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The Best Week of the Year: Auburn vs. Georgia


The best week of the year is here. It's Auburn-Georgia. Sure the Iron Bowl is a million times more important, but when the football gods invented the sport, they had to be thinking about a cool fall afternoon in north Georgia where two like-programs try to get the best of the other.

For Auburn fans of my generation, it's hard to not think about Coach Dye during Georgia week. Besides owning Alabama, he made his name by whipping his old alma mater.

Back before the internet, Dye's Thursday evening radio show was required listening. By Georgia week, his program rivaled the importance of The State of the Union address. And to be completely honest, it meant a whole lot more to this teenager.

Outside of an article or two in the morning newspaper, this was the night to hear the unfiltered truth about the game - or so we thought.

Around early November, a point in the schedule he called, Amen Corner, Dye would develop this lingering cough that would last the rest of the season. At times, he sounded like he was near death.

On his Dialing Dye radio program hosted by Jim Fyffe, he would cough his way through the show taking calls from kids who wanted to sing War Eagle and from adults that wanted to know how he would beat Georgia.

Dye would always open the program talking about the week's preparation and then would end by saying, "Well Jim, the hay's in the barn now. There's nothin' left to do but get out there and execute."

For some reason, I still remember one Georgia week where numerous calls came in asking about his daughter, Wanda, who was in a "full-body cast" because of a back ailment. Looking back, it seemed like poor Wanda was in that cast for years.

I remember during that particular Georgia week, there were nearly as many calls about Wanda as there was about Georgia.

"That Wanda, she's a fighter," Dye would say. "You know she's in that full-body cast, but she keeps on fighting. She's battling just like our team. She's a winner and she's tough like me."

You can't make this stuff up. The times were so different - and so awesome.

I remember seeing Wanda at the War Eagle Supper Club years later and the first thought I had was of that damn full-body cast. It's funny what memories of Auburn-Georgia can conjure up.

There are so many great memories of Auburn-Georgia, regardless of our age.

My earliest memory of the series date back to the 1970's when the duo of Joe Cribbs and James Brooks ran all over Georgia. I can still hear Gary Sanders on the radio describing Auburn's big wins over Georgia in 1977 and 1979.

I can remember being equally disappointed in the 22-22 tie in 1978. Those two legends never got a win in the Iron Bowl, but they feasted on Georgia in most years.

I remember sitting in Jordan-Hare Stadium with my father in 1980 and seeing Herschel Walker play in-person for the first time. Auburn fell to the top-ranked Dawgs that day, but I'll never forget seeing number 34 in action. Little did I know, Auburn would have its own 34 a few years later.

I vividly remember watching with my grandfather at his grocery store in 1983, as Auburn claimed its first SEC title since 1957 with a 13-7 win in Athens. It marked a changing of the guard in the SEC with Auburn taking the reins for the next decade.

Watching on an old 19-inch television set with him back in the meat market, it remains one of the great memories of my life.

Who can forget Tommy Tuberville's improbable win in Athens over 14th ranked Georgia in 1999? It marked his first win over the Dawgs and the fifth and final victory of the season for Auburn's new coach.

Things would get dramatically better for the Riverboat Gambler over the years. Before his time on the Plains was finished, Tuberville would post a 5-5 record against Georgia, including a memorable 24-6 victory over the eighth-ranked Dawgs in 2004.

Auburn heads to Athens leading the series 54-52 with eight ties. Since the series moved out of Columbus, Georgia in 1959, Auburn holds an 18-11 advantage in games played in Athens. Likewise, Georgia leads Auburn 14-10-2 in games played at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

As is the norm, Saturday's contest will have a lot riding on the outcome. For Georgia, it's a chance to finally win another SEC East title and more importantly, guarantee a return engagement for embattled coach Mark Richt.

Auburn will go looking for its seventh win of the year. A victory could push the Tigers toward a New Year's bowl game - something unimaginable back on September 3rd.

Most importantly, this game promises to add another chapter to the most unique rivalry in all of college sports. It's a week to savor and enjoy. Let the build-up begin.

See you in Athens!