Guerry Clegg

Can Auburn, Alabama and Georgia chase perfection?

In this Nov. 30, 2013, file photo, Auburn cornerback Chris Davis (11) returns a field goal attempt 109-yards to score the winning touchdown over Alabama during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Auburn, Ala.
In this Nov. 30, 2013, file photo, Auburn cornerback Chris Davis (11) returns a field goal attempt 109-yards to score the winning touchdown over Alabama during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Auburn, Ala. AP Photo

It could have happened last year, but the schedule and some questionable play-calling foiled the plot.

So maybe this will be the year.

Maybe Georgia, Auburn and Alabama will all be undefeated until that second Saturday in November when Auburn travels to Georgia.

That last time that happened was 1971, Pat Sullivan’s Heisman Trophy winning season at Auburn. The Tigers beat Georgia then lost to Alabama. The three teams finished the regular season with two losses among them, and undefeated against everybody else.

Can it happen again?

The early Vegas lines suggest that could be the case. Auburn is a slight favorite to beat Washington in the season opener in Atlanta. If the Tigers win that, the possibilities are intriguing. All three teams are the early favorites in every game leading up to the Georgia-Auburn showdown.

Sure, a lot has to fall into place. But think about how close it came to happening last year. Auburn played Clemson, which clearly had the better team, on the road and came within a touchdown and two-point conversion of forcing overtime. Then there was that befuddling second-half collapse at LSU in midseason.

The first two weeks will be very telling.

Auburn is better now than it was going into last season if for no other reason than quarterback Jarrett Stidham is much improved and more comfortable running the offense. Playing Washington at Mercedes-Benz Stadium has to less daunting than playing Clemson on the road.

Meanwhile, Alabama opens against Louisville in Orlando. That’s an intriguing game. Louisville’s Jawon Pass might turn out to be the biggest test the Crimson Tide’s rebuilt defense faces all year. But if Tua Tagovailoa starts or at least plays half of the offensive snaps — and I suspect he will — then it’s hard to see Louisville holding Alabama under 30 points, and it’s hard to see any team putting up that many against the Tide.

Georgia’s test comes the second week at South Carolina. Like Alabama, the Bulldogs’ biggest question is their defense. There’s plenty of young talent that eventually will be good. Playing Jake Bentley on the road in just their second game will be tough.

After that, here are the biggest threats to ruining the trifecta.

Week 3: LSU at Auburn -- LSU may be the hardest team in college football to read. The roster is loaded with talent. But there’s uncertainty at quarterback. The only thing we know for certain about Ed Orgeron is he can recruit and he talks funny. Auburn has as much talent, maybe more, and has a distinct advantage at quarterback and coaching and is playing at home.

Week 4: Georgia at Missouri -- Two week after facing Bentley, the Bulldogs get to face Missouri’s Drew Lock -- who may be the best passer in college football -- on the road. But they could put 40 points up on Mizzou.

Week 5: Auburn and Georgia are at home against Southern Miss and Tennessee. Brett Favre and Peyton Manning will not play. Next.

Week 6: Auburn at Mississippi State -- Hmmm, the plot thickens. The Bulldogs are the trendy dark horse pick. They have just about everybody back from last season. Way too early to call this one, but I still like Auburn.

Week 7: Georgia at LSU -- Georgia has more talent and by this time the defense will not be so green. Playing at LSU isn’t as intimidating as it once was.

Week 8: The only thing moderately intriguing this weekend is Alabama playing at Tennessee and Jeremy Pruitt. Auburn visits Ole Miss and Georgia is off.

Week 9: Georgia-Florida -- The Bulldogs probably won’t win 42-7 like they did last year, but it probably won’t come down to the wire, either.

Week 10: Now things gets really interesting. It’s the last week before the Auburn-Georgia game and Alabama’s potential showdown at home against Mississippi State. Alabama plays at LSU, Auburn is at home against Texas A&M and Georgia visits Kentucky. Alabama, Auburn and Georgia should win. But all it takes is one upset to end the perfection. But my guess is if they’re good enough to run the table up to this point, they will be good enough to avoid an upset.

Will it happen? We’ll see. Can it happen? Absolutely.

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