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Auburn's Epic Win over Georgia Sets Up Iron Bowl for the Ages

Nov 16, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall (14) celebrates with fans after the Tigers beat the Georgia Bulldogs 43-38 at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
Justin LeeContributor ISeptember 17, 2016

For Auburn fans, there was only one thing left to say.

"We want Bama," they chanted.

After Nick Marshall's answered prayer to Ricardo Louis helped the No. 7 Tigers survive No. 25 Georgia, Auburn's championship aspirations are still alive. Going into a late bye week, the Tigers know that there's just one piece of unfinished business left to attend to.

Unlike Oregon, Florida State, Ohio State and the rest, Auburn knows it will actually get Bama.

The top-ranked Crimson Tide are right there on the Tigers' schedule, in the season finale.

Nov 16, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers wide receiver Ricardo Louis (5) catches a tipped ball by Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Josh Harvey-Clemons (25) and scores the game winning touchdown at Jordan Hare Stadium. The Tigers defeated the Bulldogs 4
Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

The Iron Bowl.

One of the biggest ever.

Auburn is bound to continue to climb in the BCS rankings over the next two weeks, while Alabama is just a homecoming win over Tennessee-Chattanooga away from making its way to the Plains.

"I'm going to enjoy this one tonight," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said postgame, with a smile. "That one aged me. I've lost some years off my life."

Still, one of the nation's leading candidates for Coach of the Year knows all too well what's on the horizon.

"I'll go to church in the morning," Malzahn said, "and after church I'll flip the switch."

Fitting, perhaps, after Marshall and Louis' late-game miracle—that put the "Amen" back in "Amen Corner."

As always, the Tide await the Tigers on the back end of Auburn's traditional late-game stretch against its two fiercest rivals. This time, the Iron Bowl will be one of the biggest in series history—and certainly the biggest in Jordan-Hare Stadium since the "First Time Ever" in 1989. 

"Before the game, we had our mind on Georgia," Auburn defensive back Ryan Smith said. "We weren't thinking ahead at all. We can't afford to do that. Right now as a team, we have to focus on each game, each practice. But we'll enjoy this win and get back to practice tomorrow.

"And Bama will be on our mind."

The Tigers will have two weeks to prepare for Alabama, as they enter a bye week before the Iron Bowl on Nov. 30.

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 16: Nick Marshall #14 of the Auburn Tigers celebrates after the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Auburn Alabama. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

"It's a great week—a clutch week," senior defensive end Dee Ford said. "At this time, any team would love a bye week, to get healthy, and especially work on the little things that this defense needs to work on. We still haven't played a complete game yet. So we've got a lot to work on coming into this bye week."

As long as Alabama gets past Tennessee-Chattanooga next week, this year's Iron Bowl will set up to be a battle of Top 10 teams, in what will stack up among some of the most anticipated games in series history.

Either way, the game will serve as a de facto SEC West Championship Game and determine which of the two teams will go to Atlanta for the first time since the SEC Championship Game was introduced in 1992.

"At the end of the day, after all of the hype that's going to be here for two weeks until the game comes up—those first five minutes are going to be crazy, but when the first five minutes is over, it's time to play football," Ford said. "So that's the time that I'm preparing for. When all the hype is gone, after the first five minutes, now it's time to play. It's time to really execute.

"I'm going to be hyped, of course, but I've been here for a while, so I know that I have to stay focused, and keep the younger guys focused on the task at hand."

The task at hand is clear enough. If the Tigers get past Alabama, they'll be on their way to a shot at a conference championship—and perhaps even more.

After what happened against Georgia, it almost seems meant to be.

"Our team doesn't lack confidence at all," Smith said. "We know what Bama does. We know they're a sound football team. They're not going to beat themselves, and they're not going to make mistakes. But we'll be prepared.

"We'll be ready to play."

 

Justin Lee is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @byjustinlee. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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