In any other year, that would be true. But in this pandemic year, the Southeastern Conference delayed the start to the football season and chose a conference-only, 10-game slate that created dramatically different schedules for the schools.
“This year is so unique. It is what it is,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said in his Tuesday news conference. “It feels exactly as it would in November. We know how important it is. This game usually has a direct effect on the East and the West (divisions). It doesn’t matter if we’re playing today or in November or in March.”
Not only will the date be different, so, too, will the Sanford Stadium atmosphere with the crowd size severely limited by COVID-19 concerns. The school announced in August that it would allow attendance of 20-25% of the stadium’s 92,746 capacity.
“It’s a unique year; I think everybody is learning as they go. I do expect it loud over there and we’ll to be able to adjust to that,” Malzahn said. “Each week, teams will learn; this will be our first road game. We were able to have a home game and I think our crowd did a really good job, like I talked about after the game. We expect it to be loud and we’ll learn after this first road game.”
What hasn’t changed this year is what makes the Auburn-Georgia rivalry special.
“Well, I mean, you know it’s the oldest rivalry in the South, first of all. We recruit the state; I think a third of our team is from the state of Georgia,” Malzahn said. “You can look at it since I’ve been at Auburn, it’s always been very, very important and the winner’s usually went on to do real well. So, it’s a big one.”