Editor’s Note: It’s a crucial year in Auburn. Gus Malzahn enters his fourth season in a bit of a rut, but he has proven he can quickly change the trajectory of the program when his team’s back is against the wall.
Auburn needs to find a quarterback, develop receivers and lean on a defense many expect to be much improved under coordinator Kevin Steele. Will all of the pieces come together in time for a successful season?
SEC Country takes a look at the 25 Most Important Tigers (and others) who will determine whether Auburn’s season is a success or failure.
19. Kirby Smart, Georgia coach
The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry has not been kind to Auburn coaches. The Tigers have lost eight of the last 10 against Georgia, a mark that has only been eased recently by the Prayer at Jordan-Hare in 2013 and a run to the national title in 2010.
For as much criticism Mark Richt received as Georgia’s coach, he at least had Auburn’s number. Now that Richt is gone another coach with a successful record against Auburn takes the reins. First-year Georgia coach Kirby Smart interviewed for Auburn’s job in December 2012, coached Nick Saban’s defense at Alabama for nine years and won six games in the Iron Bowl against Auburn as a result.
How will Smart fare against Auburn in his first season? He has a talented team, one which will be ranked ahead of Auburn in preseason power polls, and he gets the Tigers at home inside Samford Stadium.
This is an important game for a lot of reasons, but the most important relates to Gus Malzahn’s job security as Auburn’s coach. Can he afford to lose to Georgia for a third straight season? Smart will have something to say about that in November.
Coming Wednesday: A new Gol