Phillip Marshall Column: Tigers vs. Bulldogs

Phillip Marshall breaks down the SEC Game of the Year as the Tigers prepare to play the Georgia Bulldogs.

Of all the stories within the Auburn-Georgia series, none is more unusual than what former Georgia coach Vince Dooley likes to call "the homefield disadvantage."

Since the series moved out of Columbus and went home-and-home in 1959, home has not been particularly sweet to either team. Auburn has a 15-7 record at Sanford Stadium since 1959 and had won five straight and nine of 10 there before losing last season. Georgia has a 12-8-2 record at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Over the past dozen years, Jordan-Hare has been the frequent site of Auburn heartbreak against the Bulldogs. Take a look:

1992: Auburn was inches from the Georgia goal line in the final seconds, trailing 10-7 in what would be Pat Dye's last game at Jordan-Hare. The call was for the ball to go to James Bostic. Auburn's offensive line opened a gaping hole, but a teammate bumped quarterback Stan White as he turned to hand off. The ball went loose. Auburn recovered, but time ran out before the Tigers could get another play off.

1994: Matt Hawkins missed a field goal with less than 10 seconds left and Auburn, leading 24-10 in the third quarter, had to settle for a 24-24 tie that broke a 20-game winning streak.

1996: This one might have been the most bizarre of all. As the clock ran inside 10 seconds, Marcus Washington sacked Georgia quarterback Mike Bobo at the Tiger 30. Georgia had no timeouts left. When Bobo let go of the ball, Auburn defensive tackle Charles Dorsey picked it up. Officials stopped the clock, Bobo spiked the ball with one second left and threw a touchdown pass as time ran out. Georgia won 56-49 in four overtimes, the first overtime game in SEC history.

2002: Georgia quarterback David Greene threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Michael Johnson on fourth-and-15 in the waning moments to lift Georgia to a 24-21 victory.

In 1998, Georgia beat the worst Auburn team in more than two decades 28-17. In 2000, Auburn won 29-26 on a Ben Leard quarterback sneak in overtime.

And that brings us to 2004. Auburn and Georgia meet again at Jordan-Hare in one of the more significant games in series history. The stakes are high, particularly for the Tigers. They must win to keep their national championship hopes alive.

Auburn seniors Jason Campbell (17) and Jeremy Ingle (67) will be key players for the Tigers on Saturday.

Georgia, it would seem, is one of the better teams to visit Jordan-Hare in recent years. The Bulldogs are 8-1 and probably should be 9-0.

If you break it down position by position, there is little to say one team or the other will win. Both have fifth-year quarterbacks who are having all-star years. Both defenses are among the nation's best.

But there's something about this Auburn team that can't be quantified. The Tigers have all the physical things you need to win, but they have more than that. They have that elusive thing called chemistry.

Since beating LSU 10-9, they have not even had a close call. Every game but Ole Miss was over by halftime. When the Tigers led Ole Miss just 7-0 at halftime, they responded with 28 second-half points.

There is no question Georgia is the best team Auburn has played. There is also no question that Auburn is the best Georgia has played.

The atmosphere at Jordan-Hare on Saturday will rival 1989, when Alabama visited for the first time. Something tells me there will be no homefield disadvantage this time.

Auburn is coming off an open date and is well-rested. Georgia is playing its eighth consecutive game. Auburn has been remarkably consistent. Georgia has won, but it has not been consistent.

It looks from here like Auburn marches on. Auburn 31, Georgia 21.

Last week wasn't the best of times for your fearless picker. Tennessee and Arkansas let me down. The record for the season is 49-16.

On to this week in the SEC…

Alabama at LSU: The Alabama-LSU series has something in common with Auburn-Georgia. The home team tends to struggle. Alabama has a remarkable 15-1-1 record in Baton Rouge since 1969.

I've been a skeptic all season about the Crimson Tide and still am. I don't believe Alabama will be able to hammer LSU on the ground and I don't believe its passing game is good enough to pick up the slack. LSU 24, Alabama 10.

Ole Miss at Arkansas: The winner will still have a chance to be bowl eligible. The loser will be eliminated. The Razorbacks are tough to handle at home. Arkansas 28, Ole Miss 24.

South Carolina at Florida: In normal times, this would be an easy pick. But these aren't normal times at Florida.

Ron Zook is playing out the string as a lame duck coach. The Gators are but 5-4 overall and must beat the Gamecocks or Florida State to be bowl eligible. South Carolina got bowl eligible for the first time in three years with last Saturday's win over Arkansas.

There is no question Florida has a significant talent edge. It will be Senior Day at the Swamp. But something tells me it will be the Gamecocks who celebrate. South Carolina 31, Florida 28.

Vanderbilt at Kentucky: Vanderbilt isn't a good football team, as its 2-7 record would indicate. But Kentucky is surely one of the worst teams in SEC history. Vanderbilt 27, Kentucky 17.

Until next time…

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