The Georgia Bulldogs might be considered the rivals’ rival in college football.

“They’ve got more rivals than almost anybody I know. They really do,” Steve Spurrier said of UGA in 2012, when he was trying to make the case for the Dawgs being his South Carolina Gamecocks’ biggest rival besides Clemson.

For once, Spurrier was right. In addition to natural in-state rival Georgia Tech, the Dawgs have fought numerous border wars through the years against Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, Clemson and, yes, even South Carolina (especially during Spurrier’s years in Columbia).

With the SEC East going away and the College Football Playoff expanding, I thought it might be a good time to take an updated look at Georgia’s primary football rivalries and how they might evolve in the future. I checked in with a sampling of fellow fans and regular Blawg readers this week to get their thoughts on Georgia’s main current rivals, and which programs they think might become rivals.

Of course, not all of the Dawgs’ rivalries are viewed equally.

Carson Beck prepares to pass against traditional rival Georgia Tech in the 2023 game. (Hyosub Shin/AJC) (HYOSUB SHIN / AJC/Dawgnation)

For some UGA fans — the ultra-traditionalists, I call them — the only rivalry that really matters is the one dubbed Clean Old-Fashioned Hate, with the Yellow Jackets of the North Avenue Trade School, as many like to call it.

The two schools’ mutual hatred runs so deep that they can’t even agree on how many times they’ve played.

Well-known Jackets hater Jeff Dantzler of the Georgia football radio network put it this way: “It’s the enemy. It’s always the enemy. And they are on the uptick. I’ve always dreamed about getting nine straight wins over the Jackets, breaking ‘the infamous drought’ of eight straight losses. There may be other teams some fans enjoy beating more, but none hurts worse to lose to.”

Another lifelong Dawg, Stu McGarity (whose brother Greg used to have a little something to do with UGA athletics) ranks Tech even above Georgia’s other traditional rivals, Florida and Auburn.

And Dick Gnann also limits Georgia’s rivals to Tech, Florida and Auburn. Other schools, he said, “are big-time opponents … but that’s all they are.”

Betz Lowery Tillitski said she thinks of the Jackets as Georgia’s main rival, no matter their record. “I know I still smirk when I hear Tech has lost a game — any game,” she said. And, for her husband, Chris, “nothing feels better than beating Tech and especially in Atlanta.” But his son Christopher demurred: “I would say Georgia Tech is not our biggest rivalry, because it’s not competitive.”

Indeed, some of the intensity went out of the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry back when Tech left the SEC in the mid-1960s. And, although Jackets teams still triumph over the Dawgs on occasion, the one-sided nature of the rivalry, dominated by Georgia now for decades, has lessened that intensity, at least on our side.

Georgia and Clemson last played in Charlotte to kick off the 2021 season. (Curtis Compton/AJC) (Curtis Compton /

Meanwhile, back when I was growing up in Athens, Clemson — or Clempson as many Dawgs fans like to say — was a fixture on the schedule most years, and in the early 1980s, when the schools traded national championships, that rivalry was pretty intense. In fact, for many fans, it topped all others.

The two schools, which aren’t that far apart geographically, still have a great football tradition, even though they don’t meet often enough on the gridiron to satisfy many of us. They last battled in a neutral-site game in Charlotte in 2021 and will meet again in Atlanta to open the coming season.

But that will be only the sixth time the Bulldogs and Tigers have played each other in football this century, so it’s hard to call Clemson a primary rival any longer.

In recent decades, the Georgia-Florida series — another one where the schools can’t agree on how many times they’ve met — became the No. 1 rivalry for many fans on both sides, thanks in part to the game being played annually in Jacksonville and the Gators having the upper hand during the Spurrier years.

Things evened out once Mark Richt arrived in Athens, with the meeting between the Dawgs and Gators usually deciding who won the SEC East. The series has tilted Georgia’s way in recent years (the Gators last won during the 2020 pandemic season) as Florida has had trouble finding a coach who can get the program back on track.

With no division title to battle for starting this year and the Gators not really in college football’s elite right now, a little bit of the luster has gone off that rivalry. But since the two schools also battle in recruiting, that’s a rivalry that probably will remain important to both programs.

Ultimately, Dave Williams thinks, there’s “too much invested in that rivalry for it to simply go away.”

John Slack thinks “Florida will always be our top rival. … with the game in Jacksonville and how Georgia recruits the state, it is a must-win game every year.”

Captains of the Gators and Bulldogs prepare for the coin toss before the 2022 game in Jacksonville. (Jason Getz/AJC) (Jason Getz /

And Daryl Matthews even cheers for the likes of Tennessee and Auburn against Florida. “I hate the lizards,” he said. “Spurrier, [Ron] Zook and [Urban] Meyer caused me a lot of trauma from 1990 to 2015. The lizards will always be a big rival because of the history and location.”

Joel Provano also still ranks Florida as Georgia’s top rival. “It’s still the Gators, even though they’ve fallen on hard times,” he said. “Unlike Tech, which will probably never consistently be competitive, the Gators have the potential to be a top program again. And the memory of their dominance under Spurrier and Meyer still ticks me off, even though it’s ancient history to young fans. And I won’t even mention what their fans are like after a loss in Jacksonville.”

My own view? I think the Gators always be a rival, and once Florida gets the right coach, sure, that rivalry probably will get white-hot again. But, until then, I don’t really consider them Georgia’s No. 1 rival.

Another favorite among traditionalists is what’s billed as the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry — Georgia and Auburn. Again, though, that series has been much less competitive in recent years and has lost some of its intensity.

Still, said Alan Cason, who runs the Dawg Bites group on Facebook, “For me it will always be Auburn, because there’s such a history there. It usually doesn’t matter what the records are, there’s enough dislike to motivate most seasons. I sure hope that one doesn’t go away.”

And the biggest Auburn hater I know, Steve Short, said he thinks the Tigers will be Georgia’s greatest rival forever. “Too many seasons have been made/ruined by that one game — on both sides!”

Added Frank Arnold: “Auburn looks to me like a program that may be on the verge of getting its mojo back. If there’s any school who knows how to play fast and loose with the rules, it’s the Tigers, and considering how few rules even seem to matter anymore, I would not be surprised to be hearing a lot of ‘War Eagle’ over the next few years.”

The 2022 Georgia-Tennessee game in Athens decided which team was ranked No. 1 overall. (Jason Getz/AJC) (Jason Getz /

The Dawgs and the Tennessee Vols don’t like each other very much, either, and that’s another border war that grew to be a pretty decent rivalry once the programs started playing each other every year in the SEC East. The 2022 game in Athens, between teams that both had No. 1 rankings in differing polls, was one of the more exciting days Sanford Stadium has seen in a while, with Georgia fans extremely revved up.

Still, many Georgia fans always have considered that a secondary rivalry for the Dawgs, and it remains to be seen how future SEC scheduling will impact that series.

As for South Carolina, the Gamecocks’ series with the Bulldogs might still be called the Border Bash in the Augusta area, but it hasn’t really remained at true rival status since Spurrier left.

Some would argue that, in the Kirby Smart era, Alabama has become a main rival for Georgia, even though the Dawgs and the Crimson Tide have met only once during the regular season in that time.

But the two programs have clashed in three SEC championship games and two College Football Playoff national championship games since Smart returned to Athens.

Of course, Tide fans like to point out that in only one of those games — the January 2022 natty played in Indianapolis — have the Dawgs come out the winner.

That might lessen the rivalry from Bama fans’ point of view. Also, some think Nick Saban’s retirement might make the Tide less of a factor in the national picture for a while, though that remains to be seen.

Georgia triumphed over Alabama when the two schools played for the national championship in Indianapolis on Jan. 10, 2022. (Bob Andres/AJC) (Bob Andres/Dawgnation)

Regardless, I think Alabama is likely to remain Georgia’s white whale until the Dawgs start beating them consistently (or at least half of the time). And, starting this year, the Tide will be on the schedule a lot more regularly, so there’ll be plenty of opportunity for the rivalry to grow.

Even Darrell Huckaby, who has a “To Hell With Tech” tattoo, thinks “it’s Alabama until we can beat them consistently. Hopefully that starts this year.”

Already, Jeff Dantzler told me, Alabama has passed Auburn in his ranking of Georgia’s rivals. “I root for the Tigers in the Iron Bowl,” he said.

Of course, he noted, college football is cyclical. From 1978 to 1983, “we went 6-0 versus Tech and Florida. Didn’t last forever. Now, we are in our ultimate glory days with that special coach who is the very best in the country. This seven-year run has been amazing, including a 26-2 mark again Florida, Auburn, the Jackets and Tennessee. It is something to savor.”

Retired Atlanta sportscaster (and Bulldog since birth) Bill Hartman pointed out that “Georgia has gotten so good that we view all the other teams differently.”

For Hartman, “it has to be Alabama. Even when they are not on the schedule, it will be Alabama, because of the SEC Championship Game and because the Dawgs have reached that level of national prominence.”

But, he cautioned, “watch out for Florida.” Hartman believes that rivalry will remain great, even though he doesn’t think the game will remain in Jacksonville. “When this game becomes a home-and-home affair,” he said, “it will be crazy!”

With Texas becoming a part of the SEC this season — and the Dawgs traveling to Austin in October and playing host to them in Athens next year — some fans, including Paul Viliesis, think the Longhorns also might become a Georgia rival in coming years.

Georgia and Texas met in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on New Year’s Day 2019. (Bob Andres/AJC) (Bob Andres/Dawgnation)

And, Viliesis added, “Should the SEC move to a nine-game schedule (as they should), this would change everything again, especially if they use rotating pods.”

However, my old Athens classmate Tom Hodgson has always liked rivalries “that are nearby. More of a chance for divided households, etc.”

My cousin Bruce King said that he thinks scheduling will be a factor on who remains or becomes a rival. “I think UGA’s future rivalries will be centered upon Alabama, LSU and Texas,” he said, depending on “how well each program adapts to coaching changes and playing in the SEC.”

Tony Tyson thinks the “border wars will always have their place. But until the Dawgs can consistently handle Bama, they are, in my mind, UGA’s biggest rival, since they have stood in the way of Georgia’s success more than anyone recently.”

But, Owen Scott asks, “Can a team be your rival if you don’t play them regularly? Or if you beat them eight out of 10 meetings? The best SEC team outside of us is currently Texas. It might make sense to say that whoever is the most competitive SEC team besides Georgia is our rival. It may take a few seasons to see if one team emerges as our rival, like Alabama has been under Saban.”

My own view is that the game is trending toward being more national in scope, thanks to conference realignment and the expanded playoff, so Georgia’s next great rivalry probably won’t be from the SEC or even the South.

The traditional rivalries always will be there, but the new ones will be those teams Georgia has to beat in order to get what it wants, another national championship. And that means teams in the expanded playoff.

With Georgia and Ohio State likely to be frequent participants in the expanded College Football Playoff, will a new rivalry emerge? (Jason Getz/AJC) (Jason Getz /

For instance, with 12 (it could grow to even more) playoff spots up for grabs each year, the likelihood of Georgia playing the best schools in the Big 10 on a nearly annual basis is good. That means Georgia likely will meet such traditional conference members as Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State, or new arrivals, such as Oregon, Southern Cal and Washington.

Personally, I think a Georgia-Ohio State rivalry is a real possibility. Or it might be Georgia-Michigan. It’s worth noting that, before he departed Ann Arbor, former Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh already was trying to stir up a bit of a rivalry with his “Beat Georgia” drills during last summer’s preseason practices.

Dave Williams thinks having Bama and Michigan as main rivals “would be fun. I can see us getting to that level even with the Nicktator and Harbaugh gone.”

“On the national scene, Ohio State is here to stay, and I believe they will become another major rival,” Daryl Matthews said. “We will see them a lot over the coming years. As for the Longhorns, he said, “Let’s see how Texas fares in the SEC over the next three to five years before we claim them as a top rival.”

Traditionally, Dan Pelletier said, he has thought a rival “has to be a team we play every year,” but “with the expanded conference, who knows who we will play each year.”

He added: “I also think Michigan/Ohio State will be a constant foe” in the playoff.”

And, who knows, Georgia, Ohio State and Michigan could wind up in the same mega-conference one of the years! But that’s a discussion for another day …