The Georgia Bulldogs were the worst team in the SEC last season, but that did not stop the No. 1 Tigers from dueling with their familiar foes in a contest that had every fan on the edge of their seat until a Wendell Green, Jr. layup saved the day for Auburn and preserved that No. 1 ranking for a bit longer.
As Auburn heads to Stegeman Coliseum again, a more formidable foe awaits in Athens. Tom Crean was fired after his 6-26 campaign in 2021, including a 1-17 record in the SEC, and the Dawgs turned to Florida head coach Mike White to replace Crean.
White struggled at Florida, never equaling the success of Billy Donovan in Gainseville, but he always caused problems for Bruce Pearl and his staff when the two faced off. In the seven seasons that White faced Pearl, the new Georgia coach is 6-3 against the Tigers and Pearl, including Auburn's last SEC loss at home and the 69-47 game in the 2019-2020 season.
Even two of White's three losses to Pearl came against the team that went on to make the Final Four, arguably Auburn's best team of all time.
White has caused problems for Auburn in the past, primarily on the defensive side of the ball, with a perfect counter for the offenses of Pearl and his staff. The 69-47 game is a primary example, but even last year, White's Gators took down the No. 2 Tigers in a close one 63-62, with both matchups being in front of a raucous home crowd for Florida.
Auburn took over Stegeman Coliseum last season, and while a large contingent of Tiger fans is expected to make the trip to Athens, the Bulldogs are 10-3 with the SEC schedule beginning and some new enthusiasm surrounding the program, so the crowd might not be as one-sided as last year.
At 10-3, White's first year has already surpassed Crean's final season, but Georgia's schedule has been one of the weakest in the nation through 13 games. The Bulldogs' strength of schedule is currently ranked No. 307 out of 363 teams, and Georgia's only notable win was a close victory over a struggling Notre Dame team.
Despite this, no SEC game is a guarantee, as seen with Auburn's close call against Florida on December 28 or last year's escape at Stegeman. Auburn's offense is still trying to find a way forward, and they will be tested against the Dawgs' defense, which is ranked No. 59 in scoring.
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