A birth to Dome and a tie in the series beckons
by Jeff Dantzler
photo by Rob Saye
Saturday night in the loveliest village on the
plains, history meets the future.
Everyone in the college football world understands
what is at stake, as fifth-ranked Georgia,
8-1 on the year and 6-1 in Southeastern
Conference play, tangles with struggling
Auburn, winners of just two games this year,
none in the toughest league in the land. If the
Bulldogs come out on top, the East division title
and a berth in the SEC Championship Game
are clinched. The chance for a special season, as
games against in-state foes Georgia Southern
and Tech are on tap after Auburn, is still very
much in play.
This is also a big milestone opportunity for
Georgia in the deep south’s oldest rivalry.
Against the school that has taken more from the
Bulldogs than any school. Ever.
Auburn has dealt Georgia some of the
most painful losses in school history. Three of
those, in the years 1942, 1971 and 1983, sit
alongside the ’82 and ’83 Sugar Bowls and ’02
Florida games, are amongst the six most significant
and painful ever dealt the Dogs.
In 1942, led by eventual Heisman Trophy
winner “Fireball” Frank Sinkwich and fellow
college football Hall of Fame legend Charley
Trippi, “The Scintillating Sicilian,” Georgia
steamrolled Florida 75-0 to improve to 9-0 and
ascend to No. 1 in the land. The Gators had
beaten Auburn earlier in the year. But the Tigers
pulled off the upset, downing the Dogs 27-13 in
Columbus. The loss was devastating. Georgia
fell to No. 5 in the polls. The Dogs rebounded
to steamroll undefeated, second-ranked Tech
34-0 in Sanford Stadium to win the first SEC
championship in school history and earn the
Rose Bowl berth. The Bulldogs downed UCLA
9-0 and were consensus national champions,
crowned No. 1 in six different polls. But because
of that loss to the Tigers, Georgia wasn’t
perfect and the undisputed national champions.
It was the most highly anticipated game in
Sanford Stadium history. November the 13th,
1971, 9-0 Georgia hosted 8-0 Auburn. Longtime
Georgia fans still contend that it was the
toughest ticket ever – keep in mind, the stadium
sat 59,000 then. One Bulldog loyalist told me
about buying a ticket for $150. In 1971. Not
only were the Bulldogs and Tigers undefeated,
so was Alabama. Pat Sullivan and Terry Beasley
made a couple of dynamic plays and Auburn
out-dueled the Dogs 35-20. One of Georgia’s
greatest ever teams did not taste the Southeastern
Conference title. On Thanksgiving Day, the
Bulldogs had an all-time bounce back win, with
Andy Johnson and Jimmy Poulos leading the
heroics of a thrilling 28-24 last second victory at
Tech – the second half of a college football double
header that began with Nebraska’s famed 35-
31 victory over Oklahoma. Georgia would go
on to beat North Carolina 7-3 in the Gator Bowl
to finish at 11-1. Alabama beat Auburn, then
got crushed by Nebraska in the Orange Bowl
for the national championship. It was one of the
great seasons in college football history.
Georgia was in the midst of its golden era
in mid-November 1983. The Bulldogs were the
three-time defending SEC champions, 8-0-1
and ranked third. Auburn was 8-1, No. 4. The
conference crown and a shot at the national title
were the on the line in one of the biggest games
in Sanford Stadium annals. Georgia rallied with
an onsides kick, but fell 13-7. The Bulldogs
edged Tech 27-24 and then beat second-ranked,
undefeated Texas 10-9 in the Cotton Bowl on
the greatest day in college football history, January
2, 1984. No. 4 Miami beat mighty topranked
Nebraska 31-30 in the Orange Bowl –
the greatest college football game ever. No. 3
Auburn edged Michigan 9-7. Four games that
determined the national title were determined
by a total of four points. In the final polls, it
went: Miami, Nebraska, Auburn, Georgia,
Texas, Florida. The top six teams lost a total of
seven games, all to one another.
A tie with Auburn cost the Dogs the 1978
SEC title. A loss to Auburn cost the Dogs the
1979 SEC title. Same in ’87. And ’88. A loss to
the Tigers cost Georgia a top five national finish
in 1997. And 2005. To break it down, had
Georgia beaten Auburn in 1971, 1978, 1979,
1983, 1987 and 1988, there would be six more
SEC championship banners flying above the
This Georgia team must try to get, as it has
done against Missouri and Florida, on the right
side of history, and avoid joining this painful list.
The Bulldogs have turned the series against
the Tigers, winning five of the last six meetings.
A victory this year would make it six out of
seven, something Georgia hasn’t done since the
1940s and early ‘50s.
A win over Auburn would even the alltime
series at 54-54-8. That would be a great
tribute to the Georgia people and every coach
and player in the annals of this grand rivalry.
Georgia has so much on the line. The Bulldogs
are an aforementioned 8-1 and ranked
fifth. The last time that was the case was 2004.
That Georgia team was ranked fifth. That Georgia
team ran into a buzz-saw and went down
24-6 on the plains to Auburn. That Auburn
team went undefeated, won the Southeastern
Conference championship and finished No. 2
This Auburn team has struggled mightily.
The Tigers lone two wins are an overtime decision
against a good Louisiana-Monroe squad
and a 42-7 rout of New Mexico State this past
Saturday. They could certainly salvage something,
as their two arch rivals, Georgia and Alabama,
are on the upcoming slate. And nothing
would make the Tigers happier at this point than
ruining the dreams of the Bulldogs and/or the
Granted it was against New Mexico State,
but Auburn got the offense going, so they are
heading into the Georgia game with a lot of confidence.
And this Tiger squad fought LSU tooth
and nail, before falling 12-10 at Jordan Hare Stadium.
That is the type of game, that is the type of
foe, that is the type of battle Georgia should be
expecting Saturday night.
And there is an intangible the Tigers have
The last time Georgia was 8-1 and ranked
fifth was, as mentioned above, 2004. The Bulldogs
defensive coordinator that year was Brian
Van Gorder. The secondary coach for Georgia
was Willie Martinez.
Those two are now in the same positions at
So there will be some serious familiarity between
the two, especially when Georgia has the
As tough as it could be, the Bulldogs do
have the better team. Georgia did an excellent
job of making adjustments defensively and on
the offensive front to turn a scary 10-0 first half
deficit to Ole Miss into an impressive 37-10 victory.
If the Bulldogs play hard and smart for 60
minutes, and keep the foot on the accelerator,
this team will accomplish much in victory.
This is another prime example of Georgia’s
players’ motto for 2012: “Our time. Our team.
A title and catching Auburn in the series
can be savored by Bulldogs past and present by
taking care of business and capitalizing on this