The Georgia Bulldogs are basking in the midst of the lengthiest run of glory in program history. Under the watch of native son Kirby Smart, the top-ranked reigning national champions are one of the undisputed kings of college football.
There have been many other magnificent stretches for the Bulldogs: 1941-42, 1945-1946, 1948. There are the Southeastern Conference titles of 1966 and 1968. Cast forever in Georgia lore, the Red and Black’s Golden Era of 1980 through 1983, with the 1980 national championship, three straight SEC crowns, four consecutive top five finishes and a cumulative 43-4-1 record. Georgia finished in the top ten for four straight seasons from 2002-2005, and then was ranked No. 2 in 2007. This is a first though, the five successive top ten finishes and five consecutive major bowls. The chrishindo, the 2021 national championship.
Growing up in the 1980s – I was eight for the 1980 national championship and didn’t really know any different, and then crestfallen and heartbroken after Pitt and Penn State – those glory days and the heroes of so many unforgettable victores will forever hold a special place in my heart and memories. It’s a high the Bulldog faithful had been chasing ever since.
The national championship of 1980 started the magical run through the early ‘80s. The national championship of 2021 was the fifth of five straight sensational seasons. Now the Bulldogs of 2022 try to extend this unprecedented run of greatness in Athens and make their own mark.
So close so many times between 1980 and 2021. Now here we are again.
En route to the mountaintop of college football, the Bulldogs have amassed an impressive record against the program’s longtime, historic rivals. Perhaps most notably, against Auburn.
Since 2006, Georgia is 14-3 against the Tigers, including a 7-0 mark against Auburn at Sanford Stadium.
During the middle and second half of the 1980s, this is something that would be hard to visualize and imagine.
In one of the most important games in Sanford Stadium history, a top four national battle, 8-1 Auburn beat 8-0-1 Georgia 13-7 in 1983. That heartbreaker cost the Bulldogs a fourth straight SEC championship and shot at the national title. It also joined losses to Auburn in 1942 and 1971 as some of the most costly in Georgia history.
From 1983-1990, Auburn went 7-1 against the Bulldogs, with Georgia’s win famously coming between the hoses at Jordan-Hare Stadium 20-16 in 1986. Auburn’s campus is just across the state line, and the Tigers have always hit the Peach State hard on the recruiting trail. A lot of Auburn players from Georgia have dealt a plethora of punishment to the home state school. Especially in Athens. For years and years, this series was controlled by the road team. Auburn was particularly dominant at Sanford Stadium.
From 1977-2001, the Tigers went 11-2 against Georgia in Athens.
When the Tigers pulled off a fourth down final minute comeback – not the last time that would happen – to deal the Dogs a heartbreaking 31-30 loss Between the Hedges in 2005, Auburn led the all-time series 53-48-8.
Now the Bulldogs lead the series 62-56-8, and Georgia aims for an eighth straight victory at Sanford Stadium over Auburn dating back to the mesmerizing Blackout triumph of 2007. Under Smart’s watch, the Bulldogs are 6-1 against Auburn, and that includes one of Georgia’s biggest wins ever. It was a victory that would ignite the Georgia program back into the elite.
In 2017, Smart’s second season, Georgia had an 11-1 regular season. The lone loss came at Auburn by a big number, 40-17. Georgia entered that game ranked No. 1. The Bulldogs came back and beat Kentucky and the Yellow Jackets. Auburn beat Alabama, which had moved to No. 1 and the two would rematch in the SEC Championship Game. The conference crown and College Football Playoff berth were on the line.
Georgia fell behind 7-0 at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, but the Bulldogs would come storming back. Roquan Smith spearheaded the defensive performance and Georgia’s offense got clicking. The Bulldogs won 28-7 to clinch the program’s first SEC title since 2005 and earn one of those four coveted playoff spots.
It was the Bulldogs most significant victory since the aforementioned early 80s.
That 2017 SEC Championship Game triumph over the Tigers sits on the Mount Rushmore of Georgia victories in the Kirby Smart era. The others would be, and surely there’s not too much debate here, the 33-18 National Championship Game victory over Alabama on 1/10/22, the 34-11 Orange Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinal win over Michigan that earned the berth in the big game in Indianapolis for the 2021 title, and the New Year’s Day Rose Bowl College Football Playoff 54-48 overtime victory over Oklahoma that vaulted the Bulldogs into the big game for the 2017 crown. If you wanted to go one for the thumb – a lot of lists are preferred to have five or ten – the 20-19 thriller that the Bulldogs pulled out to beat Notre Dame in 2017 was a launching point for Kirby’s Canines.
It’s well known that in the grand annals of Georgia-Auburn, these two foes have ruined special seasons for the opposition, with the aforementioned numerous upsets on the road. The Tigers will try to do that again on Saturday, to make some new history. While the Bulldogs will attempt to continue this impressive and unprecedented string of success in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.