Alabama and Georgia will play for the national title just five weeks after the Tide beat the Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game. This is the second time in four years that these two storied programs have met in the College Football Playoff National Championship. Here are 10 facts about their longstanding rivalry.
1. First met in 1895
Both teams first met in 1895 in Columbus’ Wildwood (now Weracoba) Park in the first college football game ever played in the state of Georgia. Legendary coach Pop Warner helmed the Bulldogs in his first season as a head coach. Alabama took a 6-0 lead, but Georgia responded with 30 unanswered points in a 30-6 win. The Bulldogs finished 3-4 while the Crimson White went 0-4.
2. Both schools were charter members of the SEC
The SEC was established in December 1932 by 13 schools that included Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt. The other three founding members were Georgia Tech (left in 1964), Sewanee (left in 1940), and Tulane (left in 1966).
3. Teams played every season from 1944 to 1965
While matchups between these two schools have been somewhat sporadic, they did play every season from 1944-65. This series included two five-game win streaks and three national championships for the Crimson Tide and some other significant moments mentioned below.
4. The 1960 contest was the first game broadcast on ABC
In 1960, ABC began broadcasting college football games and its first foray was the season opener between 13th-ranked Georgia and Alabama at Birmingham’s Legion Field. The Crimson Tide scored 21 points in the second quarter to upset the Bulldogs. A three-yard touchdown pass from Fran Tarkenton to Dan Davis late in the fourth quarter prevented the shutout, making the final score 21-6.
5. Bear Bryant and Wally Butts were accused of fixing the 1962 game
If you ever wonder why The Saturday Evening Post is no longer a weekly publication, you can thank Bear Bryant and Wally Butts partly for its decline. The publication ran a story in 1963 that alleged that the Alabama head coach and Georgia athletic director conspired to fix the 1962 game. Numerous books have covered this story extensively but in short, an insurance salesman at Foundation Life Insurance Company where Butts also served as director was somehow accidentally connected to a phone conversation between Bryant and Butts on Sept. 13, 1962 discussing the upcoming game nine days later. Burnett made notes of the conversation and gave them to the Post, who ran "The Story of a College Football Fix" in its March 23, 1963, issue. Butts was fired as athletic director and he and Bryant sued the Post. The case ultimately went to the U.S. Supreme Court and expanded the definition of a public figure. Bryant settled for around $300,000, while Butts was awarded a then-unprecedented $3.06 million. In the end, the article was a black mark on the publication and not Bryant and Butts. And in the game they were accused of conspiring to fix, Joe Namath lit up the Bulldogs in his first start in a 35-0 season-opening win over a Georgia team that finished 3-4-3. Sadly, the two schools decided to end their annual meeting in 1965 because of the scandal.
6. Georgia upset Alabama in the 1965 season opener
The defending national champion Crimson Tide entered the season opener in Sanford Stadium with a five-game win streak over Georgia. However, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 10-0 second-quarter lead with a 37-yard Bob Etter field goal and a 55-yard pick-six by George Patton off a Steve Sloan pass. The Crimson Tide retook the lead at 17-10 in the fourth quarter thanks to touchdown runs by Sloan and Steve Bowman. Georgia then scored late in the fourth quarter when Kirby Moore threw a pass to end Pat Hodgson who pitched a lateral to running back Bob Taylor who ran untouched 73-yards into the end zone (photos later revealed that Hodgson’s knee was down). Moore then hit Hodgson for the two-point conversion and the win. Alabama then went 9-0-1 in its remaining games and won the AP national title and Georgia finished 6-4.
7. The programs dominated the SEC from 1971-82
For 12 straight seasons, either Georgia or Alabama won the SEC or at least a share of it. The Tide won nine SEC titles and three national championships, and the Bulldogs won four conference championships and the 1980 national title. It is a shame they only played four times during this period.
8. Alabama’s 2008 win over Georgia truly launched the Saban era in Tuscaloosa
After going 7-6 in his first season in Tuscaloosa, head coach Nick Saban had Alabama at 4-0 and ranked eighth headed into its showdown with No. 3 Georgia in Athens. In the first big-time SEC matchup of the Saban era, the Tide took a 31-0 halftime lead en route to a 41-30 win. Alabama went 12-0 in the regular season before losing to Tim Tebow and eventual national champion Florida in the SEC Championship Game. Georgia finished 10-3.
9. The 2012 SEC Championship Game was the true national title contest
Going into the SEC Championship Game, Alabama was ranked No. 2 and Georgia was No. 3 so the winner would be playing for the national title. The teams traded scores in the third and fourth quarters, but Alabama pulled ahead for good with a 45-yard touchdown pass from AJ McCarron to Amari Cooper to take a 32-28 lead with 3:15 left. Georgia drove all the way down to Alabama’s 8-yard line and Aaron Murray threw a pass towards the end zone that was deflected into the hands of receiver Chris Conley, who caught it at the 5-yard line. The clock expired before the Bulldogs could run another play. Alabama would go on to throttle Notre Dame in the BCS title game a month later so this game really was against the two best teams in college football.
10. Second-and-26 is the biggest play of this rivalry
In the 2018 College Football National Championship, the SEC champion Bulldogs dominated Alabama early and led 13-0 at the half. For the second, Alabama head coach Nick Saban replaced his starting quarterback of two years, Jalen Hurts, with freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who kick-started the Tide offense and led them to a 20-20 tie at the end of regulation. Georgia got the ball first in overtime and kicked a field goal. The Bulldogs then sacked Tagovailoa on the first play of Alabama's possession for a 16-yard loss. Tagovailoa got up and tossed a picture-perfect, 41-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith to win the game. The play will be forever known as “second-and-26" by 'Bama fans.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports' Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.