Keep your enemies closer: Georgia

Scott Cunningham

Discussing the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry.

Thanks to Mr. Sanchez of SB Nation's Georgia blog, Dawg Sports, for answering this week's questions. You can find my answers to his questions over at Dawg Sports.

In my opinion, the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry is one of the most underrated and best rivalries in the country. To me, this game is what's great about college football: old, familiar foes meeting in November; a history of memorable games, coaches and players; and two passionate fan bases located in two beautiful college towns. What does the rivalry mean to you?

You pretty much just hit the nail on the head. Georgia, like Auburn, isn't short on rivalry games to choose from, and this one is arguably the best of the bunch (cause with college football, someone, somewhere will make a contrary argument). This game, to me, is craziness personified. The history of former player now coach swapping amongst heated rivals has to be unique. The games always have some weird and wild stuff go on. Records can truly be tossed out of the window as countless games have seen one side come limping in on a poor season to kill the almost realized championship dreams of the other. Home and road distinctions mean nothing. The environment is always a great one, and the games are usually extremely competitive no matter how good or bad the teams have been the rest of the year. To me, this is not only the South's Oldest Rivalry (we played in February of 1892, the so-called South's Oldest Rivalry between NC and Virginia was first played 8 months later in October of 1892), but also the South's Best Rivalry.

For Auburn fans, Alabama is our clear cut No. 1 rival, and Georgia is without a doubt No. 2. Georgia has three rivals -- Auburn, Georgia Tech and Florida -- that seem to be more or less on the same level. Is there a consensus on who Dawg fans hate the most? If not, which school makes your blood boil?

Who a Georgia fan hates most tends to depend on age and geography. The oldest generation most often holds Georgia Tech in the top spot, as their prime years coincided with Bobby Dodd's success. Georgia fans such as T Kyle King usually put Auburn at the top (and Clemson pretty high on the list) because their years in Athens were when those programs were at their best. Fans my age (32) and younger place Florida up top, with schools like Tennessee and South Carolina higher than usual because of the Gators long stretch of dominance, and the increased importance of annual games against fellow SEC East teams. Fan in north Georgia have to hear a lot from Tennessee fans, near Columbus interact most with Auburn fans, near Augusta will surround you with Clemson and South Carolina folks, while Atlanta has a good mix of all, with plenty of Florida and Georgia Tech partisans. South Georgia has a wide array of fandoms. Which team is in which spot on a Georgia fans' rivalry boards tends to change depending personal experience, such as what team was most successful in your formative years and who's opposing fans you have to deal with the most often. But on most lists, Auburn, Tech, and Florida will make up at least 2 of the top 3 in one order or another. With Clemson, South Carolina, and Tennessee filling other spots in the line. Personally, I most enjoy beating Florida and most hate losing to Tech. Auburn probably has the best combination of the two (enjoying a win and hating a loss).

As close as the series has been (Auburn leads, 54-53-8, with Georgia outscoring the Tigers, 1,854-1,778) it's no surprise that there have been some incredible games. Which Georgia victory sticks out to you as the greatest? Why?

Can I pick one of the eight? Some of the greatest moments come before I was really started following college football in the early 90s, so they are off the list for me. The blackout game is one of the best environments I've ever witnessed at a college football game. The last second win in 2002 was one of the better moments a college football fan can have cheering on their team. The back and forth of that first overtime game in 96 was another that is among the best a fan can ask for. But that tie in 1994 stands out in my memory. Bowden's teams had been so strong since he arrived. We'd lost to Vandy, and been destroyed by Florida. We had no hope, with a coach that was clearly way over his head. But that team fought back to tie it, and got a kick luckily sail slightly wide in the final seconds for a tie that felt as sweet as any win.

And which Auburn victory sent you spiraling into the deepest, darkest depression? Why?

1999. Leard to Daniels deep, again, and again, and again, and HOW MANY FUTURE NFL STARS DO YOU NEED TO STOP ONE ******* PLAY RAMSEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This year's Georgia offense has been pretty outstanding. We know about Aaron Murray, but who else has stepped up to make the offense click?

The offensive line has been hit or miss, but when they give Todd Gurley an inch, he takes 10 yards. His ability to grind out yards in the running game helps take pressure off Murray, and Murray isn't exactly at his best when he's under pressure. But I'd say that, and receiver after receiver stepping up. Be it Michael Bennett, Marlon Brown, Tavarres King, Malcolm Mitchell, Arthur Lynch, Rhett McGowan, among others, when we've needed a big pass play, someone has stepped up and made it. Injuries, being needed on defense, they don't care what the problem is, someone is willing to be the solution.

The Bulldog defense has struggled at times, but it impressed against Florida. Do you think that was a one-game fluke, or will the defense continue to dominate?

I think domination will continue. The early struggles were with suspension, and then when people did start to come back, there was injuries (to Jarvis Jones) and problems getting everyone back on the same page. But as ESPN will tell you all night long Saturday, there is a ton of talent on that defense, and a lot of guys who will be drafted very high this spring by NFL teams. We've been waiting for the team we saw against Florida all year, and it's finally shown up. So long as they can stay healthy (mainly Jarvis Jones), it will continue to be dominate.

Georgia, like most teams, matches up pretty well with Auburn. Which matchup favors the Bulldogs the most?

Georgia's defense vs. Auburn's offense. The pass defense has started to get more opportunistic, and Auburn's allowed over 3 sacks per game this year. With Jones, Jordan Jenkins, Ogletree, and others getting after it in the pass rush, I have a hard time seeing Frazier or Moseley having anything but a long, difficult, painful day.

Is there any matchup in this game that actually worries you? Anything at all the Tigers can exploit?

Extra points. We can't hit 'em to save our lives. Other than that, Lemonier is a great player off the edge, and can exploit freshman OT John Theus. And of course, the history of the game with countless big upsets time and again gives a big cause for concern.

What has to happen for Auburn to pull the upset?

Sneak Cam into Kiehl Frazier's jersey? Seriously, just have whoever is at QB not turn it over, and grind out some first downs. If Lemonier can own one edge, and the game is close late so emotion gets involved, you never know what'll happen. Murray can throw some picks, especially if he's pressured so hitting him early and often should be a goal for the Tigers.

How do you think the game plays out? Are you totally confident in a blowout win, or do you think Auburn can keep it close? What will be the final score?

History keeps me from predicting blowout no matter how good Georgia has looked, and how bad Auburn's been. As Lemonier said earlier this week, winning this game can redeem the season, so I expect Auburn to have their best game of the year, for VanGorder to look 3 steps ahead of whatever Bobo tries to do, and force the Georgia defense to win this game similar to what happened in Florida. Final score say 26-17, with Georgia getting a late score to make it look easier in the box score.

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