Phillip Marshall: A different kind of football rivalry

Nov. 13, 2013

There’s something special about the Auburn-Georgia football rivalry, something that makes it different from others. It’s kind of like a family thing.

When Auburn plays Alabama, it’s like a feud between two ornery neighbors that don’t like each other. When Auburn plays Georgia, it’s more like it’s between two brothers that have been competing all their lives.

The schools, the students who attend them, the football players who play for them and even the coaches who work seem so much alike. That’s not surprising, of course, considering so many Auburn men have made their professional names at Georgia and vice versa.

Vince Dooley, arguably the greatest coach in Georgia history, was an Auburn quarterback and assistant coach. Pat Dye, who won four SEC championships at Auburn, was an All-American guard at Georgia. Shug Jordan was an Auburn man who was an assistant at Georgia before becoming the Tigers’ head coach. Erk Russell played and coached at Auburn before becoming the nation’s most renowned defensive coordinator at Georgia.

The list of Georgia men who coached at Auburn and Auburn men who coached at Georgia is a long one. They all have contributed to making the Deep South’s longest-running series something different and something special.

For generations, Georgia players have crossed the state line to play for Auburn. Far fewer Alabamians have gone the other direction.

You don’t often see Auburn-Georgia listed among the nation’s most intense rivalries, but that’s just because people don’t know. It’s as intense as it gets. Over the years, the visiting team has won more often than the home team. Underdogs have frequently spoiled seasons for favorites.

Pat Sullivan locked up the Heisman Trophy by throwing four touchdown passes in Auburn’s 35-20 victory in 1971. It was the only time the two teams matched perfect records. Bo Jackson romped and stomped in Athens in 1985 en route to the Heisman Trophy. Herschel Walker and Cam Newton polished their Heisman credentials, too.


 

 

No one will lock up the Heisman Trophy Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium when the Tigers and the Bulldogs meet for the 117th time. Amazingly, after all those games, the series is dead even at 54-54-8.

Gus Malzahn will get his first taste of the game as head coach. Mark Richt, in his 13th Georgia season, has made it his own in recent seasons, winning six of the last seven.

The rivalry hasn’t been itself the past two seasons. Georgia crushed last season’s Tigers 38-0 at Jordan-Hare, with head coach Mark Richt spending most of the second half trying not to score. A year earlier, it was 45-7 in Athens. Not even Georgia people liked it.

“This game isn’t supposed to be this way,” an old friend who played for Georgia told me at halftime last season. “This is awful.”

It won’t likely be that way on Saturday afternoon at 2:30.

Auburn is two wins away from the SEC Championship Game. With a win and some help, Georgia could get there for the third consecutive season. It will be intense and it will be physical. Jordan-Hare Stadium will be rocking.

It will be Auburn versus Georgia, the way it’s supposed to be.

 
       

Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: