By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - If Gus Malzahn gets his way, Saturday’s meeting between No. 10 Auburn and No. 2 Georgia will be require a sequel three weeks later in Atlanta.
“Our goal is to win the SEC championship, and it has been since day one, and this is the next step,” Malzahn said. “It is a great opportunity for us, so it is a big game. We are not looking any farther ahead than Saturday, but this is a game we have been looking forward to. It’s here. There is a lot on the line for it.”
Needing to climb 10 spots to make the four-team College Football Playoff, Amen Corner victories over SEC East champion Georgia and Alabama would give Auburn a compelling strength-of-schedule resume and unrivaled quality wins.
“We control our own destiny,” Malzahn said. “This is a huge game, obviously, and our guys are excited. They’ve earned the right to be here in this moment.”
Auburn earned that right by winning at Texas A&M last week, improving to 5-1 in the SEC.
“The thing that stood out to me that I was very proud of last week is that we handled adversity better than we’ve handled it any other time this year,” he said. “Our team, we took the next step. I’m proud of where we’re at. We overcame adversity in a positive way. That’s going to be really big moving forward.”
With the SEC’s leading rusher, Kerryon Johnson (124 yards per game), and No. 3 passer, Jarrett Stidham (221.0 yards per game), Auburn has set a school record by scoring 40 or more points in all five SEC wins.
“We are healthier as a team this year and our starting quarterback is healthy,” Malzahn said. “I couldn’t say that the last two years. I feel good about where we are going into this game. We are getting some of our defensive guys healthier, too. Our team has a little different mindset than they had last year.”
The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry celebrates 125 years since that first meeting in Atlanta in 1892 at 2:30 p.m. CT Saturday on CBS. The stakes have seldom been higher, with an extra layer of emotion for the 27 Georgia natives on Auburn’s roster.
“The state of Georgia, we’ve recruited extremely hard,” Malzahn said. “A lot of our players are from there and it’s a very important game. Our guys are going to be ready and their guys are going to be ready. I think it makes this game special. It’s a new year. It’s a great opportunity for us. We’re playing at home in front of the best fans in college football and I know that our fans are going to be ready.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer