AUBURN, Ala. — Rematches aren’t exactly new in the SEC Championship Game. But this upcoming one between Auburn football and Georgia is special — the two teams played just three weeks ago.
On Sunday afternoon, Georgia coach Kirby Smart said already playing Auburn wouldn’t be a positive or a negative for the Tigers or the Bulldogs.
“I really don’t see it as a challenge or an advantage for either team,” Smart said. “We obviously know each other pretty well because we play each other every year anyway with them being a crossover rival. So just two times in one year is unique, but it’s not really a challenge or an advantage in any way.”
Smart’s counterparts in Auburn don’t see it that way, though.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn opened his teleconference appearance a few minutes after Smart and talked about the “challenge of playing [Georgia] for the second time in four weeks.”
The Auburn coach was an offensive coordinator the last time the Tigers faced an SEC Championship Game rematch in 2010, when it took on South Carolina in September and then in December. Those games were spread out much more than the meetings between Auburn and Georgia this season, and Malzahn says that adds to the difficulty.
“The unique thing about this is it’s a four-week turnaround,” Malzahn said. “It’s been very recent. That makes it a little more unique and challenging.”
Auburn defeated Georgia, 40-17, in its first meeting at Jordan-Hare Stadium earlier this month. The Tigers snapped a three-game losing streak in the series and ended the Bulldogs’ dreams of an undefeated regular season.
But Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele knows that rematches don’t often look the same at any level of football.
“Obviously having been in the National Football League, one thing I learned real quick is it’s hard to beat somebody twice in the same year, particularly if they’re a good football team,” Steele said Sunday night. “And if they’re a really, really good football team, it’s really hard.”
Outside of its 23-point loss to Auburn, Georgia has been that “really, really good football team.” The Bulldogs can still easily climb back into the College Football Playoff with a revenge win over Auburn in Atlanta.
Both Steele and Auburn offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey expect the teams to use “wrinkles” against each other in the rematch. But, ultimately, the game plans will be similar — they’ll just be unleashed on a neutral field this time.
“It’s a challenge, for sure, especially [a team] that’s really good like this one,” Lindsey said. “I think it just comes down to you try to get your players in a position to play well and win and give them the best opportunity based on the game plan. I’m sure they’re doing the same thing on their side. At the end of the day, this is a players’ game, and we’ll put them in position to make plays and see what happens.”
Steele said Auburn will prepare for the game like it did for the first meeting, but it’ll have additional info from the actual matchup between the two teams. That can be a blessing and a curse in this situation, which Steele says can have “a life of its own.”
“We’ve got some things we can take off that video to show them how we can correct things, get better at some things, do some things,” Steele said. “Obviously, you’ve got to look at your game plan that worked. They’re also going to look at your game plan that worked. You’re going to have to have some wrinkles that are different. It presents a challenge in that area, but we’re looking forward to it.”