We’re just hours away! The biggest game this weekend in college football should be a wild one, as the world of the College Football Playoffs will run through Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The Auburn Tigers are nowhere near the top four teams in the latest rankings. Yet today’s result will have a domino affect on what teams will enter the playoffs and what teams won’t. Possibly affected by this game? Georgia, Alabama, Oregon, Baylor, Oklahoma and, yes, perhaps even Auburn (the Tigers are hoping that if the dominos fall correctly, Auburn could become the first two-loss team to make the playoffs).
So then, how will it all play out this afternoon? How will the rest of the season go for Malzahn’s crew?
Let me guess: You don’t think Auburn will beat Georgia, and you believe there is a lesser chance that the Tigers will top Alabama. You also figure it’s 50-50 that Malzahn will return in 2020. Well, I have news for you, and to make my point, I need only to take you back two years to the 2017 football season.
The mood in the Auburn family was a bit sour. While Auburn headed into the Georgia game with two losses (a six-point loss at #3 Clemson and a four-point loss at LSU), Tiger fans were less-than-confident as they fretted over the big games against the Bulldogs and the Crimson Tide. Throw in an underlining uncertainty about the team’s head coach, and expectations were not, shall we say, healthy.
And then it happened: Gus Malzahn, as he often does when his back is against the wall, slammed second-ranked Georgia 40-17. Two weeks later, the Gus Bus wasn’t done, as it rolled over top-ranked Alabama 26-14. Malzahn’s seat cooled off so quickly that he would soon be handed a lucrative contract extension that turned his deal into a 7-year, $49 million contract. Yep, that’s what happens when you beat the nation’s top two teams in a span of two weeks.
Don’t look now, but the 2019 Auburn Tigers enter today’s game in much the same situation: The Tigers have two losses: an 11-point setback to then 11th-ranked Florida, and a three-point loss to #1 LSU. And the fan’s faith in Gus? I refer back to the 2017 season before the Georgia game.
If you are not buying into the thought that the Tigers will beat Georgia today, I offer the following: Bo Nix is unbeaten at home this season. Gus Malzahn is 8-0 in his career coming off a bye week. And seemingly every time that Malzahn seems to be down for the count, he gets back up off the canvas and delivers a knockout blow. Whether it’s crazy endings like 2013’s Prayer At Jordan-Hare and the Kick Six, or good, sound football down through Amen Corner in 2017, Malzahn thrives on being the underdog.
Will Gus Malzahn and the Tigers win today’s heavyweight fight? We all know that it could go either way. But I continue to get this overwhelming feeling that by about 6:30 tonight, Toomer’s Corner will be hopping, where the Auburn family will be partying like it’s 2017.