AUBURN, Ala. — Two years ago, The Wall Street Journal named Georgia/Auburn the “dirtiest rivalry in college football.” Studying 40 different rivalries the paper found that no series saw more personal foul penalties per game than tussles between the Bulldogs and Tigers, averaging 5.4 late-hit and behavior related infractions in the previous five meetings.
Harnessing that emotion while not earning a flag is a balance both teams will try to achieve Saturday.
“Penalties can really make a huge difference, especially when they happen down the stretch or in a time where it seems a little more crucial than earlier in the ballgame,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “But we've got to do a good job of playing hard without getting a foul, which is not always easy to do in these types of games.”
Gus Malzahn agreed, noting that emotions always run high in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.
But to Auburn’s head coach, keeping that passion in check is all a part of being a disciplined football team.
“We have done a solid job of that for the most part,” he said. “We did have only one penalty last week, which I thought was huge. We’ve got to continue to do that.”
No hard feelings from 2011 contest
Malzahn was Auburn’s offensive coordinator when it faced Georgia in Athens two years ago. That year, the Bulldogs won 45-7 in one of the worst performances for the Tigers’ offense under Malzahn’s direction.
While admitting he’s thought back to that lopsided loss a time or two, Malzahn also said he’s recalled happier times against Georgia, such as the year before, when the Tigers toppled the Bulldogs 49-31 en route to the national title.
“I think you look at past experiences when you're going against different people,” he said. “ ... You try your best to put together a plan you can be successful.”