Has the Deep South's oldest football rivalry lost some of its luster?
It depends on your perspective. Georgia enters Saturday night's contest at Sanford Stadium (7 p.m., ESPN2) un-ranked after a 5-4 start, while Gene Chizik's Auburn squad is ranked 25th in the latest USA Today/Coaches Top 25.
The way head coach Mark Richt sees it, though, that notion could not be further from the truth.
"I know there are at least 20 Georgia players on their roster, so I know there are a lot of guys who have a Georgia background. We do not have nearly as many Alabama guys as they do Georgia guys, but our guys understand what this thing is all about. Auburn being so close to our border, just about every guy that we have on our team was more than likely recruited by Auburn and has been to Auburn and has seen what they are all about," Richt said. "I think that adds to the flavor too. Just the fact that the series is very, very close, I think our guys would love to inch a little bit close to evening that thing out without any doubt. It's a big deal for us as a staff; it's a big deal for us as a team. We definitely want to get ourselves in position to finish out this season in flying colors, so this game can help us do that."
Chizik said the game's still a huge matter for his squad as well.
Auburn boasts 20 players from the state of Georgia, and Chizik said the excitement has been evident in practice thus far this week.
"They definitely have pep in their step, but to be honest they have been that way all year. This game is obviously a great rivalry and we have many kids from Georgia on our roster so they will be very excited for the game. They are coming in and watching film," Chizik said. "They are into it and will be excited Saturday night. I am not going to say that they have a completely different personality because they have been excited to play every week, but this one will certainly be fun for them."
Bulldog Rennie Curran is jacked up for the game.
Curran was a cat's whisker away from committing to the Tigers, but decided instead to hold out for an offer from Georgia, even though the Bulldogs were late doing so.
He couldn't help but laugh when he recalled a conversation he had with Georgia coaches while still attending Brookwood High.
It was April of his junior year and Curran boasted offers from Auburn, along with a host of other schools from the SEC. Except one - Georgia.
Tuesday at Stegeman Coliseum, Curran reminisced how close he actually came to joining the Tigers, who take on Georgia for the 113th time in the Deep South's oldest rivalry Saturday night in Sanford Stadium.
"Georgia waited until the last minute to offer," Curran smiled. "I told them (Georgia coaches) if they didn't offer me I'm going to go to Auburn; I'll give you hell."
As for the rivalry itself, Curran said it is alive in well.
According to the linebacker, there's too much riding on the outcome for it not to be.
With a victory, Georgia (5-4, 3-3) will become bowl-eligible while Auburn (7-3, 3-3) is attempting to make itself more attractive to the various bowl committees. A victory over the Bulldogs would certainly help that cause.
"I think I can speak for the rest of the players that the rivalry is still there," Curran said. "There's going to be a lot of emotion, a huge game for both us. If we win, we are bowl eligible; if they win, it's another victory in their column and maybe they'll get to go to a better bowl. There's a lot riding on this game."
Bulldog tight end Aron White has a different perspective on the series.
As a native of Missouri, White didn't know much about the series, although he was recruited to play football by both schools.
"Both programs have a lot of pride and a lot of tradition," White said. "Everybody doesn't like (Georgia) Tech and Florida is a huge rival, but Auburn as far as I'm concerned, it's just as big as those two. Tennessee is big, but it's something I can't put a price on as far as one to the other. They're all hard games; all tough opponents."
Georgia has won three straight in the series for the first time since 1982 and will be looking to win fourth straight for the first time since 1948.
Richt has his fingers crossed.
"Certainly it's a very big game for us and another chance to play on national TV and show the nation what Georgia football is all about," Richt said. "We are very excited about the opportunity to play it and again glad to be home between the hedges at Sanford Stadium."
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