ATHENS — AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — It's no surprise that this Georgia-Auburn game features a Southeastern Conference title contender ranked in the Top 10.
The twist is that the seventh-ranked Tigers are the ones in control of their destiny while the 25th-ranked Bulldogs' championship chances have taken a hit during an injury-plagued season going into Saturday's meeting.
"I think it is kind of eye-opening or shocking, I guess, to some," said Auburn tight end C.J. Uzomah, who is from Georgia. "We knew that we were going to have a successful season, maybe not as successful as this. And coming into this game, we knew that there were going to be a lot of implications but I guess the tables have somewhat turned."
Indeed, they have. Auburn (9-1, 5-1 SEC) can claim a spot in the league championship game with wins over the Bulldogs (6-3, 4-2) and No. 1 Alabama at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
If that happens, and some teams above them lose, Gus Malzahn's Tigers could be playing for a second national title in four years, a year after going 3-9.
"It's super impressive what coach Malzahn has done," said Georgia coach Mark Richt, whose team needs some help to win the East. "Everywhere he has gone he's won. If you look at his track record it's amazing, especially as a head coach and what his teams have done. He's turned it around very quickly — quicker than maybe I would hope — but you have to give him credit. They are doing a great job."
Auburn is but a field goal favorite in this longstanding border rivalry billed as the oldest in the Deep South. It has historically been so tight that through 116 meetings the record is 54-54-8 with an average margin of .9 points.