Historic Rivalry as Year Nears End

February 20, 1892, Piedmont Park, Auburn (then, as now, Alabama’s big state agriculture school, but pre the school being named “AU-Barn”) joined the fold. The Dawgs had whipped little Mercer earlier that winter, but Mercer isn’t up to snuff enough to be a rival. Aubie is.

The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry was played six times in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, five times on the upper fields near the tall building city proper and once on the lower field where I still snag footballs when I can convince someone to hurl them and have seen the Eagles (the band) do all their group and solo stuff and Paul McCartney play the Beatles’s biggest hits.

We took a segmented tour of Georgia’s small cities in and around some other travel two summers ago; instead of zooming fast her-foot-on-the-gas-while-I-study-the-map toward, away, around, to or fro a semi-tropical or familial destination, we drove through and got out of the auto in the central towns themselves: Savannah (where we want to get a 2nd home), Macon (where we had some Nu-Way at the original location), Augusta (her folks live nearby in Martinez), Madison (lovely little antique village close to Athens), Conyers (where my dad had had an office), Statesboro, even (we didn’t actually get out of the car for that one but saw the edge of the college). Each of those Georgia towns with some notable charms.

I thought the downtown of Columbus, where we visited a coffeehouse, was as nice as any, save Savannah, which was so full of art and much more cosmopolitan than it’d been on my previous visits. Columbus is a big GEORGIA-AUBURN town near the border of Alabama-Georgia. The series was played there for many years. We played them in a few other neutral sites, too, over the history of the rivalry.

Then in 1960, Auburn’s four biggest rivals were Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. Georgia was the first to agree to visit the Plains and give them a home game. This year we travel to Auburn for a back-to-back visit, effort made by UGA to keep the rivalry intact every year while the league expanded.

54-54-8. That’s the record of each program in this rivalry of Sister Schools. A “Sister School” is a primary collaborator in academic programs, and generally a rival. Georgia-Auburn’s historic ties stemming from academic team-ups between our old agriculture schools.

Vince Dooley went to Auburn and the first time I met him (in Atlanta) he didn’t mix words in telling me how important it was for then-coach Donnan to beat “Au-bun” that Saturday. We didn’t and a loss in the next game to Tech (which saw me puke on my shoes on the way out of town) cost Jim his job.

You have to beat your biggest rivals. Clemson is not a rival anymore, just as Tech isn’t Auburn’s rival. Dawgs are 3-0 versus S Carolina, Tennessee, Florida – we swept our East rivals, though we tanked badly at little Vandy and were honestly outclassed at home by upstart Mizzou under the weight of staggering injuries and, perhaps more so, unrealistic fan expectations.

Auburn is 0-1, losing badly at rival LSU. They have only three big rivals and get Georgia, then a bye, then #1 Bama. Georgia beats Auburn, and the West is Bama’s, again, already. We can’t, that means, play Auburn twice. But we can get a rematch with Alabama if Mizzou loses at suddenly surging again Ole Miss and to Texas A&M in what could be Johnny Football’s and Mike Evans’s and coach Kevin Sumlin’s last SEC football game. #10 South Carolina is no longer a factor for us, as they can not win the East while we beat Kentucky/Auburn if Mizzou loses those two. Mizzou wins just one and we are done, and Cocky would get another day in the sun (of the Dome). If they beat a beaten Florida, that is.

That’d be South Carolina’s only second ever East crown, but they couldn’t take Bama. Could Mizzou? Maybe. They are reaching potential and have the talent. At our rounding into health, suddenly top five in the SEC D, with vastly improved special teams play, with GURLEY-MURRAY at peak and tossing the ball off play action to Rumph-Bennett-Conley, near best, could we?

We will probably never know. The Mason era is probably essentially underway, as far as the SEC East goes, but I like the way Ole Miss is playing, especially at home. And I mean his name is #JohnnyFootball. Missouri gets the bye this week, then gets James Franklin back at QB.

We need to win, and play Kentucky next so pencil that one in, at night Between the Hedges. So, games at Auburn and Tech stand between GEORGIA and fairly sizable Glory this year. 10-3 and sweep your rivals in a year where we had an almost all-new D and a BIG injury bug. Good.

In other factoid news: Georgia has played in 16 straight bowls and SEC leader in that mark (4-5 this year) Florida in 22. If they drop games to #11 South Carolina and #2 FSU (they play Statesboro’s Georgia Southern in between), then Georgia gets that designation.

Pat Dye went to Georgia and coached at Auburn. He said it’s a “family rivalry” and (trust me here I have three younger ones and have rarely lost to any of them at anything) you want to beat your brothers.

Auburn is 8-1 and has reached all of their expectations for this football season. They won 5-of-7 over Georgia, then dropped 6-of-7, the only win in that period coming when an obviously paid (meaning ineligible) player rallied them from a big early deficit. We need it more than they do.

Reminds me of Georgia at #5 Auburn, when some early year team magic had been crushed by mid-season inconsistency and inexperience. We put it together for Auburn and then won out. Already a writer, I started Blawg-ing for the first time then. We started slow the next year again but finished that season #2 in the country, which next year would mean playoffs. Sure, it’d be like Georgia to finish fifth in a four-team playoff. It’d also be like us to win this football game Saturday.