To say there's not a rivalry in college football quite like Georgia-Georgia Tech, or Georgia Tech-Georgia (depending on which school you pull for), would not be an understatement.
The longevity of the rivalry (one of the few pairings with more than 90 meetings to its credit), the proximity of the schools (only seventy miles apart) and the fierce Georgia state pride are some of the elements that have made this series one of the most widely anticipated in the country.
Significantly, both schools have contributed greatly to college football history. Both have won conference and national championships and are among the leaders in all-time bowl appearances. In fact, only four schools have won all four major bowls (Rose, Sugar, Orange and Cotton)-Notre Dame, Alabama, Georgia and Georgia Tech. And of the seven oldest bowls--Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Gator, Sun and Liberty--just two schools have been victorious in all seven--Georgia and Georgia Tech.
One common thread to their success is that Georgia and Georgia Tech have each had a bountiful supply of outstanding head coaches. According to NCAA data, Georgia Tech is the only school that has produced three coaches with 100 victories or more: John Heisman (102-29-6), William Alexander (134-95-15) and Bobby Dodd (165-64-8). Georgia has also had legendary coaches such as Glenn "Pop" Warner, Wallace Butts (140-86-9) and Vince Dooley (201-77-10). Warner is one of the five winningest coaches ever, while Butts and Dooley each coached two national championship teams. Warner compiled a 341-118-33 record, which would make him the leader in all-time NCAA I-A coaching wins. However, the NCAA only recognizes Warner's win total to be 319 games because of the fact he coached two schools simultaneously; Iowa State and Georgia during the 1895-1896 season as well as Stanford and the University of Pittsburgh during the 1922-1923 season.
Georgia and Georgia Tech also have had a consistent string of outstanding players--many of whom went on to enjoy banner professional careers. Bulldog gridiron greats include Bob McWhorter, Vernon "Catfish" Smith, Frankie Sinkwich, Charley Trippi, Fran Tarkenton, Bill Stanfill, Jake Scott, Herschel Walker, Jimmy Payne, Terry Hoage, Kevin Butler and Garrison Hearst. Georgia Tech's greatest players include Peter Pund, Phil Tinsley, Don Stephenson, Billy Lothridge, Randy Rhino, Bill Curry, Eddie Lee Ivory, Robert Lavette, Pat Swilling, Shawn Jones, Harvey Middleton and Joe Hamilton.
Since Georgia and Georgia Tech first met on a football field on November 4, 1893, the schools have played 95 times in what has become one of the nation's most colorful football feuds. Georgia leads the series 52-38-5. But each year, students, alumni, coaches, players and fans eagerly await the renewal of the bitter rivalry regardless of either team's record or success. Many times, the game raises storm. Other times, it also creates controversy.
It has featured fusses and fights that were the norm during the first four decades it was played. It even included a comical controversy in 1919 that led to the schools severing athletic relations for six years. The controversy stemmed from the fact that Georgia had stopped playing football during World War I, while Georgia Tech kept playing. During Georgia's annual Senior Parade, which was staged before a Georgia-Georgia Tech baseball game in the spring of 1919, a replica of a World War I tank was displayed. Immediately behind the tank was a T-model Ford, driven by two Georgia students. Both the tank and the automobile carried big banners. The tank banner read: 1917-1918 Georgia in France. The automobile banner read: Tech in 'Lanta 1917-1918.
The banners, obviously, insinuated that Georgia "went to war," while Georgia Tech "stayed home" to play football. Georgia Tech officials demanded an apology from the Georgia brass. When Georgia officials declined to apologize, Georgia Tech stopped all athletic relations between the schools. It wasn't until Georgia Governor Clifford Walker (a University of Georgia alumnus) told officials at both schools that he wanted Georgia and Georgia Tech to start playing sporting events against each other again that they were resumed.
In any event, both schools have had their share of ecstasy over the other. Georgia Tech won 12-0 in 1927 to knock a previously undefeated Georgia team out of the Rose Bowl. Georgia did the same to Georgia Tech in 1942, routing the unbeaten Yellow Jackets 34-0 to end their hopes for making the trip to the prestigious Pasadena, CA bowl.
Georgia Tech had an eight-year stranglehold on the series in the 1950s. But the Bulldogs took over the momentum of the series once Dooley became their coach in 1964. Dooley's Dogs claimed wins over the Yellow Jackets 17 out of 25 years (one game ended in a tie), and included roaring comeback verdicts in 1971 and '78.
The game has been a series of streaks in recent years. Georgia won seven in a row from 1991-97, capped by a thrilling 27-24 victory in which Mike Bobo threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Corey Allen with eight seconds remaining.
The following year, Brad Chambers kicked a 35-yard field goal with two seconds left to complete a 14-point, fourth-quarter comeback that gave Georgia Tech a 21-19 win in Athens.
The Yellow Jackets won again in 1999, helped by a blown call that is still debated. With less than 30 seconds to go, Georgia running back Jasper Sanks lost the ball at the Georgia Tech 1-yard line in a 48-48 game.
Though television replays showed both knees were down, the officials gave the ball to the Yellow Jackets. In overtime, Kendrell Bell blocked Luke Manget's field goal attempt on third down, but George Godsey recovered behind the line of scrimmage to give Tech another chance. Manget converted another 38-yard attempt, giving the Yellow Jackets a 51-48 victory.
Sanks won't get a chance to redeem himself. He was kicked off the team on Wednesday for violating team rules.
Georgia Tech had a much easier time last year, building a 27-3 lead at the half and holding on for a 27-15 victory in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated.
This year's Georgia-Georgia Tech clash will be televised nationally by ESPN and on WSB, Channel 2 in Atlanta, beginning at 7:30 p.m. and has the makings of another classic. The No. 19 Bulldogs (6-3) have lost three straight to the No. 21 Yellow Jackets (7-3) heading into the game at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field in Atlanta. Georgia Tech has only had four winning streaks of three or more games against Georgia. Its longest was an eight-game streak from 1949-56. (The other two were from 1904-09 and from 1961-63.)
Georgia could make history in this game--history that the Bulldogs don't want any part of. If the Bulldogs lose to Georgia Tech, Georgia's seniors would be the first since the 1950s to play their entire career without a victory over the hated Yellow Jackets.
"There's not a player on this team other than Adrian Hollingshed (fifth-year middle linebacker) who's contributed to a victory or seen a victory over Georgia Tech," said Mark Richt, the Bulldogs' first-year coach. "That ought to be enough motivation right there to get excited about playing those guys."
If the Bulldogs need an extra boost, they can look to an Atlanta hospital where defensive tackle David Jacobs is recovering from a stroke he suffered last week. His entire right side was affected, making it difficult to talk or move his arm and leg.
Georgia Tech also has plenty of motivation to win.
Coach George O'Leary's Yellow Jackets are only a few plays from being 10-0, having lost to Clemson and Maryland in overtime and falling to Virginia on a trick play with less than a minute remaining. Georgia Tech is coming off a hard-fought, 38-33 win over ACC rival Wake Forest.
Georgia Tech has a potent offense and a good, but not great defense. The Yellow Jackets rank 14th in the nation in total offense with 444.7 yards per game, and average 34.7 points per outing.
Quarterback Godsey has thrown for 2,631 yards and 17 touchdowns and will be looking to pad those numbers against the Bulldogs. With 145 yards rushing against Wake Forest, junior running back Joe Burns went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season, becoming just the fifth 1,000-yard rusher in Georgia Tech history and the first since 1995. Burns now has 1,038 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Yellow Jackets will have top receiver Kelly Campbell back for the Georgia game after missing the last two games with a sprained ankle. The senior is Georgia Tech's all-time leading receiver with 184 catches for 2,798 yards.
Defensive ends Greg Gathers and Nick Rogers headline a Georgia Tech defense that has allowed 314.3 yards per game and 20.8 points. Gathers has 10 sacks, along with 18 tackles for loss. Rogers adds nine tackles for loss and has tallied four sacks. Linebackers Keyaron Fox and Recardo Wimbush are Georgia Tech's top tacklers with 70 and 68, respectively. Free safety Jeremy Muyres and cornerback Marvious Hester each have three interceptions.
If the game comes down to a field goal, Georgia Tech may have the advantage. Manget has hit 36 of 36 PATS and 17 of 26 field goals for 87 points. Georgia kicker Billy Bennett is also perfect on PATs (28 of 28), but has made just 11 of 19 field goals.. Bennett has hit only 6 of 14 field goals from 30 yards or beyond.
Georgia routed Mississippi 35-15 last week in perhaps its best overall performance since an Oct. 6 win at Tennessee. The Bulldogs rushed for 268 yards against the Rebels and had two touchdown drives that didn't include any pass attempts. Senior fullback turned tailback Verron Haynes rushed for 192 yards to lead the Georgia offense. Defensively, Georgia held the explosive Mississippi offense to just 261 total yards, including a measly 28 rushing yards.
Georgia is led offensively by redshirt freshman David Greene, who has completed 172 of 283 passes for 2,369 yards. Greene has tossed 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has a 60.8 pass completion percentage. Greene's favorite targets include freshman Fred Gibson and senior Terrence Edwards. Gibson has 26 receptions for 619 yards and five touchdowns. He is averaging 23.8 yards per catch. Edwards has a team-high 32 receptions for 463 yards and five touchdowns.
Defensively, the Bulldogs top performers include middle linebacker Tony Gilbert, who has a team-best 87 tackles (52 solos; 35 assists), including six for a loss. Gilbert, a 6-foot-1, 246-pound junior, has also made one interception. Senior rover Jermaine Phillips, one of the team's top NFL prospects, is also having a solid season. The 6-foot-2, 211-pound Phillips is second on the team in tackles with 70, including 44 solo stops. He also has made three interceptions. He returned one 82 yards for a touchdown last week at Mississippi.
Scouts from the Citrus, Outback and Peach bowls will attend the game, and the outcome will greatly affect the Bulldogs' postseason fate.
Georgia is still under consideration for the Citrus Bowl, but might be a longshot to play Illinois or Michigan in Orlando, FL even if the Bulldogs beat Georgia Tech. It's believed that the Citrus Bowl selection committee, which includes more than 200 voting members, wants South Carolina, which finished 8-3 and beat Georgia.
If the Bulldogs are granted an invitation to the Citrus Bowl, they would play the #2 team from the Big 10 Conference-likely Illinois. However, Georgia could also face Michigan, Ohio State or Purdue.
If Georgia beats Georgia Tech, its best postseason possibility appears to be the Outback Bowl, where the Bulldogs won after the 1997 and 1999 seasons. Auburn, Georgia and Mississippi seem to be candidates to play in Tampa, FL if South Carolina plays in the Citrus. Auburn would likely get the nod because the Tigers beat both Georgia and Mississippi. Then again, Auburn may get a bid to the Cotton Bowl.
Georgia would face either Purdue, Ohio State or Iowa in the Outback-most likely Purdue.
The Peach Bowl gets the third choice after the BCS selections and isn't against selecting Georgia, even though the Bulldogs may not bring many out-of-town travelers. However, Georgia would almost assuredly sell out the Peach Bowl regardless of who the Bulldogs played.
Georgia would play either North Carolina, Florida State or Georgia Tech in the Peach Bowl. The most likely possibility would be a Georgia-North Carolina game if the Peach Bowl fills the game by its adopted criteria-- the third place team from the Atlantic Coast Conference against the fourth place team from the Southeastern Conference. No team but North Carolina can finish third in the ACC. The Peach Bowl, probably, would try to avoid another Georgia-Georgia Tech game, as many people would stay home and watch it on television. However, a Georgia-Florida State would be considered a very desirable game, especially since Richt was a member of Bobby Bowden's FSU coaching staff for many years.
Another bowl possibility for Georgia is the Music City Bowl, in which the Bulldogs would probably play Boston College. However, Georgia could face Virginia Tech or Syracuse. Yet another post-season game in which the Bulldogs may play is the Independence Bowl. They would likely face Iowa State there, but could also square off against Texas A and M.
Georgia could also end up in the Cotton Bowl with wins over Georgia Tech and Houston next week. This would be a longshot possibility at best though. The Bulldogs would face their stiffest competition there though, playing the Big 12's number 2 team, which would be either defending national champion Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas or Colorado.
Georgia also has three other bowl possibilities. However, they are very unlikely. These include:
* Humanitarian Bowl versus Big West Conference's top team, probably Louisiana Tech. However, the Bulldogs could also play Boise State.
* Las Vegas Bowl versus the number two team from the Mountain West Conference, likely Colorado State, but possibly Utah.
* Silicon Valley Bowl versus a Big West Conference school, likely Boise State. However, Georgia could also play Fresno State, Louisiana Tech, Rice or Hawaii.
KEYS TO GEORGIA BEATING GEORGIA TECH
* Establish a running game.
The Bulldogs shouldn't have a lot of trouble throwing the ball on the Yellow Jackets. And if Georgia can have success running it against Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs should win. Haynes must be able to again spark the Bulldog running game again. With Sanks off the team, whatever production Georgia gets out of its running attack will likely have to come from Haynes, unless tailback Musa Smith is healthy enough to play and add some much-needed production.
* Rest of Georgia offense needs to put up better numbers than the Georgia Tech offense.
This means Greene needs to outplay Godsey AND Gibson and company needs to have better games than Campbell and company. The Yellow Jacket defense has not played well in recent games. After giving up just 115 points in its first seven games, Georgia Tech has surrendered 93 in its last three against North Carolina, Virginia and Wake Forest. The Bulldogs will be in dandy shape if they can have similar success scoring against the Georgia Tech defense.
* Stop Joe Burns from running wild.
The Bulldogs have had problems stopping Burns the past two seasons and they must limit his effectiveness to win this year's game. The Georgia defensive front must consistently contain Burns before he has a chance to get downfield or the Bulldogs will have trouble winning.
* Offensive line must play well.
Georgia Tech's defensive front absolutely eat Georgia's offensive line alive in last year's game. That can't happen this year if the Bulldogs are to win. Losing starting left tackle Jon Stinchcomb has created serious problems for Richt and line coach Neil Callaway as it will force Kareem Marshall to play most of the game where he will be faced with the tough task of slowing down Gathers and Rogers, who will rotate sides on the line
Another seemingly toss-up game. Georgia has some major injuries and won't be at full-strength. Nevertheless, I expect the Bulldogs to play well two weeks in a row-something they've not done in over a month. Georgia needs this game from a psychological standpoint more than Georgia Tech does. The Bulldogs appear to be more talented than the Yellow Jackets and have played a tougher schedule. Georgia 32, Georgia Tech 24.
I had Mississippi penciled in to beat the Bulldogs, and a 7-4 Georgia team playing 6-5 North Carolina in the Peach Bowl in last week's game preview column. I'm sticking with that prediction although it may now be an 8-3 Georgia team facing 6-5 UNC. If Georgia does not play North Carolina in the Peach Bowl, the Bulldogs will face Florida State in the Georgia Dome. If Georgia does not get a Peach Bowl bid, look for the Bulldogs in the Music City Bowl against Boston College. If the Bulldogs lose to both Georgia Tech and Houston, it's hello Shreveport, LA and an Independence Bowl game against Iowa State even though I don't think any team without seven wins should be extended a bowl berth. Georgia will win either of the three games though. The only possible bowl opponents I wouldn't pick Georgia to beat would be Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas or Colorado in the Cotton and maybe Michigan in the Outback.
Tim Gardner can be reached at tim@DawgPost.com.