BRAWL BALL 2001: Tech versus Georgia

I've pretty much looked at this game from all the angles and I keep coming back to the same indisputable conclusion: Both of these teams desperately need to win this game. So the stakes are raised even higher, which means there will be an extra thick, Iron Bowl-tension in the air. And pre-game good-natured kidding will be harder to find this year as fans of both schools nervously wait for resolution. It is certain that this year, especially, a winter of discontent awaits the losers.

Remember, Tech fans. There was a time not so long ago that the Jackets couldn't even beat a Ray Goff-coached Georgia Bulldog football team.

And there were a decade or two after Bobby Dodd retired when Tech rarely won this game.

First Bill Curry, then Bobby Ross, and now George O'Leary have managed to change all that, but Georgia fans still have a hard time accepting a loss to Georgia Tech in football. Dawg Nation was so upset by last year's drubbing between the hedges that they fired their coach. That brought in an off-season of new optimism and hopes of frequent victories over all the rivals that were suddenly beating them.

The jury is still out on new coach Mark Richt as far as many Dawg fans are concerned, so this game will help make or break the general mood of all those hunkering fanatics around the state. A win makes 2001 a success-- the turnaround they were all hoping for when Jim Donnan was shown the door. A loss and a whole winter is spent fearing that nothing has changed.

The Jackets can forget much of their BCS disappointments with a fourth win in a row. A loss just puts an exclamation point on all the frustration this season has brought.

So while this game may not have the national BCS implications it appeared it might a couple of months ago, it will still pit two bitter rivals against one another with a combined 13 wins and just six losses. Both teams still have a shot at playing in New Year's Day bowl games, or playing in some pre-Christmas match-up in a half-filled stadium.

But this game isn't really about bowl games. It's about millions of people in a large southern state who, deep down in their hyper-beating hearts, want the bragging rights winning this game brings. And yes, people really do hate each other over this stuff.

But, all that hatred stuff aside, this promises to be a heck of a football game. I only hope that folks on both sides of the rivalry can enjoy at least some of it.


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