UGA football: Do Gators rank first among Dawgs’ three biggest rivals?

I remember a few years back ranked the SEC’s top rivalries, and four of the Top 10 involved Georgia: The series with Florida was No. 2 (behind Alabama-Auburn), Georgia-Auburn was No. 6, Georgia-Tennessee was No. 7, and Georgia-South Carolina ranked No. 10.

Really, though, Tennessee and South Carolina occupy the second tier of Georgia’s rivalries — and these days you could make an argument that they’re no more important than any other SEC East game. Certainly, no one considers Missouri, Vanderbilt or Kentucky to be rivalry games.

No, when it comes to real rivalries, Georgia has a clear Big Three: Auburn, Georgia Tech and Florida (which used to be a Big Four when Clemson was an every-year opponent). Georgia-Auburn is the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. (David Weikel / UGA) Auburn is UGA’s oldest football rival — and, for many fans, the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry is a sentimental favorite, with the two schools having played 120 times over the past 125 years.

UGA and the former Alabama Polytechnic Institute aren’t that far apart geographically, recruit the same territory, and have had many close connections — for years, Georgia’s coach was an Auburn grad and Auburn’s was a Georgia grad. They also both have fight songs based on the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

The “feuding cousins” nature of the rivalry (as Vince Dooley once termed it) was perfectly reflected back in 1992 when Auburn coach Pat Dye, who played for UGA, attended a centennial commemoration of that first Georgia-Auburn game at Atlanta’s Piedmont Park. Although ostensibly there to represent Auburn, he recited the old rhyme about being “a Bulldog born and a Bulldog bred, and, when I die, I’ll be a Bulldog dead.”)

Auburn admittedly always has been my favorite of Georgia’s regular series. I think, in part, that’s because the Dawgs usually clinched their SEC titles against Auburn in years past, before the schedulers added another conference game for us between the Tigers and the Jackets.

It also helps that, overall, Georgia-Auburn has been an incredibly even series, with UGA currently having a two-game advantage (57-55-8) thanks to winning nine of the past dozen meetings.

The Tech series still matters, too. The clean, old-fashioned hate may have lost some of its meaning for Bulldog Nation back when the Jackets left the SEC, but even the occasional loss to the traditional in-state rival is considered just plain unacceptable.

Georgia fans may not obsess over the series 365 days a year, like many Jackets fans seem to do, but they absolutely hate seeing the Dawgs lose to Tech. Losing to in-state rival Georgia Tech is unacceptable to Bulldog Nation. (Sean Taylor / UGA) That wasn’t always the case. Back when my Dad was growing up, a lot of UGA fans considered Tech the second state school and would root for them, except when they played the Dawgs.

But, in my lifetime, the rivalry has sharpened to the point where many, if not most, fans for each school take great delight in any misfortune that befalls the other. The […]