The Auburn Tigers have a big game on the schedule this Saturday with a visit to Athens to face the Georgia Bulldogs. This year’s renewal of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry sees a bit of a role reversal over last season, as this week the Tigers could be playing the role of spoiler.
The Bulldogs enter the final weeks of the season in the drivers’ seat for the SEC East title. A second conference loss by South Carolina on Saturday put Georgia in first place with two more games to play.
If the Bulldogs can get past Auburn on Saturday, they will only have to beat a struggling Kentucky team to get to Atlanta. The stakes are high as Georgia has lost to South Carolina, so a tie with the Gamecocks would deny their hopes of taking the SEC East.
In 2010 Georgia went into Auburn with a chance to hand the Tigers their first loss and a chance at reaching the BCS Championship Game, but Auburn emerged with a 49-31 victory to keep rolling. The stakes are not quite as high on Saturday, but it would still be a major accomplishment for Auburn to play a decisive role in the SEC East.
Saturday’s outcome will also play a major role in Auburn’s bowl positioning and will help or harm momentum heading into the last game of the season against Alabama. Saturday’s loss to LSU showed that the Crimson Tide is mortal, and a big win against a ranked opponent on the road will help the Tigers confidence moving towards the Iron Bowl.
A win would also give the Tigers their fifth SEC win and improve their chances of playing in a New Year’s Day bowl. That has to be seen as a positive after many had low expectations for the Tigers entering the 2011 season.
A win will also have a big impact off the field, as the state of Georgia is a crucial recruiting territory for the Tigers. Key Tigers like Quan Bray, Philip Lutzenkirchen, and Neiko Thorpe all hail from Georgia and their potential replacements are no doubt keeping a close eye on the outcome of this game.
In contrast to the 2010 edition, Saturday’s renewal of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry won’t see a future BCS title team, but it will still play a major impact on the SEC. We will find out Saturday if the Tigers are up to the task of knocking off a ranked team on the road for the second time this season.