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From the Press Box

A view from the press box of Sanford Stadium
A view from the press box of Sanford Stadium



For amazingly the 120th year, fans of the Georgia Bulldogs and Auburn Tigers are shouting those words today as the Dawgs and Tigers renew the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry in just a while from now between the hallowed hedges of Sanford Stadium.


And can you believe the balance, parity if you will, in this great collegiate football series, which began in 1892 at old Piedmont Park in Atlanta? Get this, in the 119 times to date Georgia and Auburn have squared off on the gridiron, the Bulldogs have won 56 times, the Tigers have won 55 times and there have been eight ties!


Folks, it doesn’t get any more equal than that. Show me another college rivalry in the country that is that close in the won-lost category … especially among two teams that have played 119 times.


That’s why, despite the fact the 8th-ranked Tigers prowl into Sanford Stadium for today’s 3:39 p.m. kickoff as a solid 10-point favorite over the 5-4 Bulldogs (making Georgia the biggest underdog on its home turf  since the Tennessee game 20 years ago), I say go ahead and flip the proverbial coin for the winner of this football game. That one-game difference in the outcomes of this contest for that century-plus amount of time shows you wouldn’t go wrong very often in doing just that.


Rather than just going along with what the oddsmakers say.


Of course, as we do delve into reality for today’s Georgia-Auburn rendition No. 120, if Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs are to keep Gus Malzahn’s 7-2 Tigers (5-1 SEC) from evening this thing, they will have to unquestionably play their best game of the 2016 slate to date.


Huge questions: Can the ever-improving defense slow down the nation’s third-ranked and SEC’s top running attack, as Auburn comes in sporting a 300-yards-per-game rushing average? That eye-popping accomplishment has been possible due to the performance of the SEC’s leading rusher, Kamryn Pettway, the 240-pound bulldozer who has run for 1,106 yards this fall despite hardly even playing in two Auburn games. Of course, we don’t know if Pettway is playing today, or if he’ll be 100 percent if he does play, after the leg injury he sustained on a long run against Vanderbilt last weekend.


Also, even if the Georgia “D” does clamp down somewhat on Pettway, or Kerryon Johnson and the rest of  the Tiger ball carriers, can the Bulldogs also stymie the passing of very capable Auburn quarterback Sean White?


And on the other side of the ball, there are also big obstacles for the Bulldogs to overcome. Can a Georgia offensive line that has floundered in inconsistency this fall rise to the occasion and provide running room for Nick Chubb and Sony Michel against a mighty Tiger defensive front that includes those two towers of power from the state of Georgia, tackle Montravius Adams and end Carl Lawson? And too, another tackle on that Auburn D-line, Dontavius (rhymes with Montravius) Russell, is a pretty tough guy to block as well. One thing’s for sure, if the Bulldogs can’t run the ball a lick this afternoon, they will almost have an impossible task of trying to keep those Tiger defenders out of the lap of Jacob Eason, when the freshman quarterback drops back to throw the ball. And I don’t even have to say how badly the Bulldogs need to win the turnover battle.


Again, very tempted to ride with the Dawgs because of the fact it’s hard to fathom that Georgia will go an entire season without winning an SEC game in Sanford Stadium. But facing a defensive line which appears to fully be the equal of the one the Florida Gators threw at Georgia down in Jacksonville, my coin flip today in this storied rivalry turns up heads for Auburn. Earlier in the week, I called it 28-24 in favor of the Tigers. As we near the opening kick, I now don’t see that many points being scored. So make it 21-17, Auburn, in a real good one.


And, as always, GO DAWGS!!


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Murray Poole is a 1965 graduate of the University of Georgia Journalism School. He served as sports editor of The Brunswick News for 40 years and has written for Bulldawg Illustrated the past 16 years. He has covered the Georgia Bulldogs for 53 years.