AUBURN, Ala. — Georgia-Auburn was supposed to be a potential prelude to the Southeastern Conference championship game between teams on their ways to division titles.
That’s not at all how it turned out.
The Bulldogs and Tigers, preseason favorites in their respective divisions, meet Saturday hoping to take a step toward upgrading their bowl prospects. Both are having disappointing seasons marred by injuries and quarterback troubles.
Neither team will be vying for titles but it’s still a rivalry game.
“Right this minute, Auburn being Auburn and us being Georgia is enough, in my opinion,” Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. “And that’s what we’re focusing on. We’re focusing on getting ready to play one whale of a football game versus a team that’s going to have a tremendous fan base ready to get after us.
“It’s going to be a war. It’s going to be a battle. And if you’re a competitor, that’s usually enough to get your blood pumping.”
A slight favorite, Auburn (5-4, 2-4) will have an uphill battle to reach a winning regular season record if the Tigers lose to Georgia (6-3, 4-3). A visit from No. 3 Alabama follows a game with Idaho.
Linebacker Kris Frost said the Tigers had been improving even before beating Texas A&M last weekend, losing close games to Arkansas and Mississippi.
“But when it pays off in a game like it did this past weekend it’s definitely a confidence booster,” Frost said. “We’ve all been on the same track and we all believe in our coaches and believe in each other and that’s what’s truly important about a football team.”
Here are some things to know about Saturday’s game:
QUARTERBACK CAROUSELS: Richt said he plans to play quarterbacks Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey, as he did against Kentucky, and wouldn’t be surprised to see both Auburn passers as well. Each team has made multiple quarterback switches, either for injury or performance. At Auburn, coach Gus Malzahn is keeping a tight lid on the situation with Sean White — recovering from a knee injury — and Jeremy Johnson, who started the first three games and in the win over Texas A&M. He hasn’t said much about White’s status but indicated he’d practiced more this week than last.
RUNNERS: Whoever plays quarterback, both teams have tailbacks who figure to be huge factors after going from backup duties to starring roles. The Bulldogs’ Sony Michel and Auburn’s Jovon Robinson each ran for about 160 yards last week in SEC games.
TIE BREAKER: The winner will have some bragging rights in the game billed as the Deep South’s Oldest rivalry. The series is tied 55-55-8 even though Georgia has won nine of the last 13 meetings. It’s the 72nd consecutive season when they’ve played each other.
GOING FOR 2: Both teams are trying for their second straight SEC win after fairly easy victories over Kentucky (Georgia) and Texas A&M. “The message this week is we can’t let up,” Richt said. “We’ve got to build on this past week. We can’t go backwards. We can’t relax in any way, shape or form.”
PRAYER IN JORDAN-HARE: This is the Bulldogs’ first visit to Auburn since losing in 2013 on a desperation pass deflected and caught by Ricardo Louis for a touchdown. It’s something Georgia would just as soon forget. “We try not to really talk about it,” said Bulldogs tight end Jay Rome, who was injured and watched that game on TV. “I feel like we made a really good push in the fourth quarter and just a play went up that happened and we couldn’t really do anything about it.”