Tennessee-Georgia: Latest Game Of Century Has Much To Live Up To Saturday

The first Game of the Century was not televised.

No. 1 Notre Dame and coach Frank Leahy beat No. 2 Michigan and coach Fritz Crisler, 35-12, in front of 86,408 at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 9, 1943.

It was so much fun, they had another one six weeks later, and No. 1 Notre Dame beat something called Iowa Pre-Flight, 14-13, but in front of only 39,446 at 54,000-seat Notre Dame Stadium on Nov. 20.

And the wheels were up on one of the greatest traditions in college football. The Fighting Irish finished 9-1 in 1943. The Associated Press, which began ranking teams in 1934 and has done so every year since 1936, awarded the national championship to Notre Dame. That would be their fourth of 11 through 1988.

The 25th regular season Game of the Century, which is defined here as a No. 1 vs. a No. 2 according to the A.P. rankings, will be Saturday when No. 1 Georgia (8-0, 5-0 SEC) hosts No. 2 Tennessee (8-0, 4-0 SEC) at 92,746-seat Sanford Stadium in Athens.

And it will be televised … at 3:30 p.m. on CBS.

Tickets are going at a college football record minimum of $626 with reports of the most expensive at more than $5,200, according to the online ticket broker, TickPick.

Tennessee-Georgia Game Of The Century 1st Since 2019

This will be the first No. 1 vs. No. 2 Game of the Century in a regular season since No. 1 LSU (8-0, 4-0 SEC) won 46-41 at No. 2 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) on Nov. 9, 2019, and went on to finish 15-0 and win the national championship.

It will be the third straight GOC involving two SEC teams. In the previous one, No. 1 LSU (8-0, 5-0 SEC) won 9-6 in overtime at No. 2 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) on Nov. 5, 2011. But Alabama beat LSU in a BCS national championship game rematch two months later in the Superdome in New Orleans, 21-0.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart celebrates his team’s 33-18 win over Alabama last Jan. 10 in Indianapolis for the national championship. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Georgia coach Kirby Smart will be in his second regular season GOC. He was Alabama’s defensive coordinator in the 2011 season.

“I have no idea,” Smart laughed when asked what he remembers about the pre-game buildup to LSU-Alabama in the first week of November 11 years ago. “I don’t remember, but I remember the game.”

Nebraska-Oklahoma Game Of The Century 1971

Tennessee coach Josh Heupel was Oklahoma’s quarterback in the 2000 season when his No. 3 Sooners beat No. 1 Nebraska, 31-14, on Oct. 28 at Owen Field in Norman, Oklahoma. They went on to win the national championship with Heupel finishing second for the Heisman Trophy. That was not a Game of the Century, but he sure heard about one all week – No. 1 Nebraska 35, No. 2 Oklahoma 31 on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, 1971, in Norman.

That exciting, back and forth game is often referred to as THE Game of the Century. Nebraska and coach Bob Devaney came in at 10-0 overall and 6-0 in the Big Eight, while Oklahoma, under coach Chuck Fairbanks, was 9-0 and 5-0 in the Big Eight. The Cornhuskers went on to beat Alabama and coach Bear Bryant, 38-6, in the Orange Bowl for the national title.

Tennessee coach Josh Heupel tries a victory cigar after beating No. 3 Alabam, 52-49, on Oct. 15 in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images)

“Before we played Nebraska in October of 2000, people were comparing those two teams to the two 1971 teams,” Heupel said. “That game was a big part of the history of the university and also the rivalry there.”

TENNESSEE VOTED NO. 1 IN 1ST CFP RANKINGS

Is Vegas Or The CFP Right?

Georgia is favored by 7.5 points by DraftKings. But Tennessee is considered better than Georgia by the 13-member College Football Playoff selection committee that decides the final four teams for the national championship playoffs. Tennessee was No. 1 in those rankings released Tuesday with Ohio State No. 2, Georgia No. 3 and Clemson No. 4.

“I don’t know what people are calling it, but we’ve been pretty busy game planning here,” Heupel said Wednesday.”

Neither Tennessee nor Georgia has been in a Game of the Century. The two programs have never met as top five teams either. The winner will be alone in first place in the SEC East with two league games to play and likely headed to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 3.

“For us, inside of our building, man, it’s really just been on the preparation and being ready to be our best when we get to kick-off,” Heupel said.

LSU-Alabama Game Of The Century 2011

Often both teams are at their best in these games – or at least part of their teams are. That was the case on Nov. 5, 2011, when LSU beat Alabama, 9-6, in overtime on a Drew Alleman 25-yard field goal. It was an old school defensive slugfest that harkened back to another time with neither team cracking 300 total yards. It was also the type of game that would rarely be seen in the near future as spread offenses and hurry-up attacks became all the rage.

“I remember the physicality of the game and the licks that were passed,” Smart, a former Georgia defensive back, said. “It was one of the most physical, violent games I’ve ever been a part of in terms of contact. The two-back offenses and two-back football.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban, who turned 71 on Halloween and always coached on the defensive side as an assistant for decades, seemed to miss that type of football when he recalled that game on Wednesday.

“I think the one thing that kind of shows you from 2011 to now is how much the game has really changed in a lot of ways,” he said. “I’m not saying it didn’t change for the better, but that was old-fashioned football, probably at its finest with two really good teams. There was more running, more smashmouth. You had to play physical, and you had to beat blockers, and you had to block people. The game plan was a little bit simpler.”

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and his coach Ed Orgeron (left) celebrate the No. 1 Tigers’ 46-41 win over No. 2 Alabama and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (right) in the last regular season Game of the Century on Nov. 9, 2019, in Tuscaloosa.

LSU-Alabama Game Of The Century 2019

Eight years later, No. 2 Alabama lost a scoring bonanza to No. 1 LSU, 46-41, as both teams combined for 1,100 yards, incluing 811 through the air. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow threw for 393 yards and three touchdowns, while Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw for 418 and four touchdowns.

The quarterbacks for Saturday’s Game of the Century have each thrown for more than 2,300 yards. Georgia’s Stetson Bennett is No. 13 in the nation with 2,349 yards, and Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker is No. 15 with 2,338.

Hooker threw for 385 yards and five touchdowns in a 52-49 win over Alabama on Oct. 15, while Alabama quarterback Bryce Young threw for 455 and two touchdowns.

“It’s a lot different now in terms of how people play,” Saban said.

What teams are playing in the latest Game of the Century have changed, too. Saban’s No. 6 Crimson Tide (7-1, 4-1 SEC) is instead in an off Broadway undercard Saturday night at No. 10 LSU (6-2, 4-1 SEC) at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

“This is a great opponent that we’re playing, and we’re excited that we get an opportunity to play in a game that means a lot,” Heupel said. “It has a lot of attention on it, and obviously will be a great environment there in Athens.”

24 Games Of The Century – No. 1 Vs. No. 2 In Regular Season

No. 1 LSU 46, No. 2 Alabama 41 … 2019

No. 1 LSU 9, No. 2 Alabama 6 (OT) … 2011

No. 1 Ohio State 42, No. 2 Michigan 39 … 2006

No. 1 Ohio State 24, No. 2 Texas 7 … 2006

No. 2 Florida State 24, No. 1 Florida 21 … 1996

No. 2 Notre Dame 31, No. 1 Florida State 24 … 1993

No. 1 Miami 17, No. 2 Florida State 16 … 1991

No. 1 Notre Dame 24, No. 2 Michigan 19 … 1989

No. 1 Notre Dame 27, No. 2 USC 10 … 1988

No. 2 Oklahoma 17, No. 1 Nebraska 7 … 1987

No. 2 Miami 28, No. 1 Oklahoma 16 … 1986

No. 1 Iowa 12, No. 2 Michigan 10 … 1985

No. 1 USC 28, No. 2 Oklahoma 24 … 1981

No. 1 Nebraska 35, No. 2 Oklahoma 31 … 1971

No. 1 Texas 15, No. 2 Arkansas 14 … 1969

No. 1 Purdue 37, No. 2 Notre Dame 22 … 1968

No. 1 Notre Dame 10, No. 2 Michigan State 10 … 1966

No. 2 Texas 28, No. 1 Oklahoma 7 … 1963

No. 1 Army 0, No. 2 Notre Dame 0 … 1946

No. 1 Army 32, No. 2 Navy 13 … 1945

No. 1 Army 48, No. 2 Notre Dame 0 … 1945

No. 1 Army 23, No. 2 Navy 7 … 1944

No. 1 Notre Dame 14, No. 2 Iowa Pre-Flight 13 … 1943

No. 1 Notre Dame 35, No. 2 Michigan 12 … 1943

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

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