This Saturday, Auburn will attempt to turn the tide on a series that hasn’t treated them kindly in recent years.
The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, between Auburn and Georgia, has been a game that the college football world has always looked to in early November for hard-fought battles and exciting finishes.
This is a game where records have always been thrown out the window and where the mediocre team usually manages to hold its own against the giant. In recent years, there have been some exciting and some not-so-exciting finishes. Almost all of them have gone in Georgia’s favor, regardless of where the game is played or the record of each team.
The frightening and saddening statistic for all Auburn fans: Georgia has won nine of the last 11 matchups in this rivalry. The two Auburn wins? Cam Newton’s impressive performance in 2010 and the “Prayer at Jordan-Hare” in 2013.
Without the 2013 miracle and the heroics of Newton, this rivalry could look even worse. For some reason, Auburn has just seemed to consistently play below their talent level when it comes to facing the Bulldogs.
Auburn hasn’t strung together back-to-back victories against the Dawgs since 2004-05. If the Tigers have any hopes of getting to the College Football Playoff, they are going to have to beat Georgia twice just in the next few weeks.
So, what has plagued Auburn? Why haven’t the Tigers been able to beat the Bulldogs, even in years like 2016 when the Tigers clearly have the more talented team? Under offensive genius Gus Malzahn, surely it is because of defensive struggles, right?
In the two games in this 11 year stretch that Auburn has won, the Tigers have scored at least 40 points, combining for 92 points in those two games. In the 11 losses, the Tigers have only scored a total of 106 points with an average of 11.7 points per game.
Gus Malzahn served as either offensive coordinator or head coach in six of those losses and has only been able to score over twenty points once. Four of the games saw the Tigers score seven points or less.
Auburn’s defense hasn’t been great either, giving up 30 points in eight of those 11 games. However, when your team is failing to score 20 points, it is going to be difficult to get the win.
Auburn’s defense under Kevin Steele performed well in 2016, only giving up 13 points but falling 13-7 after the Tigers failed to get a first down in the second half and only gained 32 second-half yards.
Going into this year’s matchup, the Bulldogs are 9-0 and sit comfortably at No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings. They have already clinched the SEC East and will play either Alabama or Auburn in the SEC championship. If Auburn loses on Saturday and Alabama defeats Mississippi State, Alabama will officially clinch the SEC West.
Auburn controls its own destiny and will go to the SEC championship if it wins out. If the Tigers manage to defeat Georgia, Alabama and Georgia again, the Tigers will likely have earned a spot in the playoff.
This series has proven to be the downfall of a lot of good Auburn teams in the past. In 2016, the Tigers were 7-2 and No. 9 in the country. This year, the Tigers are also 7-2 and are No. 10 in the country. Their playoff hopes will either shoot up dramatically Saturday, or disappear entirely.
Georgia is dominating its opponents in head coach Kirby Smart’s second season. So far, however, Notre Dame is the only overly impressive win on their schedule. Going up against Auburn’s strong defense may be trouble for the Dawgs, especially with freshman quarterback Jake Fromm playing his first game in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
If the Bulldogs manage to continue their undefeated season by beating the Tigers, and Auburn follows that up with a loss to the Crimson Tide of Alabama, Gus Malzahn could very well be on his way out at the end of the season.
Auburn has to break off from the losing nature of this rivalry if the Tigers want to keep both their SEC and National Title hopes alive. A loss would definitely be the end of any playoff hopes and would likely be the end of any SEC title hopes if Alabama wins.
The good news for Auburn fans is that each of those two wins against Georgia in the last 11 years has led to a win against Alabama, a win in the SEC championship, and a trip to the national championship. Auburn may not win against Georgia often, but when it does, it tends to lead to a good finish for the Tigers.