A 10-game season seems incredibly bizarre in our modern day of college football. However, it is not unheard of. The last time the Georgia Bulldogs played just a 10-game season was in 1970. The NCAA did allow teams to schedule 11 games for the first time in 1970, but Georgia chose to remain at the previous 10 games for one more year. It was definitely not the prettiest of seasons for the Bulldogs, but it is interesting nonetheless to look back in history a bit.
1970: Georgia’s 10 Game Season
The 1970 Georgia Bulldogs were coming off of a 5-5-1 season in 1969. The previous season had ended with a 45-6 loss at the hands of the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Sun Bowl. It was going to be Vince Dooley’s seventh season in charge of the Georgia football team, and the coach was looking for a bounce-back year.
The Start To The Season
Georgia would start the season unranked, but following a bye week, found themselves ranked #19 in the nation after week one. That would be the only time the Bulldogs would be ranked all season, as their first game saw Georgia fall 17-14 to Tulane. Dooley’s team would rebound the following week with their biggest win of the season, a 38-0 thumping of the Clemson Tigers.
The Wichita State Crash
Things took a turn for the worst after that, not just for Georgia but for the whole nation. On October 2nd, the Wichita State Shockers football team was heading to Logan, Utah, for a game against the Utah State Aggies. The passengers were split into two flights. Starters, the head coach Ben Wilson, athletic director Bert Katzenmeyer, other team personnel, and their wives were put on to the “gold” plane. The “black” plane carried backups, assistant coaches, and additional personnel. Tragically, one of the planes would not make it. After a refueling stop in Denver, the two flights took different paths. The “gold” plane never got to a high enough flying altitude and crashed in the Rocky Mountains. 31 of the 40 passengers on board died.
The Middle Of Georgia’s 10 Game Season
It was a horrible moment in college football history, but would not even be the only one of the season. Shifting focus back to Georgia, though, the Bulldogs went on the road that week and fell 7-6 to Mississippi State. The following week, Georgia would lose for the second straight time. This time, it was at home to the other Mississippi school, as #5 Ole Miss beat Georgia 31-21.
After back-to-back losses, the Bulldogs were finally able to get some momentum going. It started with a 37-3 win over Vanderbilt. The following week, Georgia went on the road to beat the Kentucky Wildcats 19-3. Then, Georgia would return home for another win against the South Carolina Gamecocks, 52-34. The winning streak would come to a close in Jacksonville, Florida, with a 31-17 loss to the Florida Gators.
The following week Georgia went on the road to Auburn, Alabama to face a very good Auburn Tigers football team. Auburn was ranked #8 at the time and was sitting on only one loss. Auburn lone loss had come to eventual SEC Champions, the LSU Tigers. Even with that one loss, Auburn was still in a spot to make a good bowl game. A win against Georgia could have put Auburn in the National Championship talk. That is not what happened, as the Bulldogs played spoiler in a big way, beating the Tigers 31-17 and knocking Auburn from #8 down to #13 and out of the national spotlight.
Tragedy Strikes Again
As the Bulldogs celebrated their upset win, tragedy struck the college football world once again. On the night of November 14th, the Marshall Thundering Herd football team was heading back home after a 17-14 loss to East Carolina. The team had originally planned to drive back to campus but instead elected to charter a flight. 75 people boarded the flight. The 75 were made up of 37 players, 8 coaches, 25 boosters, and five crew members for the flight. The flight was a fairly typical one until they approached Tri-State Airport in Huntington, West Virginia. The conditions at the airport were poor. As the flight got closer to landing, some key readings were misread. The flight crashed 4,000 feet shy of the runway. All 75 passengers were killed in the accident. The accident is recognized as the worst sports-related air tragedy in US history.
Following the win over Auburn, Georgia returned home for their final game of the season. Another major rivalry game, this time the Bulldogs face the #16 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. However, the luck had run out for Georgia, as Tech beat their rivals 17-7.
Georgia did not play in a 1970 bowl game. However, the bowl games did see a very interesting set of storylines. The top five teams were all in action. The top-ranked Texas Longhorns faced #6 Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl. The #2 Ohio State Buckeyes faced the #12 Stanford Indians in the Rose Bowl. The #3 Nebraska Cornhusker faced #5 LSU in the Orange Bowl. And #4 Tennessee faced #11 Air Force in the Sugar Bowl.
Texas coming in at a perfect 10-0 fell 24-11. The 9-0 Buckeyes lost 27-17 to Stanford. That means, with a 17-12 win, Nebraska was able to claim their first of five National Championships. Also of note is that the Stanford team that pulled of the upset was led by that year’s Heisman winner, quarterback Jim Plunkett.
Overall, the last season that Georgia played a 10-game season was a roller coaster. Tragedy devastated the college football world twice, which will always leave a stain on the season. However, we still saw the upsets and major moments that we have come to love from college football, maybe even more so, as we saw the whole community come together around those directly affected by those tragedies.