The bulletin boards are empty.
Auburn and Georgia offered very little provocative commentary on the 120th game in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry this week.
The Tigers have lost 10 of their last 14 games in the series and haven’t won in Athens since 2011, but outside of the boilerplate rivalry talk — “it's a big game every year,” coach Gus Malzahn said this week — the focus was mainly on X’s and O’s.
Auburn coaches and players greeted questions about the large number of Georgia natives on Auburn’s roster, 37 in total, providing added motivation in the locker room with a shrug.
“It’s good reading during the week,” Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said. “It’s probably fun to talk about it with your family. After the first play, it has no effect on anything.”
Five of Auburn’s starters on defense are from Georgia with three of them (Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Dontavius Russell) on the defensive line.
Adams sounded more motivated by the defense’s recent failures against Ole Miss and Vanderbilt than he did about playing in his home state.
“Really it’s just very exciting to be able to come back and play for another week,” Adams said. “Having the current streak we’re on it’s maybe a little pressure to try to keep getting better every week. We’re just trying to take it one game at a time and just keep winning.”
Auburn linebacker Darrell Williams said it wasn’t even a subject that came up in the locker room early in the week.
“Not too much,” Williams said. “Maybe later on in the week, but most guys are just excited about it being our second biggest rivalry behind the last game of the year. It’s the deepest, longest rivalry, so it’s a big game. History tells it that we haven’t been too good against Georgia the past couple of years, so we’re looking forward to this game and playing hard. We don’t want to give them anything.”
Auburn safety Tray Matthews isn’t even making the game personal.
Matthews made six starts as a freshman at Georgia, but was dismissed from the team in the offseason following a series of off the field incidents.
The Newnan High School alum said most of his friends on the team have either gone on to the NFL or graduated.
“Those new guys don’t even know me,” Matthews said.
The prospect of competing for a SEC Championship in Atlanta and staying in the College Football Playoff picture is the driving force for the junior 10 weeks into the season.
“Nah, it’s not going to be tough,” Matthews said of returning to Athens for the first time. “I’m ready to play another game so we can get to where we want to get to.”