Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry Gets Serious
So much has been accomplished by Auburn football this year, yet what defines a season still lies ahead. Not in our wildest dreams could we have predicted that Auburn would win as many games as they lost last year with three weeks to go before Thanksgiving.
Nothing can take away from what Gus Malzahn has accomplished in his first year, but for this season to be put in that category of all-time greats, Auburn must close the deal against Georgia on Saturday.
While the Alabama rivalry gets most of the press, Auburn has fallen behind Georgia in the last decade and desperately needs a win for recruiting purposes, not to mention SEC title aspirations and maybe even a Sugar Bowl invitation.
There’s no other way to put it. Georgia has owned Auburn of late. Take away the Cam Newton led 2010 season, and Auburn hasn’t gotten a win over the Dawgs since 2005. That’s six losses in the past seven games.
Alabama can wait.
It’s payback time on the Plains. Expected to contend for the national championship this year, Georgia is wounded but dangerous. Las Vegas has made Auburn an early three-point favorite. That means if the game was played in Athens, the house money would be on Georgia.
While Auburn fans are bought in, the rest of the country is still skeptical. Can a team playing in the SEC really keep the ball on the ground and win a conference title? The talking heads at ESPN have already weighed in, with Mark May saying there’s no way a one dimensional team can compete with Alabama.
Who says Auburn can’t throw the football? There’s no arguing that Nick Marshall hasn’t tired his arm since the pool water was still warm, but don’t forget about Sammie Coates and the much improved passing game. It’s not extinct, just in hibernation.
How’s this for a storyline? When was the last time an SEC quarterback faced a defense that he once played for – literally?
Find a way to win on Saturday, and we are looking at perhaps the biggest Iron Bowl in series history – a winner take all trip to Atlanta and the SEC Championship. It will likely feature the highest cumulative record for both teams in modern series history. You can count on ESPN and the traveling GameDay circus to roll into town.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet.
The storyline this week will be how Auburn’s suspect rush defense can handle Georgia’s Todd Gurley. After giving up more than 200 yards on the ground in consecutive weeks against Arkansas and Tennessee, Gurley will provide a test Auburn has not seen since squaring off against LSU’s Jeremy Hill.
On the flip side, Georgia will have to contend with Auburn’s three-headed running attack led by Tre Mason. Georgia’s defense has struggled against the run at times, but still ranks fourth in the SEC in rushing defense, giving up 126 yards per game. Cue the Auburn passing game.
Once referred to as one of the friendliest rivalries in college football, that has changed in recent years. Auburn has everything to play for Saturday. Georgia still has a chance in the SEC East. Throw all those inbred stories out the window. I could care less who played at Georgia and coached at Auburn and vice versa.
We can’t help but take a peek at the Saturday after Thanksgiving. But let’s enjoy the ride. There are few things in life sweeter than beating Georgia. It’s something Auburn hasn’t done enough of lately.
That all changes Saturday afternoon.