In 1999, first-year Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville started his career on the Plains with a 3-0 record after victories over Appalachian State, Idaho, and Louisiana State. However, an injury to starter Ben Leard caused the Tigers to lose their next five games in a row before a homecoming victory over Central Florida left them at 4-5 (1-5) going into the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry. Georgia's fourth-year head man, Jim Donnan, had his Bulldogs at 6-2 (4-2) with losses to UGA's main SEC East rivals, Florida and Tennessee (this would be a theme in his time in Athens). Even though Leard's injury hurt Auburn in the middle portion of its schedule, he would suit up for the game against the Dawgs.
I don't know all the details about this game, but I have to imagine that even though the home team hadn't won in the series since a 37-27 Georgia win in Athens in 1991, the Bulldogs would be the favorite in this game, and probably by a pretty decent margin. In many respects, the 1999 game was similar to the 2009 matchup. Georgia's program was beginning to feel the heat from its fans over its inability to beat Tennessee and Florida, and the general downward trend the program was on; Auburn, behind a first-year head coach, was trending upwards (even despite taking some in-season lumps) after the disastrous end to the previous regime. We can only hope Saturday night's game turns out as well as the 1999 version.
Auburn jumped out to a 31-0 lead at halftime before cruising to a 38-21 victory between the hedges. Leard set the Auburn single-game passing yardage mark with 416, and Auburn picked up some much-needed momentum heading into the Iron Bowl. They would finish the season at 5-6, but finished the following regular season at 9-2 and in the SEC Championship Game before ultimately finishing 9-4 with a Citrus Bowl loss to Michigan. Georgia, on the other hand, would finish the season at 8-4 after a win over Mississippi, a loss to Georgia Tech, and an Outback Bowl win over Purdue. Donnan would be fired after posting another 8-4 season in 2000 with losses to rivals South Carolina, Florida, Auburn, and Georgia Tech.
Check back tomorrow (especially if you're a Georgia fan) as I chronicle the 1996 game! WAR EAGLE.