Todd Gurley's return from suspension is coming just in time for Georgia's final push for the SEC East title.
A win over visiting ninth-ranked Auburn on Saturday night could give the No. 16 Bulldogs enough to get to the conference title game in December.
Gurley hasn't played since a 44-17 win over Vanderbilt on Oct. 4 after he admitted to taking more than $3,000 over a two-year period for signing autographs. The one-time Heisman Trophy contender ran for 773 yards and eight touchdowns in the first five games this season before being forced to miss the next four.
"There's no doubt that he's an electric player and the best at what he does," center David Andrews said. "I can't wait to look up and see that No. 3 running down the field. I'm ready to go out there and play with him."
Georgia (7-2, 5-2) went 3-1 in his absence with all of those games taking place away from Sanford Stadium. The lone loss was a 38-20 defeat to Florida in Jacksonville on Nov. 1.
Freshman Nick Chubb ran for 671 yards and five TDs in those four contests.
"It's going to be tough now. They've got two backs that can start for anybody," Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said. ''Going back and looking at their early season films, Gurley's like a time bomb. When is he going to get that 95-yard kickoff? When is he going to hit that 40-yard run? When is he going to catch that 35-yard screen pass?
"You got to be exactly right on him every time because he's either going to break the physical tackle or he's going to out-run the space tackle. He's a specimen. I'm sure they'll be glad to get him back."
The Bulldogs, 15th in the College Football Playoff rankings, maintained their hopes for a third SEC East title in four seasons with a 63-31 rout at Kentucky this past weekend. Hutson Mason threw for a career-high four TDs and Chubb had 170 yards and a touchdown as Georgia moved within percentage points of Missouri (4-1 in the SEC) in its division.
The Bulldogs have the tiebreaker over the Tigers because of a 34-0 win at Missouri on Oct. 11. That means a Georgia win Saturday and a Missouri loss in any of its final three games would give the Bulldogs their sixth all-time appearance in the conference championship game.
Auburn (7-2, 4-2), also ninth in the CFP rankings, might not have leading receiver D'haquille Williams available as it tries to rebound from a 41-38 home loss to Texas A&M last Saturday. The Tigers' attempt to rally from a 18-point halftime deficit ended on a fumbled snap inside Aggies' territory with 54 seconds to go.
That defeat dropped Auburn out of the top four in the playoff rankings and means the Tigers will likely need help to get the chance to defend their SEC title. They are currently tied for third in the SEC West, 1 1/2 games behind Mississippi State and one back of rival Alabama, who they visit in the regular-season finale Nov. 29.
Williams, who has 38 receptions for 609 yards and five TDs, is considered "week to week" because of an injured right knee. Coach Gus Malzahn is optimistic that his deep group of receivers, including Sammie Coates, Quan Bray and Ricardo Louis, can pick up the slack for the ailing junior college transfer.
"All the receivers are back from last year, and they led us to the national championship game. We have a lot of confidence in that group. We just have to put the guys in the right position," Malzahn said.
Georgia fans will certainly remember Louis, who turned a tipped pass into a 73-yard touchdown with 25 seconds left in a 43-38 win Nov. 16. Louis caught four passes for a career-high 131 yards in that game, and ran for 66 yards.
Gurley made a career-best 10 receptions for 77 yards, and had 79 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. He ran for 116 yards and a TD on 11 attempts in Georgia's most recent win in the series, a 38-0 rout Nov. 10, 2012.
The Bulldogs have won three consecutive home games in the SEC's oldest rivalry, the latest a 45-7 victory over a 24th-ranked team on Nov. 12, 2011. Auburn leads the series that dates back to 1892 by a slim 55-54-8 margin.