AUBURN, Ala. — On paper, Auburn football vs. Mercer on Saturday looks like another paycheck game for the Tigers on a homecoming weekend. It’s another random FCS opponent coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium for a lot of money and a lopsided loss, right?
But Auburn vs. Mercer isn’t exactly a run-of-the-mill paycheck game. In fact, there’s a decent bit of weird history between the two schools — although a modern blowout win Saturday won’t look too out of place in the record books.
Auburn has played the smaller Georgia university 11 times in its history. That’s a lot of meetings for a team that’s not in the SEC. Of the programs outside of conference play, the Tigers have only played Georgia Tech, Samford, Chattanooga, Birmingham-Southern, Florida State, Tulane and Louisiana Tech more than Mercer.
With the exception of Birmingham-Southern — which now competes in Division III — none of those programs went entire decades without a football team.
Mercer, on the other hand, went more than 70 years without playing football.
In 2013, Mercer played its first football game since 1941. The program halted, like many others, due to World War II. But Mercer never brought it back. It hadn’t had a winning record since 1932.
Before that hiatus, Auburn and Mercer were in the same conference for a few decades. As members of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association — a monstrous union of schools that later splintered into what we know today as the basis of the SEC, ACC and Big 12 — the two squared off 11 times between 1896 and 1922.
Historically speaking, no other team has been an easier win for Auburn than Mercer. Auburn is 11-0 all-time against Mercer, and nine of those have been shutouts. No other team has as many losses to Auburn without a single win or tie.
|1896||Auburn 46, Mercer 0||at Mercer|
|1897||Auburn 26, Mercer 0||at Mercer|
|1907||Auburn 63, Mercer 0||at Auburn|
|1908||Auburn 23, Mercer 0||at Mercer|
|1909||Auburn 23, Mercer 5||at Mercer|
|1911||Auburn 29, Mercer 0||at Auburn|
|1912||Auburn 56, Mercer 0||in Columbus, Ga.|
|1913||Auburn 53, Mercer 0||at Auburn|
|1915||Auburn 45, Mercer 0||at Auburn|
|1916||Auburn 92, Mercer 0||at Auburn|
|1922||Auburn 50, Mercer 6||at Auburn|
Add all up those scores, and the grand total is Auburn 506, Mercer 11.
The Auburn-Mercer series has been brutal from the beginning. As Jeremy Henderson wrote this week for Auburn Undercover, a Mercer player had to have his foot amputated after John Heisman’s team won 46-0 in 1896.
In 1909, Mercer scored its first points against Auburn all-time on a first-half touchdown pass. The Tigers didn’t allow a single first down after halftime in that game, winning 23-5. Two years later, when the two schools met again, Auburn coach “Iron” Mike Donahue pulled his starters early in a 29-0 win.
That dominance against Mercer came in one of the most remarkable stretches of Auburn football history. In a November 1915 article by the Atlanta Constitution, J.R. Lovelace noted Auburn had outscored its opponents 1,215-114.
TEAM PREDICTION: Auburn welcomes Mercer on homecoming weekend
The Tigers were also on a 14-game shutout streak that stretched over three seasons heading into a 1915 showdown with Mercer. They went on to record a 45-0 victory, their last in the incredible run.
Auburn put up a 45-0 win in 1915 and then a 92-0 win in 1916 that still stands as the second-highest, single-game score in program history. In the wire report from the 1916 game, Auburn was described as running “over, through and around” Mercer “at will.”
The two teams played one more time in 1922, with Mercer scoring its second touchdown of the series in a 50-6 loss. A few years later, the smaller members of the SIAA — teams such as Mercer, Chattanooga, Birmingham-Southern and Samford (or Howard, as it was called then) — split off to form the Dixie Conference.
Back when Auburn football played Mercer regularly, this was must-print news in the area newspapers: pic.twitter.com/aQmf8MwD6O
— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) September 14, 2017
That began the great separation between the haves and the have-nots in Southern college football. Mercer folded its program in the 1940s.
Over 70 years later, though, college football came back to Macon. Mercer, now known as the “Bears” instead of the “Baptists,” returned to the game as a Division I FCS member in 2013. They joined the Southern Conference with some of their historical rivals, and they played Georgia Tech last season in a rematch of what once was a matchup between conference foes.
So while so much has changed about college football since the last time Auburn and Mercer met 95 years ago, homecoming has legitimate history this time around on the Plains.
And Auburn fans would be glad to see some of that shutout tradition repeat itself Saturday, even though it’s no longer coming in a conference game.