Auburn, Ala.--Coming off a hard-fought win over the Vanderbilt Commodores and up to No. 8 in the coaches poll, the Auburn Tigers will take their show on the road this coming Saturday in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry against the Georgia Bulldogs. A 2:30 p.m.central kickoff on CBS, this game is yet another opportunity for Coach Gus Malzahn’s team to make some noise.
It has become an even bigger game for the Tigers with the loss of Texas A&M to Mississippi State on Saturday in Starkville. Now 7-2 on the year and 5-1 in SEC play, Auburn is just a game behind Alabama for the Western Division lead and controls it’s own destiny in the race for Atlanta.
Auburn sophomore running back Kerryon Johnson said this game is always a big one for the Tigers and is even more important because of the way they’ve played against the Bulldogs in recent seasons.
“This is a huge one,” Johnson said. “We haven’t played well against them and have dropped a couple of games we shouldn’t have. We’ve got to keep our momentum going.
“If we get this week we keep it going to (Alabama) A&M and to Alabama. We control our own destiny so it’s going to be a huge game. They’re going to play us tougher than they play any other team because of the nature of the game. We’ve just got to come out and do the best we can.”
That has been the focus for Auburn since starting out the season 1-2 with losses at home to Clemson and Texas A&M. Going back to the basics and building from the ground up, relying on a punishing running game and stingy defense, the Tigers have followed the formula for success and Malzahn said that’s not going to change.
"The way we are going to look at it is that we are going to Georgia," Malzahn said. "We will see what happens at the end. That is our approach. We aren't looking ahead. That has been our formula this year and we will continue to do the same thing."
For one Auburn player this week holds a special meaning.
Going back to Athens for the first time as a player since leaving the Bulldogs, safety Tray Matthews said it’s all about treating the game just like any other this week.
“It’s a big game, but I’m just taking it game-by-game,” Matthews said. “ I’m not even thinking about it like that. I just know that it’s another game away from what we want to accomplish and that’s to go all the way, so it’s just another game that we have to play hard, fast and physical.”
Nobody on this Auburn team is more in the moment than redshirt junior Carl Lawson. Despite facing his home-state school and knowing the Tigers are still very much in the hunt for a league title, Lawson said there’s no time and no reason to look anywhere else other than the Bulldogs.
“We’re just worried about Georgia.”