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Auburn, Georgia Have Storied RB History

By BJ Bennett
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There are tracks of red clay from the Plains to the Piedmont, marks left by some of the greatest running backs in college football history.

Athens, Georgia and Auburn, Alabama are separated by less than 180 miles and the directions between the two schools are simple; you veer left or right, counter back against the flow of traffic and drive, as hard as you can, as long as the lane stays clear. There are tracks of red clay from the Plains to the Piedmont, marks left by some of the greatest running backs in college football history.

As Auburn and Georgia set to square off in the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, they do so with tradition in the rear-view.

In 120 meetings all-time, the Bulldogs narrowly lead a close series 57-55-8. The similarities, between the two programs, aren't in record alone. Auburn and Georgia have long been home to many of the game's most-dominant and most-dynamic rushers, lists that start with football royalty Bo Jackson and Hershel Walker, but far from end there. The Tigers have had 12 different All-American running backs, while the Bulldogs have nine.

Of the top 50 career rushing leaders in SEC history, 14 of them are from Auburn or Georgia. 

This fall, the two teams continue to do what they both do best. The Bulldogs lead the league in rushing with 279.33 yards per game, while Kerryon Johnson paces the Tigers and ranks number one in the conference with 124 yards an outing. Auburn and Georgia both average 47 rush attempts per contest, with the Tigers and Bulldogs both at 26 rushing scores. In many ways, the gameplans for this weekend and very much the same. 

When the likes of Johnson, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel take the field, they will do so in the shadows of legends.

"You go from Herschel all the way up to Gurley and even Sony and Nick now. Then Auburn with Bo to Lionel James, myself, Carnell Williams and then you have Tre Mason. Just so many guys have been part of that and that holds a special place," former Auburn star Ronnie Brown explained. "As a running back I can speak for most guys who went to Auburn. To be able to be part of that and have the history related to it, it's a big thing."

For decades, the two backfields have been home to those who have taken pride in those who came before them.

"I feel very excited and privileged to be part of that lineage of players who came through Georgia and did great things to uphold that strong tradition of having great running backs at the university," former Bulldog great Robert Edwards added.

Given production and proximity, Auburn and Georgia have attracted similar talent over the years, players who have often been at their best in this rivalry series. The Tigers and Bulldogs first met in 1982; they have competed against each other and, in some ways, against themselves ever since.  

"It's great for me to be able to be a part of that. Growing up I was a big Garrison Hearst fan, that was my guy," continued Brown, a Georgia-native.

On Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium, Chubb will very likely pass Jackson for fourth on the SEC's all-time rushing list, a career record held by Walker. Chubb needs just 13 yards to move up the ranking. In a top-ten showdown with direct conference and potential national championship implications, the record books are set to take note.

Though a winner will soon be determined, an answer, to a bigger question, may never be found.

"No question, Auburn is Running Back-U," Brown stated. "Georgia has great history, but I have to go with Auburn. Given the last 10 years or so and looking at the guys who have played, I'd have to give the edge to Auburn."

There is mutual respect on each side, but also conviction.

"No doubt, Georgia. They had Bo, but we have some of the best college football players to ever play. Herschel getting the Heisman and then Knowshon and Todd Gurley and this year we have the best backfield in the country. I would, with no doubt in my mind, say the University of Georgia."

In last season's game, a 13-7 UGA victory, Chubb ran for 101 yards and Johnson rushed for 99. The margin, on many fronts, is always-always that close. History remembers what happens in rivalries like these, understanding that you don't just win when Auburn plays Georgia, you stake your claim.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: / Twitter: @BJBennettSports