February 20, 1892. That’s the date the first time the University of Georgia and Auburn University football teams met. It was at Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Ga., the Tigers came away 10-0 winners, and the “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” was born.
Since then, the Bulldogs and Tigers have hooked up 114 more times, and the results have created the closest record of any two college football rivals, with Auburn holding a 54-53 edge, along with eight tie games.
The rivalry has seen a colorful cast of characters come and go over the years. Former Auburn head coach Pat Dye played for the Bulldogs at one time, and his recovered fumble in the 1959 game helped Georgia beat the Tigers and killed their chance of an SEC championship that season.
Legendary former Georgia head coach and AD Vince Dooley was a star quarterback for Auburn and did his share of helping to spoil some Saturday afternoons for the Bulldogs.
In 1986, the Bulldogs came into Auburn huge underdogs. Auburn needed two wins to secure an SEC Championship. Georgia shocked the Tigers and spoiled their championship hopes with a 20-16 win. Georgia fans stormed the field and started tearing up the turf from midfield. When they refused to leave the field, they were doused by sprinkler system and fire hoses, including the Georgia Redcoat Band (Auburn received a sizable bill from UGA for water damage to the band instruments).
In 2007 Georgia wore black jerseys against Auburn for the first time in the modern era, and rolled over Auburn 45-20 at Sanford Stadium. The “Blackout” game was one of the last times that these two old-school football rivals showed any real venom for each other.
The past few seasons have seen the hatred and bitterness that usually accompanied this game basically disappear. Auburn spent a few years in the national spotlight and battled with their biggest rival, Alabama, for SEC West championships and national title consideration. Georgia has been more concerned with figuring how to stop Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks and with reigniting some life into the annual Georgia-Florida classic.
Auburn just isn’t fun to hate anymore for Georgia fans, and it would seem that the feeling coming from down I-85 in Alabama is about the same. In today’s college football world, there’s only room for a few true rivals, and now with the SEC having expanded by adding Missouri and Texas A&M, it’s only gotten worse.
This year there should be a huge buzz surrounding the game. Georgia can win the SEC East, while Auburn can finally win their first SEC game of the season. With all that at stake, you’d think it would light a fire under both teams and the media coverage. Surprisingly, it hasn’t.
Even the oldest and most historic rivalries can die off and be removed from the schedule, as seen by the loss of the Texas-Texas A&M game, and the annual “Border War” between Missouri and Kansas. It might be time for Georgia and Auburn to consider scheduling a different annual cross-conference game, and just let the fond memories of the deep south’s oldest rivalry live on.
Georgia has Georgia Tech and Florida to preoccupy their hatred, and Auburn has Alabama and well…Alabama. If Georgia comes away with a victory in 2012 to completely knot the series at 54 victories each, it would secure an SEC East title for the Bulldogs, and be a poetic end to this once glorious rivalry.