ATLANTA – It’s only appropriate. In a year that has been about a revenge tour from last season, the Georgia football team will go to the SEC Championship Game with a chance to avenge it only loss from this season.
Auburn and Georgia will meet Saturday for the SEC title, with a spot in the College Football Playoff on the line. Auburn clinched its spot by upsetting No. 1 Alabama 26-14 on Saturday.
The rematch will come three weeks to the day that Georgia (11-1) was embarrassed by the Tigers, 40-17.
But that game was at Auburn, where the Tigers are unbeaten this season. The SEC championship will be at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Auburn (10-2) will also be banged up, with star tailback Kerryon Johnson leaving Saturday’s win with a shoulder injury. But it will bring the same defense that shut down Georgia’s vaunted running game and the same offensive line that produced the Bulldogs’ worst defensive showing of the season.
This is the first time Georgia and Auburn have met in the SEC Championship Game since it began in 1992. It will be the first SEC championship since 2010 that will be a rematch of the regular season. Georgia will wear white jerseys as the designated road team (that alternates between the East and West divisions).
Speaking before he knew who the opponent would be, Georgia coach Kirby Smart tried Saturday not to overstate the magnitude of the game.
“It’s not really any different for me than going to Auburn or going to Tennessee. It’s an SEC game,” Smart said. “It’s a good team. We’ll prepare the same way. We’ll do a lot of the same things.
“You don’t make the moment bigger than it is. I mean, our team’s got to go out there of going out and preparing, doing the best that we can. That’s what it is. I’ve been in a lot of big games as a coach, I don’t see it being any different being a head coach. I wanted to win those as a defensive coordinator just as bad as I wanted this one.”
Smart coached in the SEC championship five times as Alabama’s defensive coordinator, winning it three times. That included the last time Georgia was in the title game, five years ago at the Georgia Dome.
The SEC East hasn’t produced the conference champion since 2008, when Florida won it. No current Georgia player has played in the SEC championship.
“The moment’s not too big for these kids,” Smart said. “They’ve got to go execute and play a good football team. There’s no over-riding message. There’s no speech that’s going to be given that’ll make them Superman. They’ve got to go out there and do a good job. We’ve got to go out there and play our game. And go out there and work to get better. And that’s what we’ll do.”