Early opponent breakdown, Week 6: Auburn at Georgia (2024)

The Athens curse continues to hang over Auburn entering the 2024 season

Nathan King

With Auburn's 2024 campaign close to two months away, Auburn Undercover will spend the next couple weeks breaking down each of the Tigers' regular-season opponents. Next up is Georgia, as Auburn faces yet another daunting trip to Athens this season, looking to snap an eight-game road losing streak against what could be the preseason No. 1 team in the country.

2023 IN REVIEW

While obviously not as otherworldly dominant as their 2022 season, in which they blistered almost every opponent on the schedule en route to an undefeated national title, the Bulldogs still went 12-0 in the regular season last year. Georgia had a couple close calls at Auburn and Missouri at home but remained ranked No. 1 all season before falling in the SEC Championship to Alabama, knocking Kirby Smart's team out of the playoff.

Taking over at quarterback for two-time national champion Stetson Bennett IV, Carson Beck directed a top-15 passing offense, while the Bulldogs' signature talent on defense was No. 5 nationally in scoring.

RETURNING PRODUCTION (ESPN SP+)

Offense: 75% (No. 22 nationally)

Defense: 61% (No. 61)

Georgia had its usual NFL draft success, with 10 players drafted, but Smart still has one of his most experienced squads of his tenure set for next season. Beck's return obviously bolsters the offensive numbers significantly, as there's a good case to be made he's the top QB in the league entering 2024. The Bulldogs did lose some of their top pass-catchers, including All-American tight end Brock Bowers, but Smart hit the portal hard for experienced, Power Five wide receivers.

Key players return at every level of Georgia's 2024 defense, as the Bulldogs get set to conduct their annual rotation of top recruiting talent into bigger roles, though the Bulldogs do have the luxury of getting three of their top five tacklers back, including linebacker Smael Mondon.

Early opponent breakdown, Week 6: Auburn at Georgia (2)

TRANSFER SNAPSHOT

247Sports transfer class rank: No. 15

Top additions: TE Benjamin Yurosek (Stanford), RB Trevor Etienne (Florida), WR Colbie Young (Miami), WR Michael Jackson III (USC), WR London Humphreys (Vanderbilt)

Top losses: CB A.J. Harris (Penn State), LB Jamon Dumas-Johnson (Kentucky), EDGE Marvin Jones (Florida State), LB Xavian Sorey Jr. (Arkansas)

RECENT RECRUITING CLASSES (247SPORTS)

2021: No. 3

2022: No. 3

2023: No. 2

2024: No. 1

5 PLAYERS TO KNOW

WR Dominic Lovett: Beck's importance for Georgia's 2024 success goes without saying, and the Bulldogs believe they will have a more dynamic overall passing attack with the transfer additions at wide receiver. The leader in the room, however, is Lovett, after the former Missouri transfer posted 613 yards and four touchdowns last season. Lovett's rapport with Beck will be key, but Georgia wanted to ensure it had plenty of options at receiver, as Young, Jackson and Humphreys bring more than 1,100 combined yards and 10 touchdowns from last season.

LB Jalon Walker: With Dumas-Johnson exiting via the transfer portal, Walker is now expected to rise from a rotational role at inside linebacker to a starting job. Even while playing relatively limited snaps, Walker still led Georgia with five sacks last season due to his ability to kick outside and get after the quarterback on third-and-longs. A rising junior, Walker will be paired with Mondon and C.J. Allen for what Georgia hopes can be a versatile linebacking corps to assist a potentially dominant defensive line.

Early opponent breakdown, Week 6: Auburn at Georgia (3)

DE Mykel Williams: Cycling elite players along the defensive front has been the name of the game for Georgia's budding dynasty, and Williams could be the next dominant force for the Bulldogs. After posting 6.5 tackles for loss in each of his first two seasons, Williams is primed for an even bigger role in 2024, as the former 5-star recruit can bounce between the D-line and a pure pass-rushing spot at outside linebacker.

CB Daylen Everette: The former 5-star recruit took some lumps in his first year as a starter last season, and his improvement within Georgia's secondary will be key for a pass defense that was already dominant in most categories. Georgia's top cornerback, Kamari Lassiter, was picked in the second round, and Everette will be lined up now against the top receivers in the SEC.

S Malaki Starks: Now the veteran leader of Georgia's secondary, Starks has tallied more than 100 tackles and five interceptions over the past two seasons. His running mate at safety, Javon Bullard, was drafted, so Starks will be counted on to be consistent and productive while the Bulldogs work in some newer pieces of the rotation in fall camp.

RECENT MEETINGS

The Athens curse continues to hang over the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, as Auburn hasn't won Between the Hedges since 2005's game-winning field goal by John Vaugh. Not only that, but the Tigers have been mostly uncompetitive over that span, with losses of 27, 38, 27, 17, 21 and 32 points included during Auburn's road losing streak. Auburn has become accustomed to beatdowns when it has Georgia and Alabama on the road in the same season, and bucking that trend would be big for improvement in Freeze's second go-around.

GEORGIA 2024 SCHEDULE

vs. Clemson (Atlanta)

vs. Tennessee Tech

at Kentucky

BYE

at Alabama

vs. Auburn

vs. Mississippi State

at Texas

BYE

vs. Florida (Jacksonville, Florida)

at Ole Miss

vs. Tennessee

vs. UMass

vs. Georgia Tech

ESPN FPI projection: 10-2

Early opponent breakdown, Week 6: Auburn at Georgia (4)

QUICK PREDICTION

After five home games to open the season, with the potential to be undefeated entering October if they can take down Oklahoma, the Tigers will be tested in a massive way when they head on the road for the first time. It's no secret that, at any point of the offseason, Georgia would be expected to be a healthy favorite over Auburn. It's worth noting, however, that the Bulldogs will — for better or worse — be battle-tested by the time Auburn comes to town, with a huge trip to Alabama the week prior, plus Kentucky on the road and Clemson in Atlanta.

There's no reason to expect Georgia won't be stellar once again on both sides of the ball, with potentially the SEC's best quarterback, an experienced offensive line, and what's always a well-coached and absurdly talented defense. Auburn's inability to score has been a major problem in Athens — look no further than the 2022 game, where the Tigers were shut out in the first half — so Payton Thorne and a retooled passing game has to find some consistent answers in order for Auburn to have any semblance of an upset opportunity. Auburn obviously kept things close with Georgia last season, and doing so on the road would be impressive. At the end of the day, though, Auburn's first road game of the season might be against the best team in the country.

Early score prediction: Georgia 34, Auburn 17

EARLY AUBURN OPPONENT PREVIEWS

Week 2 vs. Cal

Week 3 vs. New Mexico

Week 4 vs. Arkansas

Week 5 vs. Oklahoma

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Early opponent breakdown, Week 6: Auburn at Georgia (2024)
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