Auburn vs. Georgia is one of the great annual clashes in college football, and the game is billed as “The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” because it’s just that.
The teams first met in 1892 and have mixed it up 122 times in all.
But when the schools play on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, you can make the argument (and it’s a solid argument) that it’s their biggest football showdown of all time.
It also feels a bit odd because it’ll be the second time they’ve played in less than a month.
The winner of the SEC Championship Game between No. 2 Auburn (10-2) and No. 6 Georgia (11-1) will earn a berth in the College Football Playoff. That, obviously, is the headline, and makes this year’s battle for league supremacy a national quarterfinal.
But a sidebar to the main story is that Auburn’s 40-17 thrashing of UGA at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 11 will be null and void after Saturday.
It doesn’t matter what the outcome is on Saturday night … that first game will cease to be relevant.
Oh, it’ll always be in the record books. And right now – at this moment – Auburn fans can still revel in the fact that the (then) No. 1 team in the nation came to the Plain and got their butts kicked.
After Saturday, though, it’s old news.
Should the Tigers complete a sweep of the Dawgs, they’ll be bragging about winning the SEC Championship Game. Sure, they might reference the regular season conquest, but it’ll be buried under the weight of the victory that put them in the playoffs.
On the other hand, a Bulldog “W” would practically wipe the Nov. 11 game from existence.
Not only would Georgia avenge its loss to Auburn, it would also end AU’s shot at a national title.
It’d be something of a 2-for-1 deal, and 40-17 would never be spoken of again.
Bulldog wideout Terry Godwin says it’s an advantage to see their rivals again so soon.
“Now you got a lot more film than what you had from previous years or whatever, now seeing the recent stuff they’ve been doing or the recent stuff they did against us,” Godwin said. “So I mean, you’ve just got a lot more film to watch on them and a lot more knowledge than you had before to see what they’re going to throw at you and all this type stuff.”
He does, however, downplay the revenge angle.
“It’s not so much of revenge as it is us underclassmen wanting to send our senior class out on top and send them out the right way,” he said. “It’s just Auburn, they’re just having to come back up in our way again, and we just have to go out and defeat them.”
So what’s the key for the Tigers if they want to hold serve?
According to AU signal caller Jarret Stidham, it comes down to refocusing.
“Regardless of what happened three weeks ago, that’s three weeks ago. It’s in the past,” he said. “We’re both in the SEC Championship for a reason, and we know we’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game because Georgia’s going to bring their ‘A’ game. That’s really what it comes down to.”
But remember the “odd” factor I mentioned earlier?
Stidham says it’s real.
“In terms of us playing Georgia again, it’s going to be kind of weird, honestly,” Stidham said. “You just planned to go against a team two weeks ago, and now you’ve got to re-plan. Obviously, we’re playing better, they’re playing better. They’re doing things different, we do things different.”
When the teams met in the regular season I fully expected Georgia to win. Instead, Auburn played its best game of the season and made the visitors look bad in a game that was well in hand midway through the third quarter.
Will Gus Malzahn’s Tigers continue to be the hottest team in the nation and K.O. the Dawgs again, or will Kirby Smart’s gang prevail in the do-over played just 70 miles from UGA’s campus?
We won’t have to wait much longer to find out.
What we know already, however, is that the Nov. 11 game will be ancient history regardless of which teams makes history in Atlanta.