From 1983 through 1990, Auburn won seven of eight meetings with Georgia. Thank you Steve Boswell and Wayne Johnson Between the Hoses in 1986. From 1977 through 2001, the Tigers record at Sanford Stadium was 11-2.
No school has taken more from Georgia for a longer period of time than Auburn. Now those three losses to Auburn’s biggest rival in the 2010s cost the Bulldogs a national championship, a shot at two others and a pair of Southeastern Conference crowns.
But Auburn has doled out some heartache for a long time.
In 1942, coming off a 75-0 rout of Florida, the Bulldogs lost their only game of the year, falling to the Tigers. Georgia rebounded to steamroll the Yellow Jackets for the program’s first ever Southeastern Conference title, and then beat UCLA in the Rose Bowl to finish 11-1. The Bulldogs were consensus national champions, voted No. 1 in a majority of polls, but not undisputed. The biggest poll, the Associated Press, named Paul Brown’s 9-1 Ohio State Buckeyes the national champions.
Because of that loss to Auburn.
Arguably the most highly anticipated game in Sanford Stadium history came in 1971. Both the Bulldogs and Tigers were undefeated. As was Alabama. Georgia had Andy Johnson at quarterback, Auburn had Pat Sullivan. And wide receiver Terry Beasley. On a picturesque Saturday, with tickets being scalped for $100 for a single – in 1971 – it would be Auburn’s day. Andy and Jimmy Poulos led the Dogs to an incredible win over the Jackets and Gator Bowl triumph over Vince Dooley’s brother Bill’s North Carolina Tar Heels. 11-1, but no SEC championship.
Georgia came into the 1983 game 8-0-1, ranked third, riding a 24-game home winning streak, and 23-game SEC winning streak. The last SEC loss, and the last home loss, you guessed it, came to the Tigers in 1979. Auburn was 8-1 and No. 4. The Bulldogs scored late and got an onsides kick, and it was rocking Between the Hedges, with Larry Munson, masterful the year prior on the plains, delivering one of his greatest calls in a loss. “Hang on to your shoes everybody, here we go again!”
But Auburn led by Bo Jackson won 13-7.
A victory over the Jackets and the unforgettable 10-9 Cotton Bowl triumph over undefeated, second-ranked Texas pushed Georgia to 10-1-1 and No. 4 in the land. But there would be no SEC title, and no shot at another national championship because of the Tigers.
Oh, for those three.
From 1978-1983, Georgia went 33-2-1 in the SEC. All the blemishes coming to Auburn. Wins over the Tigers would have meant an outright or shared with Alabama SEC championship six years in a row. Losses to the Tigers in 1987 and 1988 cost Georgia SEC championships.
When it comes to sporting “villains” of your favorite team, Pat Dye, a Georgia All-American, who coached Auburn to its 1980s resurgence was always at the top of my list. Still is.
Jim Donnan’s once-beaten Dogs were soaring in 1997, beating Florida for the first time in eight years. But Auburn won in Athens. Georgia finished 10-2 and in the top ten, but a win over the Tigers, and who knows?
Mark Richt’s once-beaten Dogs and Tommy Tuberville’s undefeated Tigers were both in the top five in 2004. Auburn was better that year, winning 24-6 en route to a perfect season. The next year, Georgia fell to Auburn 31-30 in one of the all-time heartbreaking losses Between the Hedges. At that point, Auburn led the all-time series by five, and the cumulative point differential in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry was one. Yes, one point.
If you would have told me that night, or back in the 80s when I was really into Georgia football, what would happen in this grand rivalry, I never would have believed it. Georgia turned the tables. Starting with a major upset at Jordan-Hare Stadium in 2006 and continuing through back-to-back national championships, the Bulldogs have beaten Auburn 15 times in 18 meetings.15 of 18, incredible!
Amongst the highlights, the 2007 Blackout victory in Athens, and a shutout on the Plains in 2012.
Auburn’s three wins over that period came from three great teams. In 2010, Auburn beat Georgia and won the national championship. In 2013, the Tigers beat Georgia on The Prayer at Jordan-Hare, won the SEC and played for the national title. In 2017, Auburn “beat the dog crap” out of Georgia. 40-17 was the final.
But there would be a rematch.
For the first time, Georgia and Auburn played in the SEC Championship Game with the conference crown and a College Football Playoff berth on the line. The Bulldogs prevailed 28-7 to capture the SEC title and punch a ticket to the Rose Bowl and the CFP.
Since that glorious day in Atlanta, the Bulldogs have beaten Auburn six consecutive times and now lead the all time series by seven, 63-56-8. While Kirby Smart has Georgia soaring, the Tigers have turned to Hugh Freeze, in his first season at the Auburn helm. He’s the program’s third head coach of the 2020s – not counting the interim Cadillac Williams, Freeze’s top assistant.
Freeze is the lone active SEC coach to have won his team’s last head to head meeting with Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs. In 2016 when Freeze was at Ole Miss, the Rebels rolled past Georgia 45-14 that Saturday in Oxford.
Now Freeze’s Tigers try to take down the champs and turn the tables back their way in this epic series.
“It’s gonna be rocking,” Kirby Smart said of Jordan-Hare Stadium.