An early season one-point win. Many lopsided victories. An unforeseen blowout loss to Auburn.
While you may be thinking about Georgia’s 2017 season to date, these things rang true for a football year that feels sometime long, long ago. Yes, in 1942, the Bulldogs possessed a number of striking similarities that have also played out for this year’s Georgia team.
▪ To start the 1942 season, Georgia faced Kentucky on the road and won a tough battle 7-6. While it wasn’t the first game of this year, the Bulldogs traveled to Notre Dame for a game on Sept. 9 and came out with a 20-19 victory. Those were both one-point wins early in the year.
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▪ Georgia concluded its first four games of the 1942 season with a win over 48-13 win over Mississippi. This year, the Bulldogs faced Mississippi State in the fourth week and won 31-3. It may be 75 years apart but that marks blowouts over two teams from the Magnolia State at the same point of the season.
▪ Georgia recorded lopsided victories against Florida in each of the two seasons. In 1942, the Bulldogs defeated the Gators 75-0, which still stands as the largest margin of victory in the series. This year, Georgia nearly shut Florida out and won 42-7.
▪ In both seasons, Georgia was led by a dominant defense. The 1942 defense averaged only 6.6 points allowed through the first nine games. With offenses improving over the next 75 years, that number has obviously risen for all teams. But still, Georgia was holding opponents to only 11.7 points per outing through nine games.
▪ Both teams were led offensively by strong tailback play. In 1942, eventual Heisman Trophy winner Frank Sinkwich was a load for teams to deal with, and he was spelled by talented sophomore Charley Trippi. This year, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel have split the majority of Georgia’s carries, with D’Andre Swift, Brian Herrien and Elijah Holyfield getting involved too.
▪ Entering the Auburn game in both the 1942 and 2017 seasons, Georgia was the No. 1 team in the nation in at least one poll. In 1942, the AP had the Bulldogs on top. This season, the College Football Playoff selection committee positioned the Bulldogs No. 1 for a two-week span.
Then came the Auburn game in each season.
In 1942, Georgia scored early to take a 6-0 lead. From there, anything that could go wrong went wrong. Georgia’s running game was stifled, with Sinkwich totaling only 31 of the Bulldogs’ 37 rushing yards. Georgia finished the game passing for 190 yards.
The Auburn defense came out aggressive with some end blitzes and forced the Bulldogs into unforeseen situations, punctuated by a Sinkwich fumble that was recovered for a touchdown to give the Tigers a 27-13 victory. Auburn running back Ray Gafford got loose for 119 rushing yards, with the Tigers running a different style of offense than it had all season long.
Much was the same about last Saturday’s meeting. Georgia jumped out to a 7-0 lead on its opening possession. Auburn then rode Kerryon Johnson to a 32-carry, 167-yard performance in a 40-17 victory. The Bulldogs gave the Tigers a costly turnover when Mecole Hardman fumbled a punt that would be turned into a touchdown. Georgia, which has run the ball at will on everyone else, was held to 46 rushing yards. Jake Fromm finished with 184 passing yards.
Pretty eerie, huh?
As for the remaining of the 2017 season, there are quite a few differences remaining from how the 1942 campaign ended. Following the Auburn loss, Georgia had only one remaining regular-season game to play, which was rival Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs won soundly 34-0.
Before Georgia can take on Georgia Tech this year, it must get through Kentucky on Saturday.
The 1942 Georgia team finished its season in the Rose Bowl and defeated UCLA 9-0. While the AP crowned Ohio State its national champion, UGA claims a national title based on a consensus of polls giving the Bulldogs an end-of-year No. 1 ranking.
Now, there are two things could work the same for the 2017 team. Georgia was an SEC champion in 1942 and the Bulldogs would need to win the conference title game to replicate that. It could also make a return trip to the Rose Bowl as a College Football Playoff team.
This is plausible as long as Georgia wins its final three games – Kentucky, Georgia Tech and the SEC Championship – and is ranked No. 2 or No. 3 in the final College Football Playoff rankings poll. In this scenario, if the No. 1 team is closer in proximity to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl, then Georgia would punch a plane ticket for Pasadena, California.
Only time will tell.