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7 reasons Georgia-Auburn is actually one of the country’s best rivalries

This game has more history and familiarity than almost any other in the sport, and it’s had its share of amazing moments.

Auburn v Georgia Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

When one lists the best rivalries in college football, Auburn-Georgia rarely comes in near the top of the list. When I looked at a bevy of such lists to do a piece on the most unpredictable rivalries, Auburn-Georgia appeared on only three of 13 lists.

A major reason is that both teams are participants in far more famous rivalries. Auburn has the rivalry with Alabama, which typically appears at or near the top of any ranking of rivalries. Not far behind on most lists is Florida-Georgia. Georgia-Georgia Tech will also usually get more attention.

Thus, a natural response to calling Auburn-Georgia a major rivalry is, “Why should I view this as a momentous game when neither fan base considers this its biggest rivalry?” Why indeed?

1. It’s got deep history.

Auburn-Georgia did not get the moniker of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry by accident. The teams first played in 1892 at Piedmont Park in Atlanta in a game that was described as “the social event of the year.” (And you wonder why Southerners dress up for college football games.)

North Carolina-Virginia has the title of “the South’s Oldest Rivalry” despite kicking off later in 1892. It’s been played slightly more frequently than Auburn-UGA, which most recently took a year off during World War II.

Still, entering the 121st meeting, Bulldogs-Tigers is one of the five most-played FBS rivalries, passing the dormant Missouri-Kansas this year.

2. It’s familial.

Auburn is a stone’s throw from the Georgia border. The nearest major city to Auburn is Columbus, Georgia. Over 10 percent of Auburn’s students come from Georgia, twice as many as any other state (save for Alabama itself). There are more Auburn graduates in Atlanta than any other city, including Birmingham and Auburn itself.

Auburn plays on Pat Dye Field. Dye is a Georgia native and 1960 UGA graduate. Georgia’s athletic campus is named the Vince Dooley Athletic Complex. Mobile’s Dooley is a 1954 graduate of Auburn.

Auburn and Georgia fans bump up against one another on a constant basis. They work with one another, go to church with one another, cut one another off in traffic, and occasionally bond and reproduce together. That social dynamic means that this game, er, just means more.

3. It’s chaotic.

In the last 25 meetings, the home team has won only 10 times. Home field advantage is supposed to be worth three or four points in college football. In the Auburn-Georgia rivalry, it appears to be a burden rather than a benefit.

4. It created one of the best debates in college football history.

Bo or Herschel?

5. It’s competitive.

Going into the 2015 game, the two teams had met 118 times and the series was tied at 55 wins apiece with eight ties. Georgia has upset that fragile balance in the last two seasons with a pair of one-score wins.

Speaking of which ...

6. The games are close.

In 1992, a favored Georgia team headed to the Plains to play Auburn in the final days of Dye’s tenure. An underdog Auburn played above its head, literally inches away from an upset win. The Tigers would not get those inches, thanks to a combination of odd play-calling by Auburn and Georgia’s casual approach to unpiling after the final play:

That game kicked off a stretch in which 13 of 25 Auburn-Georgia games would be decided by one score. It’s not an accident that these teams played the first overtime game in SEC history and that the game would feature a team coming back from a 21-point deficit, a 30-yard pass on the last play of regulation to force overtime, and four overtime periods to produce a winner:

If you want to know why Georgia fans are stressed this week, it’s because they know that their No. 1 team is likely going to require some dramatics to keep its unblemished record. Vegas agrees that this edition is going to be close, installing the Dogs only as a 2.5-point favorite. S&P+ agrees, as it projects a 26-24 Georgia win.

7. It’s weird.

Does your favorite rivalry have this?

Or a mascot trying a new career as a mohel?

Or one where, legend has it, a defensive coordinator was demoted at halftime and then took a swing at the head coach?

Or a defensive tackle’s personal war against an opposing quarterback leading to a full-on brawl when the offensive line retaliated?

Can both sides of your rivalry point to fourth-down miracles that led to conference championships, barely more than a decade apart?

Continuing with the theme of the ties between these two programs, the Prayer at Jordan-Hare was thrown by Nick Marshall, a former Georgia player who had transferred to Auburn, and was defended by Tray Matthews, a Georgia player who would transfer to Auburn and will start for the Tigers on Saturday.

So forget the national title stakes.

Forget UGA’s No. 1. Forget Auburn can win the SEC, even though one former player was campaigning for Gus Malzahn’s job after the Tigers blew a 20-point lead at LSU. Forget that both teams are ranked in the top 10.

Watch Georgia-Auburn because there is always a good chance you’ll see something memorable. Watch because you are likely to see a close game. And watch because you can then imagine fans of the two teams fighting in offices, bars, and schools about the results for decades.


Auburn should probably have another win in this great rivalry