Who are the Bulldogs to watch for the 2017 Championship game as Georgia looks to get on the right side of the score board versus Auburn the second-go-round?
ROQUAN SMITH (LB, #3)
This 6-1, 225-pound junior is arguably the Bulldogs’ most valuable player this season and certainly has played as well as any inside linebacker in America. Smith, whose speed allows him to roam from sideline to sidelines making tackles, leads Georgia’s rugged defense with 100 tackles, including 62 solo stops and 38 assists. He also has 8.5 tackles-for-loss this season with 4.5 sacks. Smith will be going after Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson and Jarrett Stidham on Saturday and if the rest of the Bulldog defense can match Smith’s energy and intensity, the Georgia-Auburn final result could be much different this time around.
NICK CHUBB (TB, #27)
Unquestionably one of the Bulldogs’ great running backs — he’s No. 2 to Herschel Walker on the career rushing list — it would be very fitting for Nick Chubb to cap his glorious UGA career with an SEC championship. The 5-10, 228-pound Chubb has run for 1,098 yards and 13 touchdowns and needs room to compile big numbers against an Auburn defense that limited him to just 27 yards in Georgia’s earlier 40-17 loss to the Tigers. If Chubb and fellow tailback Sony Michel — who ascended to No. 3 on the career rushing list after his 85 yards against Georgia Tech — don’t enjoy big games Saturday, Auburn will be the 2017 SEC champions.
JAKE FROMM (QB, #11)
Having to take over the QB reins after starter Jacob Eason went down in the season opener, this 6-2, 225-pound freshman has exceeded all expectations by passing for 1,990 yards and 19 touchdowns while leading the Bulldogs to a splendid 11-1 record and into Saturday’s SEC Championship Game. Fromm, who has completed 62 percent of his attempts, is coming off a big game (12-of-16, 224 yards, 2 TDs) in the 38-7 smashing of Georgia Tech and must be on target when he throws the ball in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, so the Tiger defense can’t load the box to stymie Chubb and Michel again.
DOMINICK SANDERS (SAF, #24)
With his 15 career interceptions, Sanders needs only one pick to equal the school record of 16, which is shared by Jake Scott and Bacarri Rambo. And what better time than Saturday to match or, better yet, top the interception record by picking off Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham? Turnovers will be crucial in this championship tilt and, this time, the Bulldogs need to be the ones forcing them instead of being the victims like they were in the initial meeting at Auburn.
RODRIGO BLANKENSHIP (PK, #98)
Like the Tigers’ All-American kicker Daniel Carlson, Blankenship has enjoyed an excellent season while being put on scholarship at UGA. He’s been true on 13-of-15 field goal attempts and also like Carlson, has booted all 53 of his extra-point tries. The Bulldogs’ leading scorer with 92 points, Blankenship’s accuracy will be paramount to Georgia’s victory chances Saturday evening in Atlanta.
KIRBY SMART (Head Coach)
It’s amazing, when you think about it, what Smart has accomplished in just his second season at the Bulldog reins … 11 wins, an SEC East title, and victories over rivals Florida, Georgia Tech, South Carolina and Tennessee plus a gigantic road win at Notre Dame, with most of them being of the blowout variety. Now, for Smart, comes the big one … the SEC Championship Game and a chance to avenge the dismal Nov. 11 loss to Auburn. You can be sure Kirby will have the Dawgs well prepared for the huge challenge and he’s drilled into the Bulldogs they can’t afford all the costly mistakes and penalties they self-inflicted themselves with in the earlier debacle at Auburn. We’re about to see if they’ve bought in.
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