Should Auburn football try to break up 1-2 punch of Amen Corner?

  • Justin Ferguson
  • SEC Country
Dec 07, 2017

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Do you think Auburn should try to move the Georgia game up in the season to avoid having this same gauntlet happen again in the future?

— Reed Beeker (@Beeker_54) December 4, 2017

AUBURN, Ala. — By the middle of the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship Game last weekend, Auburn look spent.

The Tigers were trying to hang in their third game against a College Football Playoff contender in four weeks. And while — in the words of Gus Malzahn — Auburn was simply outplayed and outcoached by Georgia in the 28-7 loss, that stretch of games seemed to take its toll.

That one-two punch of Georgia, then Alabama in quick succession is nothing new. Pat Dye dubbed it “Amen Corner,” and it’s been a staple of Auburn football schedules for a long time.

In fact, the last time Auburn didn’t play Georgia in November came all the way back in 1927. That’s 90 years of late-season meetings with the Bulldogs. And when the Iron Bowl against Alabama resumed from its 41-year hiatus in 1948, the Tigers have always ended their regular seasons with the Crimson Tide.

Those are two long traditions that probably won’t ever change. The 2017 season wasn’t the first in which Auburn had to play an elite Georgia team and an elite Alabama team, and it definitely won’t be the last.

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In 2002 and 2005, Georgia and Alabama were ranked inside the top 10 when they faced Auburn. Both of those seasons featured the rivalry games in back-to-back weeks.

These days, Auburn normally has a break of some kind between Georgia and Alabama. In 2013, there was an off week between the Miracle at Jordan-Hare and the Kick Six. The same scheduling break happened in 2010, when the Tigers went undefeated.

The fact those two seasons are the last two in which Auburn won the SEC championship might say something. (Granted, beating South Carolina in 2010 and Missouri in 2013 weren’t quite as daunting as the matchup Georgia presented last weekend in Atlanta.)

A paycheck home game between the two rivalries is nice — like the one Auburn has had against Samford, Idaho, Alabama A&M and ULM since the 2013 season — but total rest might be better.

According to SEC Country’s Christopher Walsh, the SEC played a hand in that change. For a long stretch, a lot of SEC teams scheduled their bye weeks right before matchups against Alabama. Then, the league mandated before the 2011 season that a team can only face a maximum of three teams coming off byes.

After the change, Auburn went to scheduling those paycheck games between Georgia and Alabama, but it got the bye in 2013.

Auburn had a bye week before facing Alabama in the 2013 Iron Bowl. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Another problem is that it’s tough to ask a team to go 11 straight weeks without a bye. Auburn players and coaches talked a lot this fall about how much the Tigers’ break between the eighth game at Arkansas and the ninth game at Texas A&M was sorely needed.

Fortunately for Auburn, two bye weeks in a season might become the norm. It’s already a scheduling quirk in certain years in which there are 14 Saturdays between Labor Day weekend and Thanksgiving weekend. That will come again in 2019, then later in 2024 and 2025.

However, the NCAA is considering a change that would make 14-week schedules permanent. That would give teams more rest, and, in Auburn’s case, more flexibility with its byes.

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It’s hard to imagine a Georgia rivalry that has been a mid-November game 115 out of 122 times in the regular season moving away from that time slot. The same goes for the Iron Bowl. Traditions that last that long are extremely hard to break.

But there’s a chance Auburn can give itself some more cushion before and between its two biggest rivalry games. Looking to the future, Auburn already has back-to-back November nonconference games set for 2020 — Nov. 14 vs. UMass, then Nov. 21 vs. Alabama A&M.

That would mean the Georgia game and the Alabama game would have at least two weeks of softer matchups between them. If the 14-week schedule is passed, Auburn could better space those games down the road.

With the way all three programs are trending as championship contenders, that would be a smart move for Auburn.

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