AUBURN, Ala. — Depending on the route taken, Jordan-Hare Stadium is at most 138 miles away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga.
Not too many teams, particularly football teams, have played games in the shiny, new setting since it opened at the end of August.
However, Georgia football fans have been looking forward to locating their seats and watching their Bulldogs chase a conference title since Kirby Smart’s team clinched the SEC East weeks ago.
The stadium is supposed to be a neutral floor for the divisional champs, but Auburn doesn’t quite see it that way.
“Yeah, of course they’re going to have a crowd,” Gus Malzahn said. “There’s no doubt as far as that goes. This being for the SEC Championship, it’s as big as it gets, no matter revenge or not and all that. We’re expecting their best. You’re talking about one of the more talented teams in all of college football and very talented on both sides of the football. I think they’ve got excellent staff, and their head coach has won a lot of games.”
Georgia fans would travel from all over Georgia to watch their beloved team play in a heartbeat, even without an SEC Championship at stake. Malzahn is expecting to see a sea of red in the stand for the third time in four weeks — this time in an unfamiliar setting.
Auburn is just beginning its preparation for its rematch against Georgia, but Chip Lindsey is certain of one thing: the Tigers will treat the title game like a road game.
“I think you have to treat it that way somewhat because it’s definitely, obviously, close to where they are and I think our guys are prepared,” Lindsey said. “We’ve been in some hostile environments throughout the year, Clemson, LSU, Texas A&M, so I think our guys will be ready for it but I definitely think it’s something that our guys understand and I think they’re looking forward to it.”
Malzahn’s team had success on the road this season with the exception of two weekends. Trips to Death Valleys weren’t fruitful for Auburn. The championship and playoff implications could change that.
Auburn coaches and players thanked their fans after the Tigers knocked off No. 1 Georgia and mimicked the action after the Iron Bowl. Jordan-Hare Stadium defined home field advantage.
The Tigers are counting on their fans to come out and support when they take the field against the Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon and are determined to hold on to their expected College Football Playoff spot — with or without home field advantage.
“In that particular game, our defense played one of its best games because how talented Georgia is, and those running backs are just unbelievable. Of course, their quarterback has been very efficient too,” Malzahn said. “So we played one of our best games. We’re going to have to do it again.”