There are the other contenders. Those two gut-wrenching losses to Alabama, the Florida teams of Steve Spurrier and the absolutely lovable Urban Meyer, Tennessee’s nine straight, and worst of all the infamous drought. Thank goodness my parents were just young children during the darkest of days in Georgia football annals. No way could I have made it through eight straight to the enemy. Talk about the Great Depression.
But no school has taken more from Georgia than Auburn.
There was 1942. Undefeated Georgia, coming off a 75-0, yes 75-0 rout of Florida, was upset by the Tigers. The Bulldogs would rally beat to rout second-ranked Tech 34-0 to clinch the school’s first ever Southeastern Conference title and then beat UCLA 9-0 in the Rose Bowl. Sound vaguely familiar? Though Georgia would be the consensus national champion, that loss to the Tigers, cost the Bulldogs the undisputed title.
One of the biggest games in Sanford Stadium history pitted undefeated Auburn and undefeated Georgia in 1971. The Tigers would hand Georgia its lone loss of the season, costing the Bulldogs the SEC title and a shot at the big prize. The Bulldogs were 8-1 in 1978, needing a win for a “Wonderdogs” SEC title, but the meeting on the Plains ended in a tie. Bama won the SEC. Georgia was mediocre in 1979, but 5-0 in the SEC. Auburn won in Athens. In the midst of the golden era of Georgia football, the Bulldogs, three time defending SEC champions, 1980 national champions – so close to two others (speaking of painful losses, hello Pitt and Penn State) – were 8-0-1, Auburn was 8-1. The Bulldogs fell in a 13-7 heartbreaker, breaking a 23-game SEC winning streak and 24-game Sanford Stadium winning streak, costing Georgia a fourth straight SEC title, and yes, a shot at the big prize. That great Georgia team would finish 10-1-1 and No. 4 in the nation. From 1978-1983, Georgia went 33-2-1 in the SEC, with all three blemishes coming to Auburn.
Losses to Auburn cost Georgia the SEC titles of 1987 and 1988. The overtime loss in 2000, the game ending on the one yard line in 2001, No. 3 Auburn-24, No. 5 Georgia-6 in 2004, the heartbreaker of 2005. Ouch.
For this lowly Bulldog loving scribe, it was certainly Auburn that caused the most anguish. From the aforementioned 1983 gut punch through 1990, Auburn won seven of the eight meetings in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. Thank you Steve Boswell in 1986 between the hoses. So as former Georgia All-American Pat Dye was raiding the Peach State for incredible defensive linemen, costing the Bulldogs a few more SEC titles, the angst, ire and frustration aimed at the loveliest village on the Plains festered. Yes they “paid” with a couple of years of probation, but those losses to Auburn cost Georgia so much.
Following that kick to the teeth in ’05, the anti-Belue-to-Scott, Auburn led the all-time series 53-48-8.
Well, things turned around that next season, as 6-4 Georgia stunned fifth-ranked once-beaten Auburn 37-15 in Jordan-Hare Stadium, an upset quite typical of this series where the underdog and road team has delivered so many upsets.
Dating back to that early kick at Auburn, Georgia has won 10 of the last 13 meetings, highlighted by the unforgettable 28-7 Bulldogs victory over the Tigers in last season’s SEC Championship Game. That rematch triumph trumped what, in the pre-conference title game and now playoff days would have certainly been a loss added to the list of crushing losses to Auburn. And that day on the Plains last season, the 7-2 Tigers rolled past the top-ranked Bulldogs 40-17. It turned out to be the best loss Georgia has ever had.
After Auburn beat top-ranked Alabama to earn a berth in the title tilt, the Bulldogs got rematch win, conference crown and College Football Playoff berth.
Georgia now leads the series 58-56-8.
These two started playing football back in 1892 in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park. Georgia and Auburn got it started down here. It’s the deep south’s oldest continuous rivalry, The only interruptions in the rivalry in the 20th century came during World War I, in 1917 and 1918, and World War II, in 1943.
There is so much venom between Auburn and Alabama, Georgia and Tech and Georgia and Florida. There are so many cross connections and ties between the Bulldogs and Tigers. Dye helped Georgia to the 1959 SEC title and blocked Tech’s PAT in the 7-6 win in 1960. Auburn’s legendary football coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan, for whom the stadium is partially named, was an assistant football coach and head basketball coach at Georgia. He shared an office with Dan Magill, the Greatest Bulldog Ever. Vince Dooley, Erk Russell and Joel Eaves all came to Georgia from Auburn. In fact, Dooley, a Jordan protégé, who led Georgia to six championships, clinched five of those titles on the Plains.
Still though, despite those connections, don’t mistake this as that impossible “friendly” rivalry. It’s friendlier perhaps. But these two are bitter recruiting rivals and Auburn always is at work trying to raid the state for elite Peach State prep talent. And there is all that history.
It would have been hard to imagine, 30 years ago, beating Auburn 10 of 13 times. Now it’s up to these Bulldogs to keep this ancient series trending Georgia’s way.