Georgia-Auburn: How rematches have played out in SEC Championship Game 

Six years ago, there were plenty of people who didn’t want to see Alabama get another shot at LSU — this time for a championship. Kirby Smart couldn’t concern himself with that. He just had to find a way to flip the result.

Smart was the defensive coordinator at Alabama, which had lost to LSU in an epic, some would call ugly, 9-6 game. The teams were paired again for the BCS championship, and two months after the original game, Alabama won the one that mattered the most, 21-0.

Now, Smart is the coach at Georgia and again has a chance to avenge a regular-season loss — this time in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday. But Smart doesn’t see the rematch with Auburn — which routed UGA two weeks ago by 23 points — as totally analogous.

“The biggest difference was how far apart the games were,” Smart said, citing the one-month wait between the end of the regular season and the second LSU game. “We had that entire prep time. In this situation, we’ve got the game week, so it’s really four or five days of prep, then you’ve got to go play.

“You had more time to do things and try to get things different. I don’t think you can reinvent the wheel in a week. Really hard to do.”

This is the seventh rematch in an SEC Championship Game. The team that won in the regular season is 5-1 in the rematches, with the exception being 2001, when LSU lost to Tennessee in the regular season but then beat the Volunteers in the SEC championship.

The last rematch also involved Auburn: Seven years ago, the Cam Newton-led Tigers beat South Carolina in late September and then again in early December, when it won by more.

Gus Malzahn, now Auburn’s coach, was the offensive coordinator in that game.

“The unique thing about this is it’s a [three]-week turnaround,” Malzahn said. “It’s been very recent; that makes it a little more unique and challenging.”

Todd Ellis was on the other end of it in 2010, as South Carolina’s play-by-play analyst. Ellis, who also played quarterback at South Carolina, came away thinking that momentum and venue were important. While Auburn had played at home the first time, Ellis thought the split crowd for the title game “draws out who’s the better football team.” And that year it was Auburn, which, by then, was rolling. By getting out to a big lead in the first quarter, Auburn kept its momentum going and showed the Gamecocks the second game wouldn’t be different than the first one.

“The neutral site issue changes things a great deal. One team or another is losing a huge advantage,” Ellis said. “I think a championship game, in a rematch, you have seen the other team’s weaknesses, know your own weaknesses against them, and coaching comes in there.”

Malzahn thinks the neutral-site venue will be a big change. Auburn had the benefit of its raucous crowd at Jordan-Hare Stadium the first time around against Georgia, an advantage that shouldn’t exist at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“I know there’s going to be a whole lot of Georgia fans,” Malzahn said. “Especially the fact they’ve had a little more time to know they’ll be playing in the game.”

But there were somewhat similar circumstances for Georgia the one time it had a rematch in the SEC Championship Game, and it didn’t go well. Back in 2003, LSU beat Georgia, 17-10, in Baton Rouge on Sept. 20. Then, the Tigers won the rematch in more thorough fashion, 34-13 at the Georgia Dome. (The only player-coach connection still at UGA is Odell Thurman, then a Georgia star linebacker, now an intern on the strength and conditioning staff.)

LSU’s coach that year was Nick Saban, who a year later hired Smart as an assistant. And eight years later, they were at Alabama, turning the tables on LSU. Now, Smart will try to do it again as a head coach.

“I don’t really see it as a challenge or an advantage for either team,” Smart said. “We play [Auburn] every year anyway, with it being our crossover rival. Two times in one year is unique. But it’s not really a challenge or an advantage in any way. I think both teams just know each other. A lot of carryover on both staffs. A lot of talented players on both teams. I’m not sure it presents any advantages or disadvantages.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in UGA / DawgNation

Star-studded field for Atlanta Open announced, includes UGA’s Emil Reinberg 
Star-studded field for Atlanta Open announced, includes UGA’s Emil Reinberg 

Thirty-nine days from the opening matches of the BB&T Atlanta Open, tournament director Eddie Gonzalez revealed the players who will take to the courts at Atlantic Station beginning July 21.  John Isner, the reigning singles champion and a former Georgia Bulldog, will return to try to defend his title, but the task won’t be an easy one as...
Q&A: Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm 
Q&A: Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm 

Fields, fishing accidents and favorite plays? Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm spoke about all of the above and more in a recent exclusive interview with the AJC before the Atlanta Sports Awards ceremony.  A. It’s good. He’s a great football player. Right now, we’re just both trying to become the best player we can and make the...
UGA’s David Pollack on College Football Hall of Fame ballot
UGA’s David Pollack on College Football Hall of Fame ballot

Former Georgia All American David Pollack is on the 2019 College Football Hall of Fame ballot. » More: Tech stars on Hall of Fame ballot The defensive lineman led the Bulldogs to two SEC title games during his tenure in Athens (2001 to 2004). His credentials include: • Three-time First Team All-American (consensus in 2002, 2004) ...
NFL contracts for Georgia picks total $53.5 million
NFL contracts for Georgia picks total $53.5 million

Six Georgia players selected in the 2018 NFL Draft have inked deals totaling a combined $53.5 million.  With three first-round picks, the Bulldogs lay claim to being one the highest-grossing programs for draft picks in 2018.  According to Over The Cap salary tracker, this is what each draft pick from Georgia will receive over their...
Georgia football traditions: Sanford Stadium hedges
Georgia football traditions: Sanford Stadium hedges

The phrase “between the hedges,” coined by Atlanta Journal sportswriter Grantland Rice, is synonymous with Georgia football. Sanford Stadium’s privet hedges, which cover about 5,000 square feet around the playing field have survived disease, winter weather and more than one move. The hedges are not just cosmetic there is...
More Stories