-- ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -- There's plenty of things that stand out in the Auburn-Georgia rivalry, but one tidbit caught Russ Tanner's eye: Heading into the 109th game between the Deep South's oldest rivals, they are separated by one measly point.
That's right. Through all those years, through all the thrilling finishes and occasional blowouts, Auburn has scored 1,619 points on the Bulldogs, while Georgia has countered with 1,618 points against the Tigers.
"It's amazing how long these teams have been playing each other," said Tanner, Georgia's senior center. "It's crazy how close and how tight it's been."
That's not likely to change on Saturday when No. 9 Georgia (7-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) hosts 15th-ranked Auburn (7-2, 5-1).
Both teams are ranked for the fifth time in the last six meetings. Both teams are contenders in the conference race, with Georgia leading the Eastern Division and Auburn only a game behind unbeaten Alabama in the West. Both teams know that the winner of this game has gone on to the SEC championship game four of the past five years.
"It always had huge implications," Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley said. "Whoever wins this game usually rockets straight to the SEC championship game."
The Bulldogs can wrap up their third SEC East title in four years by winning their final two games, or even sooner if second-place Florida loses along the way. Georgia's final conference game is at home against lowly Kentucky (2-6), so this is essentially the game that could wrap up a Dec. 3 trip to Atlanta.
Auburn needs a little help -- and from an unlikely source. The Tigers' most likely course to the Georgia Dome requires hated Alabama to beat LSU on Saturday. Then, if Auburn knocks off Georgia, the Tigers would face the Crimson Tide in a head-to-head showdown for the Western crown.
"We know we have two important games left in the season," linebacker Antarrious Williams said. "A lot of people are going to ask us about Alabama, but we're not worried about Alabama right now. I'm like, 'Alabama who?' It's all about Georgia, and we're just getting ready for these 'Dogs."
The Alabama-LSU game should be over by the time the Tigers and Bulldogs kick off between the hedges. If LSU wins, there's a chance that Auburn would suffer an emotional letdown, knowing that it's only chance to win the West would be for either Mississippi (3-5) or Arkansas (2-6) to knock off the team from Baton Rouge -- an unlikely scenario.
Defensive tackle T.J. Jackson said he's not concerned.
"There's still a lot of history in this game," the Auburn senior said. "We've still got to go out there and perform, because you never know what can happen. Right now, we have to try to beat Georgia. That's the main objective."
Only about a three-hour drive apart, the schools first met in 1892 and have played all but three years since 1898. The only exceptions were 1917 and '18, when America's entry into World War I halted the series, and 1943, when Auburn didn't field a team because of World War II.
The Tigers hold a 52-48-8 edge in the series, which doesn't follow conventional lines. Vince Dooley, the winningest coach in Georgia history, is an alumnus of Auburn. Pat Dye, the coach who presided over one of the Tigers' greatest eras, played for the Bulldogs. Auburn holds a 17-9 edge at Sanford Stadium. Georgia leads 12-9-2 in games played at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"It's bragging rights," said tailback Brad Lester, one of several Georgia natives who plays for the Tigers. "When you go back home, you have to hear everybody talking about, 'Oh, we beat y'all.' We already lost to Georgia Tech, so we can't lose to Georgia, too."
The Bulldogs will be bolstered by the return of Shockley, who sat out a loss to Florida with a knee injury, and three key players on the defensive side. Tackles Kedric Golston and Gerald Anderson will try to slow Auburn's rushing attack, which ranks second in the SEC at more than 207 yards per game. Outside linebacker Brandon Miller also is expected to play after missing the last game because of a sprained ankle.
"Now our team is back to where we want it to be," Anderson said. "We should have success like we were having at the start of the season when we were all healthy."
The Tigers got off to a slow start, losing at home to Georgia Tech to quickly erase any thoughts of duplicating their 13-0 mark of last season. Auburn's only slip-up since then was an overtime loss at LSU, so there's still time to make this a special year.
"These last two games are going to make or break our season," Williams said. "But we've got to go out there against Georgia first, and that's what we're focusing on right now.