That’s why running back Elijah Holyfield says there will be no overlooking the Tigers, despite being a double-digit favorite to win Saturday night’s contest at Sanford Stadium (7 p.m., ESPN).

“I think Auburn is a really good team so they’ve got our attention,” Holyfield said. “I don’t see how you ever overlook a team like Auburn. They’re very good and have one of the best defensive fronts we’ve played so far.”

Head coach Kirby Smart doesn’t foresee any focus problems.

“There’s not anybody on our team that’s going to be worrying about anything but Auburn because that’s the next task at hand,” Smart said. “That’s what we have to be focused on. Our goal is to play the next team, whoever the next team is, and we don’t try to have real big highs and no real lows. We want to stay right neutral in the middle.”

Georgia and Auburn are certainly no strangers to one another.

Saturday’s game will mark the third time in the past year that the longtime rivals have squared off. Despite beating the Tigers to win last year’s SEC title, Holyfield said the Bulldogs still have plenty of bad memories lingering from the 40-17 loss at Jordan-Hare last November.

“Definitely,” Holyfield said. “We never try to overlook other people and Auburn is definitely somebody you can’t do that with.”

Smart knows the Tigers (6-3, 3-3) have a very good and experienced defensive line. Auburn also has talented quarterback Jarrett Stidham,

“They get your attention the minute you turn the tape on because they’ve got an experienced quarterback,” Smart said. “He’s got an elite arm. They’ve got a lot of really good wideouts. They’re talented, fast, extremely fast, and they’ve got a defense that’s been there forever.”

Smart was asked if last year’s experiences might help his current squad.

With the exception of the freshman and other newcomers, the Bulldogs are in the exact position they were a season ago, knowing they need to keep winning to reach their ultimate goals.

“I don’t know if that helps. What helps is playing well, and your play is reflected by your behaviors, which are your actions in practice. And it all boils back down to that,” Smart said.

“We can make it psychological all we want, but at the end of the day it’s how you work during the week, what are your behaviors in practice, and your behaviors lead to playing better, and that’s what we’re trying to do right now is play better.”



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