How Georgia and North Carolina Met in the 1947 Sugar Bowl
Notre Dame and Army, two traditional giants respectively with bowl bans, were No. 1 and 2 respectively in 1946. Despite the postseason taboo by both schools, there was some hope the administrations might not be as adamant as before. The Western Conference (the Big Nine), long opposed to bowl games, agreed to a five year contract with the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate Conference, permitting one of its schools to participate annually in the Rose Bowl.
There was some sentiment in New Orleans for Army, though it was rumored that Army wanted to select its opponent. The Cadets were eyeing Rice, but the Sugar Bowl wanted unbeaten, untied Georgia – the SEC co-champion and No. 3-ranked team. When Sugar Bowl representatives attended the Bulldogs’ last game with Georgia Tech, fans unfurled banners which read “Beat Army.” Whether it was the selection issue or not, Army turned down all bowl invitations, and so did Notre Dame, which did not have the change of heart its Midwestern brothers did.
Actually, Army, Notre Dame, and Georgia all had claims to national championships. Bulldog Coach Wally Butts wanted Associated Press poll notice to go with his Williamson System No. 1 tag. Army was ranked first by the Helms Athletic Foundation and the Football Thesaurus. Notre Dame was champion in the eyes of AP, the Dunkel System, and the Litkenhous System.
“I was prejudiced,” Butts admitted, “but I thought we had the No. 1 team in the nation. Georgia and UCLA were the only teams with perfect records, for Notre Dame and Army had played their famous tie. It would have been interesting to see (Charley) Trippi competing against Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis of Army. But neither Coach Red Blaik of Army or Coach Frank Leahy of Notre Dame was interested in playing that Georgia team.”
Georgia’s firepower was fantastic for the postwar years. Only one team (Alabama) held the Bulldogs under four touchdowns during its 10-game schedule. The Georgia T-formation pulverized its opposition with a 37.2 points-per-game average.
Two of the nation’s best backs, Charley Trippi and John Rauch, drove the Bulldog offense. Trippi had a 6.4-yard-per-carry average with 1,366 total yards. Rauch was the country’s top-ranked passer, and five Bulldogs were ranked among the top receivers. Defensively, Trippi and Rauch were tied with five players nationally with five interceptions apiece.
Seventh-ranked North Carolina, with legend-in-the-making Charley “Choo-Choo” Justice who had gained 1,213 total yards, was paired with Georgia. It was the Tar Heels’ first bowl trip and, despite being Southern Conference Champions, 14 points separated the teams in the odds. It was plain most felt Carolina would need luck to stay close to Georgia.
Recap excerpted from the book “Sugar Bowl Classic: A History” by Marty Mulé, who covered the game and the organization for decades for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.