Six in a row. This Auburn Tiger team is breathing rare air these days. This is only the fifth Auburn team since 1996 to have a six-game winning streak. At the beginning of the year, how many of us thought this team would be in the same class as 2013, 2010, 2004, and 1997? I know I didn’t.
This week is different than the last few weeks. This is Georgia week. The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry has been played since 1891 and has taken a turn for the hateful in the last few years. When I first came to Auburn as a Freshman back in 2004, the Georgia game was described to me as a “friendly rivalry” or something like brotherly competition. That has changed. Now this game is a cesspool of bile built up from hits some called dirty and calls some saw blown.
I really dislike the Dawgs. I think this game changed for me in Matthew Stafford’s freshman year. Georgia was a bad team that season and Auburn was ranked #5 in the country when the future Detroit Lions QB torched the Tigers in one of the biggest upsets in the history of this rivalry. I thought it was trash. I was so upset Auburn had to play this trash team at 11:30 in the morning when Auburn should have been a prime-time only team with it’s ranking. This game was the beginning of my obsession with Auburn’s futility in morning games against teams that wear red, and the beginning of my hatred for Georgia.
I definitely want to get this prediction right. I want to be able to watch this game knowing what the outcome will be. I want you to be able to make some money on these predictions with some of Brent Musburger’s friends in the desert. So we must stare into the void hoping the past shouts back something we understand. Not afraid of the silence and our nightmares, we must soldier on into the screams of yesterday.
The Nose (First Ascent)
In Yosemite National Park, there is a vertical rock formation known as El Capitan. This Granite monolith stretches over seven thousand feet into heaven and has jutted out of the earth for around 100 million years. Humankind has wandered the valley, looking at the sheer face of El Capitan, scarred by glaciers and time, and wondered if it was possible to climb to the very top. For centuries, no one succeeded in doing so by way of the most technical route, called “The Nose.” That route was considered impossible and abandoned by many technical climbers until 1958 when a man named Warren Harding (not a president) made the first ascent of the Nose.
On November 12, 1958, using a technique that would now be considered unwieldy and ancient by modern rock climbers, Warren Harding and his team completed the first ascent. It is now considered a classic climb in the history of the sport. However, it wasn’t their first try. In 1957 they attempted the climb and were turned away in the middle of it by the park service due to the coming tourist season that summer. Later that year, one of the members of the team broke his leg and had to bow out. Then the other member of the three-man team decided he didn’t want to do it anymore, but would help plan the climb. Two big losses for Harding.
Harding pressed on and in the fall of 1958, he and a team of people he could find at the last minute began the climb. It took them 45 days of work, living on the rock, sleeping on the rock, and risking everything to be the first to get to the top.
Harding is a legend. He is remembered as much for his relentlessness as he is for his success. Not deterred by the park service, or the loss of team members, Harding has taken his place in the annals of time as a hero to all who dare to conquer the unconquered.
The Auburn-Georgia Game
Two big losses? Check. Officials acting lame? Check. An unreachable goal? Check. The 2016 Auburn Tigers are Warren Harding. They have suffered two setbacks, but still press on towards their goal. They stand at the bottom of the mountain that is Amen Corner and are now attempting to make the ascent.
Auburn needs no help to win the division. It only needs to take care of the business in front of it. Like Warren Harding’s first ascent of The Nose, this will not be done in one day. Auburn will have to take this Georgia game as seriously as any game this season. One false move and Auburn could tumble, seeing its hopes dashed against the granite.
History is on the side of the Tigers. Those six-game winning streaks I mentioned earlier? Well, Auburn teams that have seasons in which they won six straight games are 23-3-1 against Georgia going back to 1891. Since 1990 those teams are 5-0-1. This is a historically great Auburn football team, and those teams don’t lose to Georgia.
Will it be an easy game? No. Auburn will be tested by the Georgia defense. There are not a lot of UGA teams without salty defensive fronts. Auburn’s offensive line will have to be better than it was last weekend. Auburn’s defense has to respect Nick Chubb. He is a freak athlete who has the ability to turn any carry into six points. I am nervous about this game only as far as I am nervous about Nick Chubb.
Auburn wins this game and the climb to the top continues.