Alabama vs. Georgia: the Frenemy Bowl

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Of course, unless you live in the Southeast, notably in Alabama and Georgia, pretty much the region will shut down.  As a Georgia resident who is a Alabama fan, I’m seeing it firsthand.  Governor Nathan Deal signed Monday as Georgia Day where all employees can wear red & black.  And the place has never been more amped up for a football game even more than the Falcons in the Super Bowl last year.  However, Georgia has a EXCELLENT share of Alabama fans (myself included) that also live & die with the Tide.

If you’re outside the area, you’re rolling your eyes as we speak and you are already ready to click “back” on this page.  After all you’re believing this is another SEC game that shouldn’t happen and these are two hated rivals going against each other…………again.

Except…..well, it isn’t.

In fact, one of the interesting oddities I have seen in college football for a very long time is the fact that Georgia and Alabama RARELY play each other in the regular season and for as good as both teams have been in the last 10 years, they have only seen each other once in the 2012 SEC Championship, a classic tilt with Alabama winning a seesaw war.

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In the last 10 years, Georgia and Alabama have only met 4 times with Alabama taking 3.  Of course, you go, “well, Alabama and Georgia are in different divisions.”  Okay, caught me there.  And if you go back to when the SEC was divided into two divisions, the Tide and Bulldogs have only played 9 times in 25 years.  Alabama has gone 6-3 in that stretch.

“Okay, but they had to have played every year before that when the SEC still had 10 teams!”  And you’d be surprised to hear, “not really.”  After the 1965 season, the Tide and Bulldogs rarely saw each other.  So in a 52-year window, Alabama and Georgia have played 16 times.  Yes, the SEC powers played 16 times in 52 years.  Unheard of.  To put that into perspective, Georgia has played both Ole Miss and Mississippi State in that same time period more times.  Alabama has played Vanderbilt and Florida more times in tha time period.

More interesting is this: In the past 10 years, Alabama has played Clemson the same amount of times.  But the one series that sticks out the most is this one: In the last 40 years, Alabama has played Penn State 13 times to only playing 12 against Georgia.

So……………..is absence making the hearts in Tuscaloosa in Athens make the heart grow fonder?  Perhaps.

If you come down to the Alabama/Georgia area, there is not much disdain between the Tide fans and the Bulldog fans (which both sides are known to be rabid towards opposing fans and have not garnered a lot of positive attitudes among the other SEC fan bases).  There seems to be a mutual respect and admiration for both.  Maybe it is the whole “S-E-C!” mentality.  But it is interesting when you see in the past even when the Tide took on LSU in the 2011 National Championship, most of my friends who were die-hard UGA fans had no hesitation of cheering for their next-state-over team to beat the Tigers.  Even this year, as rumors abound that if Auburn won the SEC Championship, it would actually solidified Alabama’s place in the Playoff for the mere fact that Auburn would be the lone team Alabama would lose to and they would have lost to the #1 team.  Still, most Alabama fans pulled for Georgia well before pulling for Auburn.  Again, is it a love Georgia or hate Auburn in that case?

Well, one interesting thing is the parallels of the rivalries.  Tennessee, Florida, and Auburn are major rivals of both schools.  Alabama’s cross-conference yearly rival is Tennessee while Georgia is that way with Auburn.  Of course, the Alabama/Auburn Iron Bowl is always a monster but the Tennessee/Georgia has picked up being a bit of a nasty rivalry as well.  While the Tide and Gators do not see each other on a yearly basis anymore, the SEC Championship always seemed to have both and it created an immense hatred among the players and the fans alike.  Ironically, the major enemy that BOTH Alabama and Georgia had was Georgia Tech.  Yes, Georgia plays Tech yearly, but in the old days of the SEC, the Yellow Jackets resided there.  And the #1 rivalry wasn’t Alabama/Auburn or Georgia/Georgia Tech, but Alabama/Georgia Tech.  That rivalry got so heated and despised that Alabama’s Darwin Holt smashed Tech’s Chick Granning in the face, ending his career with major facial injuries.  Tech’s Bobby Dodd asked Bear Bryant to suspend him, to which Bear declined, thus infuriating Tech more.  Adding on to “over-recruiting” by the likes of Alabama, Georgia, and others, the Jackets split the SEC as they believed Alabama was not playing fair and wasn’t attempting to playing fair.  Alabama had no love for them as they were chief enemy #1 to them, not Auburn.  In fact, Alabama’s fight song has a line of “send the Yellow Jackets to a wat’ry grave!”  While Georgia Tech is not considered being an SEC team anytime soon, it will be interesting if it ever happened where the Jackets and Tide renew the rivalry.  But as for this rivalry, it may be the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” approach.

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Now a new wrinkle has come in to Alabama and Georgia: Kirby Smart.  Smart, a UGA player/alum and now the head coach spent nearly 10 years at Alabama under Saban.  Smart has used the Saban approach in handling games and all the other things that is needed to win for the Bulldogs such as recruiting, getting the right personnel, etc. Alabama fans thanked him for his time in Tuscaloosa (though some think his time was running out near the end as his defenses struggled down the stretch), but he took Alabama’s blueprint to Georgia with him and so far it has worked to near perfection.  And fans of Alabama respect what Kirby has done just as much as what Georgia fans have respected what Alabama has done over the years.  However, many in Georgia feel that Kirby will get the advantage over his mentor Saban in the recruiting wars now as Georgia has always been a high school football hotbed and is doing a great job of keeping players in-state so the likes of Alabama and others cannot raid them like they’ve done.  However, Alabama fans will always say, despite the top recruiting classes every year, it is just one part of the process.  The field is the next step and they like to point out Georgia always has good classes but fails on the field.  So there is that bickering that is going on.

Which brings to fun ribbing of each other.  Georgia fans tease Bama sometimes at some of the “fake” national titles Bama has claimed and of course the whole “your fans are a bit odd” mentality.  Bama fans like to tease that Georgia fans love to talk but there’s no hardware in the trophy room in Athens like there is in Tuscaloosa.  And of course, the “your fans are a bit odd too” return.  But aside from that, there is mutual respect.

When Monday comes and goes and we crown a new national champion, there will still be a “I don’t like Alabama/Georgia as much as I had prior,” but there will still be a respect and the bases will still pull for each other especially in those rivalry games when Alabama faces off against Tennessee and Georgia faces Auburn 2 weeks before Alabama will.  And given how football can be unpredictable, we never know when Georgia will see Alabama again, in the regular season, SEC Championship, or Playoff.  And until it is constant, the Tide and the Bulldogs will always be frenemies.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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