Three weeks ago, the Albany State Golden Rams were 1-4 and seemed to be mired in a second straight season to forget.
But after three straight wins, the Golden Rams can clinch the division with a win over rival Fort Valley State.
The intensity always turns up when it's Fountain City Classic week in Albany, but this year's game has extra implications other than just bragging rights.
With a win, head coach Mike White's team is headed to Atlanta to battle it out for the SIAC Title.
"We're playing for the chance to play for the championship," says head coach Mike White. "This is what you wanted, and this is what we got Saturday."
"We're just preparing like every other week," says senior LB Marcavious Dudley. We're not looking at them different as Fort Valley or anything like that. We raised our level of intensity this week, but we look at it as any other game."
For both schools, the final Saturday of the regular season is always circled on the calendar.
But adding a division crown to the bragging rights for the winner just magnifies what makes this rivalry great.
"It's the crowd, all the hype," says Dudley. "It's for all the marbles."
"It's the best. It really is. It's like having two homecomings in one," says White, who has seen this rivalry as a player and a coach. "It is what a rivalry is all about. It doesn't get any bigger for an Albany State person than Fort Valley."
Even White is surprised to see his team in this position considering how the season started.
"If you would have asked me earlier in the year if we had lost four games, and we only had won four games, I wouldn't have thought we would be here," laughs White. "But it's good to be here. We're here now, so let's do something about it."
A win not only puts the Golden Rams in Atlanta, but it would give this senior class three wins over FVSU.
The Fountain City Classic kicks off at 2:00 p.m. Saturday in Columbus.
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