Georgia and Ohio State have only played one time before Saturday, and that game was 30 years ago. Yet the Bulldogs probably have more of a rivalry with the Buckeyes than many realize.
In fact, UGA fans have had reason to dislike Ohio State since 1942.
That was the year UGA claimed its first national championship, but as was common of that era, the Bulldogs weren’t the only team to consider themselves No. 1.
It was the Buckeyes who actually finished atop the Associated Press rankings that season. And they had a strong case to justify their position. But it’s also understandable how the events of 1942 would’ve provided great debate fodder in modern times.
Both UGA and Ohio State had one loss, and each team won its games by a similar margin. Yet it was the Bulldogs who had that season’s Heisman Trophy winner, Frank Sinkwich, and played the tougher schedule -- including a 34-0 win against then-No. 2-ranked Georgia Tech on the final weekend of the regular season.
UGA was also the favored selection of most of the analytics-based ratings formulas that have retroactively tabulated the data. But by then, it was too late to change anyone’s mind, and the AP poll’s snubbing of UGA 80 years ago was arguably the beginning of a pattern that continues today.
Ohio State has spent 105 weeks ranked as the AP’s No. 1 team since 1942. Yet the Buckeyes have only won two national championship in the last 52 years.
Many of those No. 1 rankings were, of course, deserving. However, UGA fans have undoubtedly noticed that Ohio State has had some trouble proving on the field over the last half century what poll voters think they’ve seen from it on paper.
In fact, the Buckeyes have the second most appearances as the AP’s No. 1 team. Only Alabama (with 140) has more.
Yet that wasn’t true until Nick Saban became Alabama coach in 2007. At that point in history, Ohio State had nearly three times as many weeks spent at No. 1 as Alabama despite the fact that the Crimson Tide had claimed more national championships.
How come the Buckeyes had been No. 1 so much more frequently?
The great former columnist of the Tuscaloosa News, Cecil Hurt, who passed away in 2021, once suggested that “in the pre-television days, the Southern states lacked the voting power of the Midwest” and that might have favored in the Buckeyes through the years in the polling.
Who knows if that’s true, but to UGA fans, it seems like it could be true because there’s certainly no shortage of favorable coverage of Ohio State these days.
For instance, FOX play-by-play broadcaster Gus Johnson has a grating habit of calling OSU “The World Famous Ohio State Buckeyes” when he’s broadcasting their games.
Of course, FOX is a prominent part of the Big Ten’s new media rights deal -- which is valued somewhere in the neighborhood of a gajillion dollars -- and Ohio State is one of the Big Ten’s flagship programs. Therefore, it might be understandable that Johnson would be eager to hype them up.
However, if you don’t regularly dress in scarlet and gray, you might think that Johnson comes off as a bit too eager.
Not to mention the seemingly endless number of broadcast analysts that also have ties to Ohio State. Former Buckeyes quarterback Kirk Herbstreit -- who’ll call Saturday’s game on ESPN -- is the most well-known, but he’s far from the only one, including former Ohio State wide receiver Joey Galloway, who also works for ESPN, and former Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer, who works for FOX.
“I think we all take a lot of pride in the fact that there are a lot of us out there and I think the school really opens up opportunities for you, like standing around microphones and cameras,” Herbstreit said in 2013.
In other words, you never have to look very far to find the Ohio State perspective on TV.
That’s a tiresome fact for many UGA fans.
On the other hand, from a business perspective, it’s understandable why the media caters to the Buckeyes.
It’s almost certainly a lucrative choice.
Georgia is a big state (ranked 11th in population with approximately 10.8 million people), but Ohio has about a million more people than that. Furthermore, while UGA has just under 350,000 living alumni, Ohio State has more than 560,000.
Unfortunately, the media industrial complex built to serve that robust fan base has perhaps convinced some around Ohio State that it’s more deserving of success than it actually is.
Perhaps that’s what Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh meant when he said last year of Buckeyes coach Ryan Day that, “Some people are born on third base and think they hit a triple.”
This might also partially explain why Ohio State defensive end Jack Sawyer said this week that he sees “advantages across the board” for his team against the Bulldogs.
In all honesty, Sawyer’s quote might’ve originally been taken a bit out of context. But let’s face it, fair or not, part of the reason his statement went viral is it sounds like what many would expect an Ohio State player to say.
After all, self regard is never in short supply with the Buckeyes.
That said, this year’s Peach Bowl for UGA is about more than just quieting the Buckeyes’ boasting.
The long-awaited College Football Playoff clash with Ohio State is also about showing, not just which program plays the best football, but in some respects, it’s about which state enjoys the best quality of life.
Way back in 1942, and perhaps for a long time after that, many may have viewed Ohio State as superior to UGA, but the Bulldogs’ recent run of success and the Buckeyes nasty habit of failing to fulfill their potential shows that perception might finally be changing.
If that’s true, then the public is only just now catching up to something Sinkwich apparently knew for a long time.
He wasn’t just UGA’s first Heisman Trophy winner. He may have also been the Bulldogs first recruiting win against Ohio State.
Sinkwich hailed from Youngstown, Ohio -- right in the heart of Buckeye Country.
Yet when his pro football career was over, Sinkwich didn’t return to his native state. Instead he came back to Athens, Ga. to start a business and finish his life.
Let him explain.
“I’m from Ohio, but if I’d known when I was two what it was like down South, I would have crawled here on my hands and knees,” Sinkwich once said.
May the spirit of his words be alive in every member of DawgNation on Saturday night.