The Georgia Bulldogs have been outstanding this football season at avenging losses from last year.
Can they now produce some payback from earlier this month?
Georgia has a revenge opportunity Saturday at the 26th annual Southeastern Conference championship game and the first to be staged at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Bulldogs traveled to Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 11 as the No. 1 team in the playoff rankings, only to get thumped 40-17 by the rampaging Tigers.
"We look back at things to see how we've done, but coming into a game we really don't try to focus too much on that," Bulldogs senior outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter said Monday. "We don't try to put a lot of emotional energy into games, because that will drain you out and have you tired in the fourth quarter when you really need it."
Whether it's a revenge factor or not, Georgia has settled scores impressively in Kirby Smart's second season. After losing to Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida and Georgia Tech last year, the Bulldogs have routed that quartet this time around by the average score of 42-7.
SEC PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
CO-OFFENSIVE: Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who completed 21 of 28 passes for 237 yards and rushed 12 times for 51 yards and a touchdown in the Iron Bowl.
CO-OFFENSIVE: Missouri quarterback Drew Lock, who threw for 448 yards and five touchdowns at Arkansas, setting the SEC single-season record for passing scores at 43.
DEFENSIVE: LSU linebacker Devin White, who had 13 tackles in the 45-21 triumph over Texas A&M. White leads the league through the regular season with 127 tackles.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Ole Miss kicker Gary Wunderlich, who made a field goal and four extra points in the Egg Bowl win. He finished with a school-record 350 career points.
FRESHMAN: Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm, who is 1-0 against Georgia Tech after completing 12 of 16 passes for 224 yards and two scores during the 38-7 rout.
CO-OFFENSIVE LINEMAN: Ole Miss tackle Greg Little, who helped pave the way for Jordan Wilkins to rush for 110 yards and protected on two long touchdown passes.
CO-OFFENSIVE LINEMAN: Vanderbilt center Bruno Reagan, who played every snap on an offense that racked up 33 first downs, 246 rushing yards and 529 total yards.
DEFENSIVE LINEMAN: Auburn defensive end Nick Coe, who had five tackles, one sack and one quarterback hurry in the Iron Bowl. Two of his tackles came on third down.
— David Paschall
Georgia could not atone for last year's lopsided loss at Ole Miss, instead putting a 31-3 hurting on rotating cross-divisional foe Mississippi State in September.
"It's not so much about revenge as it is us underclassmen wanting to send our senior class out on top and out the right way," Bulldogs junior receiver Terry Godwin said. "It just happens that Auburn has come back up in our way again, so we have to go out there and defeat them."
Auburn unleashed a 40-3 surge in the first meeting after spotting the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead. The Tigers racked up 488 yards of total offense and yielded just 230, and their advantage in rushing offense was 237-46.
Though Auburn would love to produce a carbon copy in Mercedes-Benz, the Tigers are not counting on the Bulldogs to comply.
"It's not going to look anything like the last game," Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said in a news conference, "so we've got to prepare just like the first game against Georgia never happened. We do have video that it did happen, and we do have things we can take from that video to show how we can correct things and get better at some things. Obviously we can look at our game plan that worked, but they're going to look at our game plan that worked, too."
Said Auburn senior linebacker Tre' Williams: "They're going to bring it, no matter what, so we've got to prepare like we've never played them."
The 26th SEC title game will be the eighth rematch, with the seven previous winners of the regular-season meetings posting a 6-1 record in Atlanta. Two of Auburn's three SEC title-game triumphs have occurred via rematches: the 38-28 win over Tennessee in 2004 and the 56-17 win over South Carolina in 2010.
Auburn lost twice to Florida in 2000, and Georgia lost twice to LSU in 2003, so revenge hasn't meant much with the SEC title at stake. It doesn't mean much to Smart this week.
"You watch tape of the game, and it fires you up before the game and gets you all excited," Smart said in a news conference, "but when the toe meets leather, it's about striking people and blocking and tackling and having composure. It's about having discipline, and it really doesn't revert back to who won the previous game.
"What matters is what you do in that game, because the other game is history. I just think you should prepare the same regardless of your record and regardless of a revenge factor and just be real consistent in your approach so that the players understand that it's important to prepare right in every game."
The only SEC title game that was a successful avenging was LSU's 31-20 comeback triumph over Tennessee in 2001, which cost Phillip Fulmer's Volunteers the opportunity to face Miami for that season's national title.
Carter said last week that losing to Georgia Tech last season was motivation to return for his senior year, but he added that revenge and other motivating factors in a typical week have a way of disappearing once a game kicks off.
"All the emotions and thoughts you have before a game go away once you start hitting and the bullets start flying," he said. "I'm sure people will be excited and that we'll have a lot of energy and emotions, but when it comes down to it, those emotions aren't going to win the game. It's how you play."
Following Auburn's win earlier this month, Tigers coach Gus Malzahn conducted an interview on CBS before turning and exclaiming, "We beat the dog crap out of them, didn't we?" His comments were heard clearly on the microphones, so could the Bulldogs have some bulletin-board material on top of the revenge aspect?
"At the end of the day, regardless of what happened three weeks ago, that's three weeks ago," Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham said. "It happened in the past. We're both in the SEC championship for a reason."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.