ATHENS -- Cam Newtons name was announced, and the Auburn home crowd screamed in approval. The game started that way. It ended in a near-brawl, with Georgia players led by Marcus Dowtin ready to rumble over a hit by Auburns Nick Fairley.
That was the scene the last time the Georgia football team traveled to Auburn. It was a heated atmosphere, and it was equaled by the intensity of the game, which left hard feelings on both sides, but mainly the Bulldogs.
Everything, it seems, has changed since that November night in 2010. Newton, Dowtin and Fairley are all in the NFL now. Only one of the players who started for Georgia on offense is still around. Only 16 current Bulldogs, or less than one-fifth of the current roster, played in that game, a 49-31 Auburn victory.
But the lessons of that game are quite evident, just have to flip the situations of each program:
This time its Georgia (8-1) on the verge of a trip to the SEC championship game, which it will clinch by winning Saturday. Back in 2010, Auburn was unbeaten entering the game, and by beating Georgia, it clinched its spot in Atlanta.
This time its Auburn (2-8) facing questions about the future of its coach and overall going through a miserable season. Back in 2010, Georgia was 5-5, and prior to the game head coach Mark Richt got a public assurance from his new boss, Greg McGarity, that he would return.
The main difference this time around is Auburn is worse off, and Georgias chances at a national title are more far-fetched -- although they are there. But the main similarity is that one team -- this time Auburn -- has a chance to play spoiler.
And Georgia knows that.
You know were gonna get their best shot, Georgia senior linebacker Christian Robinson said.
It was somewhat interesting that Richt, for the first time in several weeks, had no concerns about his team being adequately motivated.
Oh no, are you kidding me? Richt said. Theres no chance. No chance.
Does this mean the team is past the recent theme of needing extra motivation every week?
I think anything you can use for motivation. But the question was would we overlook Auburn. Theres no way, Richt said.
Richt has been reminding his team this week that Georgia and Auburn recruit many of the same players. The underlying premise is Auburn has the talent to play well and pull off the upset, so dont let that happen.
The scary thing is that at any moment I think that they could click, and a lot of people will think, Well dang, Auburns put it together, look how bad Georgia looks, theyre struggling against Auburn, Georgia backup quarterback Hutson Mason said. The talents there, but when youre 2-8 or whatever they are, its can you get the guys to believe and focus? And I think as big as the game is this week its gonna be there for them. The motivation and the preparation is gonna be there, because theres a lot on the line.
Mason made the trip to Auburn in 2010 and acknowledged that trying to play spoiler was the main motivation for that Bulldogs team. And for three quarters they were in that spoiler role, until Newton helped the Tigers pull away.
Two years later, Auburn is perhaps the worst team in the SEC.
Thats crazy. If you think about it, its kind of crazy, Georgia senior cornerback Sanders Commings said. Two years ago, they didnt lose a single game. Now theyve only won two. I mean, that just shows you college football is crazy. Also, they had a guy named Cam Newton two years ago.