In a college football rivalry that has become more lopsided of late, this year’s version of Clean, Old Fashioned Hate is shaping up to be a major mismatch.
Unbeaten Georgia enters Saturday’s game at Bobby Dodd Stadium with a No. 1 ranking, a series of dominant wins and an eye on the program’s first national championship since 1980. The Bulldogs will return to Atlanta a week later for the Dec. 4 SEC Championship Game against Alabama.
Meanwhile, Georgia Tech limps into the rivalry on the heels of a disastrous, 55-0 loss at Notre Dame. The Yellow Jackets (3-8) began the week as a 35-point underdog for the noon home game with Georgia.
Georgia owns a 68-39-5 advantage in the all-time series with Tech, and won the most recent meeting 52-7 in Atlanta in 2019. The 2020 rivalry game was not played as it was a casualty of schedules reshuffled by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bulldogs have won eight of the last 10 in the series with its most recent loss coming 28-27 in 2016, Kirby Smart’s first year as head coach.
After that game, Georgia defeated Georgia Tech 38-7 in 2017, and 45-21 in 2018, Paul Johnson’s last as the Yellow Jackets’ head coach.
Geoff Collins took over at Tech in 2019, losing 52-7 in his first season at his alma mater. It will take a special effort by the Yellow Jackets to challenge their in-state rivals this season.
Georgia, 11-0 for the first time since 1982, hasn’t faced a tight game since a 10-3 win over Clemson in the Sept. 4 season opener in Charlotte, N.C. Its 15-game winning streak is the longest in the nation. Two more victories will match the school record of 17 straight wins, set from 1945-47.
The Bulldogs lead the nation in scoring defense (7.6 per game), allowing only 83 points through 11 games. The unit, stacked at every level, features big Jordan Davis in the middle and top tacklers Channing Tindall (55 tackles), Nakobe Dean (50), Lewis Cine (49) and Quay Walker (46). The group has 71 tackles for losses, 38 sacks and 12 interceptions.
The defense was stout again in last Saturday’s win, while the offense racked up 49 points in the first half of another game started by Stetson Bennett at quarterback. Bennett was 8 of 14 passing for 105 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. J.T. Daniels was 7 of 12 passing for 73 yards and a TD in a relief role.
All in all, it was an enjoyable Senior Day for the Bulldogs in preparation for their in-state battle in Atlanta.
“We had a really short message and talked about our book and talked about what we’re writing and what the next chapter would hold,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said after the Charleston Southern win. “And I told them, I wanted them to name the next chapter because I didn’t want it to be a boring or monotonous chapter, and they said send off. And that was the name of the chapter to send these guys off right at least in Sanford Stadium. And I thought they handled that well. They played to a standard and they gave a lot of guys an opportunity to play you know. If we let the team hang around and play sloppy, we don’t get to play a lot of players that deserve the right play.
“You know, there were probably about 10 or 15 walk-ons that had never played a snap. And some of them have probably taken somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 reps on our practice fields and they got to play a snap because of the effort of the guys that played our standard.”
On the other side of the rivalry, Georgia Tech hasn’t experienced the turnaround it hoped for under Collins. He won three games in 2019, three games in 2020 and is 3-8 this season, still searching for his first bowl trip with the Yellow Jackets. Since 1995, Georgia Tech has four three-win seasons and Collins has three of them.
The Yellow Jackets, losers of five straight since a 3-3 start, had their roughest outing last Saturday in the 55-point defeat against Notre Dame. They had a few key players out, including quarterback Jeff Sims, and the performance was disappointing for a team that had competed much better during its current losing streak in games with Boston College (41-30), Miami (33-30), Virginia Tech (26-17) and Virginia (48-40).
“I thought we got out-coached, we got out-executed and I thought we got out-physicaled throughout the game,” Collins said after the Notre Dame loss. “The response to adversity was not like we’ve shown in previous weeks. We’ve got to find a way. We’ve got the No. 1 team in the country coming to town next Saturday. We’ve got to watch this, learn from this and get ready for next week. That one hurt. Obviously, (the players) are hurting in there. It has not been the type of football we’ve played and battled the last couple of weeks. We’ve got to get better and it starts with me.”
Jordan Yates started at quarterback against Notre Dame, and finished 14 of 28 passing for 96 yards. He was sacked six times, but also had his team’s longest run, a 52-yarder. Take away that run, and Georgia Tech managed only 76 rushing yards in a frustrating performance.
“Battling close games, battling close games, all of those things are stepping stones and then you have a game like this and it’s a setback,” Collins said. “We’ve got to learn from it and take away where we are and how to get to where we’re going to be and everything in the offseason heading into next year, big picture-wise. But we’ve got a great Georgia team coming into town on Saturday. We’ve got to learn from this one and get ready to play on Saturday.”