Auburn, Georgia wise to not underestimate Sun Belt Conference opponents in season-openers

Coach Gus Malzahn Auburn football game week press conference on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017 in Auburn, Ala. Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

COLUMBUS, Ga — Auburn and Georgia both say they will not underestimate their season-opening opponents from the Sun Belt Conference. Just ask the Michigan Woverines or the Florida Gators or how that can turn out.

Georgia will host Appalachian State at Samford Stadium on Saturday, September 2 at 6:30 pm. App State, as they are commonly referred to, pulled off one of the biggest upsets in college football history nearly ten years to the day of their game with Georgia. The Mountaineers defeated then No. 5 Michigan in Ann Arbor, 34-32 in the 2007 season-opener. App State also took home a $400,000 paycheck.

Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart remembers the game well.

“I remember the game. I remember the blocked kick. No. 1 it helped them recruit probably on a little bit more, I would not say nationally, but even more than just regionally. They were able to go out and get players from Florida because of that game. It gave them great exposure. There were a lot of great players in that game for App State, just like this team here has. They have some really talented guys who are fast. Those guys — this is the opportunity of a lifetime for them. You have to understand that their want and desire cannot be more than your want and desire” said Smart.

In 2016, App State took Tennessee into overtime in Knoxville, before the Volunteers prevailed 20-13.

Georgia is paying App State $1 million for their trip to Athens. The Bulldogs are favored by 14 1/2 points according to most Las Vegas books.

Auburn will also open the season with a Sun Belt Conference opponent, when they host Georgia Southern on The Plains on September 2 at 7:30 pm.

In 2013, Georgia Southern went into The Swamp and defeated Florida, 26-20. Two years earlier, the Eagles took the Georgia Bulldogs to overtime in Athens before falling 23-17.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn is well aware of the Eagles’ ability to raise the blood pressure of SEC opponents and their fans.

“We are playing a very challenging team in Georgia Southern – a team that has had a lot of success when they have played some bigger teams, obviously like beating Florida at Florida a couple of years back, going to Georgia and going into overtime, and of course last year playing Ole Miss and they were beating them late in the second half, so this ought to be a good game,”said Malzahn.

Auburn is paying Georgia Southern $1.3 million to play at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Tigers are favored by 34 1/2 points according to most Las Vegas books.

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