The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry has a long history of Auburn breaking Georgia’s heart, however, the pendulum has swung lately

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The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry has a long history of Auburn breaking Georgia’s heart, however, the pendulum has swung lately

Jeff Dantzler
Jeff Dantzler

One of the most unique and celebrated rivalries in college football is the deep south’s oldest, Georgia and Auburn. As my friend Andy Burcham, the voice of the Tigers says, from the viewpoint west of the Chattahoochee, Auburn-Alabama may be more intense, but Auburn-Georgia is the best.

Certainly from the Bulldogs view, no school has more rivals than Georgia. For decades, the schedule closed with the big three – Florida, Auburn, and Tech. In the 20th century, no school took more from Georgia than Auburn. Losses in 1942, 1971 and 1983 were particularly crushing. Though the Bulldogs were consensus national champions and claimed their first-ever Southeastern Conference title in 1942, a loss to Auburn cost Georgia the perfect season and undisputed crown. In 1971, Georgia and Auburn were both undefeated. As was Alabama. In one of the most highly anticipated games in Sanford Stadium history, Pat Sullivan led the Tigers to victory, and it would be the lone blemish for the 11-1 Bulldogs. Georgia was 8-0-1, Auburn 8-1-0 in 1983, and Bo Jackson led the Tigers to a win between the hedges. This broke Georgia’s 24-game home winning streak and 23-game SEC winning streak and cost the Bulldogs a fourth straight conference title. The tie of ‘78 and losses in ‘87 and ‘88 cost Georgia SEC titles.

From 1983-1990, Georgia went 1-7 against Auburn.

From 1977-2001, Georgia went 2-11 against Auburn in Sanford Stadium.

When the SEC expanded and the league split into divisions in 1992, Georgia went East, Auburn went West. The Bulldogs began playing Tennessee every year, and long-time opponent South Carolina was sworn in as a member of the toughest league in the land, making the Gamecocks an SEC foe.

Technically, it lessened the importance of Georgia-Auburn. You could lose the game, win the rest, and still play for the SEC title.

More on that later.

But more often than not, when the Bulldogs and Tigers met, at least one had hopes for a trip to the SEC Championship.

Auburn added to the hit-list of pain in 2005, but Georgia went on to win the SEC title. Unfortunately, due to a trio of open-heart surgeries minus the anesthesia from Auburn’s hated cross-state rival, these heartbreakers have fallen on the old Red and Black misery index.

In addition to the agony of the aforementioned angst against Auburn, the Tigers have done a lot of their damage with Peach State products. Well, the campus on the loveliest village on the Plains is a short jaunt across the Chattahoochee. Auburn has been, is and likely always will be Georgia’s chief recruiting nemesis. The real estate from Atlanta, west to Jordan-Hare Stadium, is a fierce recruiting battleground for the Bulldogs and Tigers.

Recruiting stakes are always a most significant sidebar, and once again the game’s significance is high. Georgia is in the running for a berth in the SEC Championship Game, while Auburn, as is customary for Georgia’s 2019 opponents, is coming off an open date and hoping for a bit of a repeat of two seasons ago when they beat their big-two rivals with both the Bulldogs and Alabama ranked No. 1 at the time.

That setup, for the first time, a rematch between the Bulldogs and Auburn for the SEC title. When it comes to Georgia victories over the Tigers, that SEC Championship Game triumph of 2017 goes on the Red and Black’s Mount Rushmore of memorable victories in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.

2017 – A 40-17 loss to Auburn was the lone setback in Georgia’s 11-1 2017 regular season. The Bulldogs would storm to victory in Atlanta just three weeks later, topping the Tigers 28-7 to win the SEC championship in Kirby Smart’s second season at the helm in Athens. Georgia would earn a berth in the College Football Playoff, beat Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, and, well, we all know the rest.

2002 – Trailing Auburn 21-17 at a raucous Jordan-Hare and facing fourth-and-15 on the Auburn 19-yard line, David Greene connected with Michael Johnson for the go-ahead touchdown. Georgia’s defense held and the Bulldogs clinched a spot in the SEC Championship Game for the first time in the history of the event. The Bulldogs would trample Tech 51-7 and then dominated Arkansas 30-3 to win the program’s first conference title since 1982. A Sugar Bowl win over Florida State was the capper on a 13-1 season.

1982 – Speaking of … With Georgia holding a 19-14 late and the clock winding down, the Bulldogs held off a late Auburn drive to win on the Plains, improve to 10-0 and clinch a third straight SEC championship. Larry Munson was at his absolute pinnacle of greatness, begging the Dogs to “Hunker Down One More Time.” When Georgia did, there was “Sugar falling out of the sky.” The Dogs followed with a 38-18 termination of Tech and finished the regular season 11-0.

1959 – When it comes to the biggest plays in the history of Georgia football, there is Buck Belue to Lindsay Scott. As for the second, there’s a great debate between Greene to Johnson and Fran Tarkenton to Bill Herron. The latter, a 13-yard scoring strike on fourth down, and subsequent Durward Pennington PAT, delivered the Dogs the 14-13 victory at Sanford Stadium and the 1959 SEC championship. Georgia would go on to topple Tech and then beat Missouri in Orange Bowl to go 10-1.

That 2017 SEC Championship Game victory is the highlight of an incredible run of success for Georgia against Auburn. Going back to the Bulldogs upset of the fifth-ranked Tigers in 2006, Georgia has won 11 of the past 14 games against Auburn.

For old Dogs who suffered through seven of eight from ‘83-’90, and the other head-hanging setbacks, this streak of success, which includes winning 11 of the last 14 contests and taking the all-time series lead at 59-56-8 has been mighty sweet.

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