Alabama domination in the SEC is not exactly anything new. It’s been going on for decades. In the 1970s it was Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant doing the dominating of the SEC, instead of the current regime. After a very mediocre 1970 season in which the famous ‘integration’ game against USC took place in Birmingham, the Bear made some changes. Alabama finished 6-5-1 in 1970 which made a lot of Crimson Tide fans ready to be rid of the Bear.
But, Bear Bryant saw the success of the Texas Longhorns with the Wishbone and with a few slight variations, he installed his own very similar offense. The result was a stunning turnaround and an impressive 11-1 record, and another SEC Conference championship. With the change back to a ground and pound type of offense, Bear Bryant and his Crimson Tide went on another run of titles and supremacy in the SEC.
Alabama lost to Auburn in 1972, but the loss still gave them a tie for the championship. The Tide
crushed all comers in 1973, just rolling over everybody they played plus some revenge over rival Auburn, 35-0. But, they lost by 1 point to Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl to loss the national
Alabama went unbeaten again in 1974 only to lose in a rematch with Notre Dame, this time in the Orange Bowl. It was another tough loss with Ara Parseghian and his Fighting Irish beating Bama by two points this time, 11-13.
The following season, 1975, Alabama lost their first game to the surprising Missouri Tigers and the luster seemed to be off for the Tide. But, they quickly recovered and finished out with an 11 game win streak finishing with a tough fought win over Joe Paterno and his Penn State Nittany Lions in the Sugar Bowl, 13-6.
Going into the 1976 season, that’s what the rest of the SEC was up against. The mighty Alabama Crimson Tide had a spectacular 54-6 record over 5 seasons and 5 SEC titles to their name.
No doubt about it, Alabama was the one school that everybody wanted to beat. Beating the Crimson Tide could make a season and maybe even save a coaches’ job.
Over in Athens, Georgia, things weren’t exactly the same. The Bulldogs did match the Crimson Tide in 1971 with a nice 11-1 season. But, Auburn kept Georgia from winning the SEC, and maybe more, by beating the Bulldogs 35-20.
Alabama and Georgia don’t play each other that often, but in the 1972 season they did meet up with the Tide coming into Athens and beating the Bulldogs, 25-7. The Bulldogs only played 3 ranked teams in 1972 and they lost all of them. They also lost to Tulane and finished with a 7-4 record.
They played Alabama again in 1973 with Bama winning again and the Dogs finishing with another disappointing record of 7-4-1. In the south, particularly the SEC, losing 4 games is clearly not acceptable.
1974 was a disaster of a season for the Bulldogs and the heat was building on head coach Vince Dooley. The Dogs finished 6-6 after losing 4 out of their last 5 games. Even if they did beat Florida, it was a catastrophically bad season for Georgia. They did not play Alabama this season, or it might have been worse.
The following season, 1975, was a different story. After an ironic early loss to Pittsburgh and Tony Dorsett, the Bulldogs got it going. They were 3-2 when they won 6 straight games to earn a Cotton Bowl berth against Arkansas. They lost badly in the Cotton Bowl, but a 9-3 record can do wonders to restore the fan base’s belief in their head coach.
Over to the west, the Crimson Tide of Alabama were busy winning their 5th SEC title in a row and had no cares about the Georgia Bulldogs. The inconsistent Bulldogs didn’t seem to be much of a threat.
But, the 1976 season was another matter.
Defensive coordinator Erk Russell, and a fan, came up with the name Junkyard Dawgs for his defense after that bad 1974 season and they did improve in 1975. But, the 1976 season is when it all came together for them. Junkyard Dawgs Erk Russell
After five SEC championships in a row, there was no denying that the path to the title would go through Alabama.
But, to start off the 1976 season, the Crimson Tide were upset by the Ole Miss Rebels. They bounced back to easily win their next two games over cupcakes, but they won big and they were still in the top 10.
Over in Athens, the 16th ranked Bulldogs beat 15th ranked Cal at home, but the Junkyard Dawgs struggled while giving up 24 points. A win is a win and the Dawgs crushed Clemson the following week, getting their first goose egg on the scoreboard by beating the Tigers, 41-0.
They beat South Carolina next, but the Gamecocks were Independents back in those years and not in the SEC.
10th ranked Alabama traveled to Athens to take on the 6th ranked Georgia Bulldogs.
They did have hype back in those days, but nothing like today. There was no ESPN, or Fox Sports, talking about these games all day long. The local papers wrote articles about the games and there was plenty of pressure on the coaches and the players. Alabama generally controlled the SEC, and Georgia was challenging for first place. This was a very meaningful game.
In reality, it was probably a lot more important of a game to the Georgia Bulldogs and their fans.
Georgia students supposedly found out which hotel Alabama was staying and circled the building most of the night honking their horns. Kids will be kids, if this is even true, but they took it a bit far.
For Georgia, Ray Goff started at quarterback, but he was replaced by Matt Robinson in the second quarter. With the game tied at 0-0, Robinson led the team down to the Alabama goal line with time running out in the half. Robinson threw a pass down to the Alabama 3 yard line and as the Bulldog’s offense ran down the field to run the next play, Robinson moved up and lined up behind the right offensive guard. One of the running backs moved up to moved Robinson over to the correct position behind the center.
After an incomplete pass in the end zone, Robinson ran option right and carried the ball in for a score himself to give the Dogs a 7-0 lead at half time.
SEC offensive player of the year Ray Goff came back in during the third quarter and led the team down the field for another touchdown. Robinson returned to the game and threw a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and the Bulldogs won the game, 21-0.
The Junkyard Dawgs were the real stars of the game and had their second shutout of the season. The Alabama Wishbone attack was shut down completely.
Legend has it that Athens, Georgia went wild. They partied all night long and they are still talking about that night to this day.
I can’t say as I haven’t been involved with similar situations. Winning a national title once, we all loaded up and went downtown to get into the celebration with everyone else.
The Bulldogs celebrated so much after beating Alabama that they forgot to get ready for the rest of the season. It had been only the fourth game and there was plenty left.
Just one week later, the now 4th ranked Bulldogs traveled to Oxford, Mississippi and were stunned by Ole Miss, 17-21. They quickly recovered and blasted Vanderbilt and Kentucky before beating 20th ranked Cincinnati.
Next was the World’s Largest Cocktail party against rival, and 10th ranked Florida, and the Bulldogs came out on top, 41-27.
The Bulldogs beat another rival, Auburn, 28-0 to record their 4th shutout of the season. The Junkyard Dawgs were riding high, now.
The hated Yellowjackets of Georgia Tech were next, but Georgia prevailed, 13-10.
Tony Dorsett of Pittsburgh won the Heisman Trophy in 1976 and they brought their 11-0 record into the Sugar Bowl to play Georgia for the national championship.
While Georgia and their stingy defense played it close for a while, Pittsburgh just had too much talent and speed for the Bulldogs and pulled away, 27-3.
It was still a remarkable season for the Georgia Bulldogs and finishing the season with a beautiful 10-2 record and an SEC championship.
The highlight of the season was definitely the 21-0 over the Crimson Tide of Alabama and the party afterwards will live forever in the hearts of Georgia fans.