As a child of the 1980s, hearing Tuesday Clemson and Georgia will renew their rivalry in 2021 brought back a lot of great memories.
The Clemson-Georgia game is what really drew me to college football in the first place. I grew up on this rivalry. From the time I was eight years old until I was 15, I saw, watched or listened to some of the best games ever.
From 1977-’87, no rivalry game in college football was better than Clemson vs. Georgia. The two traded blow-for-blow each year. Nine of the 11 games back then were decided by seven points or less. One was a tie, two were decided by a single point and two more were by three points.
Clemson won five, Georgia won five and there was one tie … 5-5-1, you can’t get any tighter.
The game always meant something, too. It wasn’t just about bragging rights, it also meant something on the national stage. From 1980-’82, the winner of the Clemson-Georgia game played for the national championship.
In 1980, Georgia beat the Tigers 20-16 in Athens on its way to winning the 1980 National Championship. A year later, Clemson beat up on the Bulldogs for a 13-3 victory at Death Valley. It marked the only time in his career Georgia running back and 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker lost a regular season game. The Tigers, of course, went onto win the 1981 National Championship.
In 1982, the two rivals opened the college football season on Labor Day night in Athens, the Bulldogs beat Clemson in a defensive tussle, 13-7. Georgia went undefeated in the regular and went on to play Penn State in the 1983 Sugar Bowl for the national championship.
In those day, and sorry South Carolina fans but it’s true, Georgia was a bigger rival to Clemson than the Gamecocks were. The Georgia game always seemed to make or break the Tigers’ season.
In the five years Clemson beat the Bulldogs, the Tigers went 46-11-3, which is a .792-win percentage. In the years they lost to Georgia, they went 39-16-1, a .705-win percentage.
I’m sure if you asked Georgia fans who remember those 11 years, they likely will say Clemson was at least their second biggest rival outside of Florida. From a competitive standpoint, Clemson was perhaps its best.
The Clemson-Georgia game was fun back in those days. It is what college football is all about. The rivalry was not only intense on the field, but it was intense on the recruiting trail, too. Even to this day, Clemson and Georgia fight for more of the same players than the Tigers do with the Gamecocks.
Geographically, Clemson playing Georgia makes more sense than any other game for either team. They are separated by a little more than 70 highway miles. Clemson is just a little more than 20 miles from the Georgia border.
Starting with the 2021 matchup in Charlotte, Clemson and Georgia will meet six times over 13 seasons. It’s a game that will be great for college football in those years. The only thing that can make it better is for the two rivals to play every year.