Last decade, Alabama handed Georgia three of the most devastating losses in the history of the Bulldogs football program. Georgia led in all three games by double digit points in the second half in a pair of domed stadiums in Atlanta.
These Bulldogs of 2021 are marching towards history, aiming for a perfect season and National and Southeastern Conference championships. Standing in the way of the latter, and quite possibly the former is, of course, the Crimson Tide.
Could this be Georgia’s time?
It’s happened before.
One of Georgia’s greatest ever teams was the 1946 juggernaut that posted a perfect 11-0 record, captured the SEC title and beat North Carolina in the Sugar Bowl. Led by College Football Hall of Fame legends Charley Trippi and Johnny Rauch, Georgia won every game by double digits, with the 20-10 triumph over North Carolina in New Orleans the closest margin of victory.
Unfortunately the Bulldogs were awarded the national championship by only one source, the NCAA recognized Williamson Poll. Georgia finished No. 3 in the Associated Press Poll behind Notre Dame and Army, who played to a famous 0-0 tie that season.
Amongst Georgia’s most significant wins in 1946 came against the Crimson Tide, as the 5-0, fifth-ranked Bulldogs defeated 5-1, No. 15 Alabama 14-0 at Sanford Stadium. The year before, Alabama went 10-0 and beat USC in the Rose Bowl.
The Greatest Bulldog Ever Dan Magill recounted to me the most important play of the game. Trippi, who won the Maxwell Award, but finished second in the Heisman balloting to Army’s Glenn Davis, “Mr. Outside,” despite superior statistics, was back to punt for Wally Butts’ Bulldogs on third down. That was not out of the ordinary in those days. Alabama blocked the punt, but Trippi fought off a pair of stampeding Pachyderm to recover the loose ball and maintain possession for the Bulldogs. Trippi got off a successful punt on the ensuing play and Georgia held Alabama out of the end zone en route to victory and a dream season.
In young Vince Dooley’s second year at the Georgia helm in 1965, the Bulldogs upset the defending and eventual national champions 18-17 Between the Hedges. The play of the day was “the flea flicker,” Kirby Moore to Pat Hodgson to Bob Taylor to bring Georgia within one. The Bulldogs then converted the two point conversion on a Moore scoring pass to Hodgson. Georgia’s defense held and the Bulldogs prevailed. It was a signature win.
Injuries would strike though, and the Bulldogs of 1965 would finish with a 6-4 record. But the stage was set for a special season.
In 1966, Georgia went 10-1, won the Cotton Bowl, and shared the SEC title with 11-0 Alabama. The two didn’t play that year. The Bulldogs lone loss was 7-6 at Miami. Notre Dame, which played a famous 10-10 tie with Michigan State, was awarded the national championship. The Spartans finished second. Bama third, Bulldogs fourth. There was serious northern bias amongst the pollsters for decades.
Many Bulldog fans will tell you that the greatest game and weekend in Sanford Stadium annals came in 1976. It was a raucous scene, with the railroad tracks behind the East End Zone beginning to fill up early in the week.
Georgia beat Paul “Bear” Bryant’s five-time defending SEC champion Crimson Tide 21-0, sending Athens and the Bulldog nation into a frenzy. Milledge Avenue was shut down. Hundreds of streakers – it was a thing in those days – were part of the throng.
The Bulldogs would slip up against Ole Miss, but go 10-1 and capture the SEC championship.
Two of Mark Richt’s most memorable victories at the Georgia helm came against Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Georgia was 0-5 all time in Tuscaloosa, but came through in a 27-25 thriller in 2002. The next week, the Dogs won a top ten matchup against Tennessee to showcase themselves as an elite contender.
An upset loss to Florida was the lone blemish. It was a bitter pill as well, since that year, both Ohio State and Miami went undefeated and played for the national title. SEC Georgia, which finished 13-1 and No. 3, was left out.
Five years later, it was Saban’s first year as Alabama’s head coach, and the Bulldogs pulled out a thriller. Matthew Stafford hit Mikey Henderson for a 25-yard touchdown in overtime to deliver a 26-23 victory.
A decade later, what a cruel twist of fate, with the score and how it ended.
Smart has built Georgia into one of the elite programs in college football. For a decade, he worked for Saban and was a big part of building the machine on the Capstone.
Alabama has gotten to relive their glory days of the 1970s and then some.
Smart has Georgia right there. The 2020s could well be the decade of the Dawgs. Georgia has put up an incredibly impressive record under Smart’s watch, but the giant elephant in the room remains.
These Bulldogs are aiming for a 15-0 national and SEC championship season. As long as Smart is at the helm, the promise is there for Georgia to be amongst college football’s very best year after year.
The next step is Saturday in Atlanta.
Will this be Georgia’s day on a march towards destiny?
All of that heartbreak against them in the 2010s will always linger, but Georgia has done it before against Alabama. If these Dawgs do it, that ultimate dream gets one step closer.