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The Rivalry Without Rancor

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We don’t hate each other. Hell, we barely know each other.

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NCAA Football: Georgia at Louisiana State
Just an anonymous team in our way
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia and LSU are the rarest of things in college football: longtime conference mates who barely know one another.

It’s no wonder why. While Georgia was frantically worried about midterms, LSU was busy working on the next day’s hangover. Georgia is one of the most easterly schools in the SEC, while LSU used to sit on the western edge before Texas A&M showed up.

We share a lot of things in common: a long, frustrating history of near misses, classic uniforms, a historic rivalry with an instate foe which has become increasingly noncompetitive, and a deep seated hatred of Auburn.

But LSU and Georgia have shared a conference for pretty much the entire history of both programs, and we’ve played each other just 31 times. The two teams played only 20 times in the first 100 years of LSU football, and they once went 25 years without playing one another (1953-78).

So there wasn’t much chance for bad blood to develop between the schools. Besides, due to our cross-divisional permanent opponents, we tend to help one another out by being good. A strong LSU hurts Florida and a strong Georgia weakens Auburn.

That’s why it’s not a big surprise that when LSU makes the SEC Championship Game, it usually has to play Georgia. This is LSU’s sixth trip to the game (eighth for Georgia), and it will be the fourth time these two teams have squared off for the title.

Only one matchup has occurred with greater frequency (Bama v. Florida – 9 times), and it’s the only other matchup to have occurred more than twice. Which would make one think that we’ve built up a recent legacy of great games against one another, as we’ve ratcheted up the hared as only we can…

But not so much. In the Golden Age of LSU Football, starting roughly in 2001, LSU has played Georgia nine times and posted a 5-4 record. Only three of those games were decided by a touchdown or less. The frequency of blowouts and the lack of any true upsets has prevented this game from blossoming into a rivalry. Instead, Georgia is the one SEC team we’ve decided not to hate with all of our being.

Sure, there’s been some heartbreaks and great plays. There’s the iconic L-S-U chant in 2003 after Georgia tied the game on a 93-yard touchdown pass. Spurned on by the Death Valley crowd’s belief, Skyler Green caught the game-winning touchdown with 1:22 left.

You might find a Georgia fan still salty about the unsportsmanlike call against AJ Green in 2009. And yeah, it was a bad call, but LSU scored a touchdown in two plays and only needed a field goal to win. He refs also threw an equally absurd unsportsmanlike flag on Charles Scott after he scored, and Georgia’s response was to go backwards and then throw a pick.

On the LSU pain side, there’s LSU dropping a heartbreaker 44-41 in 2013. LSU finally had an offense, only to have the one year with a bad defense. And Georgia utterly destroyed the 2005 Katrina team in Atlanta, ending that fairy tale run.

Even then, it’s hard to find an LSU fan nursing a grudge against Georgia or vice versa. This, remarkably, will be the tenth consecutive meeting between the teams in which both are ranked. The lowest Georgia has ever been ranked coming into a game against LSU is #18. #13 for LSU.

The team’s have not met with both in the top 5 since the 2003 SEC Championship Game and… well, it didn’t work out well for Georgia then. We’re hoping more of the same this weekend because this would be the worst possible time for an LSU-Georgia rivalry to finally take flight.

LSU wants to win, of course. But it is not wrapped up in beating Georgia. This game is about LSU and being the best version of yourselves. There’s one more obstacle in the way, and there’s nothing particularly special about this one.

After 125 years, Georgia and LSU are yet to become rivals. Let’s not start now.