Before Georgia can win a Southeastern Conference title or a national championship, it has to worry about continuing to reign supreme in its own state.
The No. 3 Bulldogs can put the series with Georgia Tech back in a familiar spot Saturday as Georgia’s seniors can complete a four-game sweep against their in-state rivals.
“This game is huge personally for every senior, for our state,” linebacker Christian Robinson said. “You don’t want to deal with that loss for the rest of your life and for a whole year.”
Georgia (10-1) had senior classes go unbeaten against the Yellow Jackets during a stretch in which it won seven in a row in the series from 1991 to 1997 (before losing three straight) and then again during a span from 2001-07 before the Yellow Jackets left Athens in 2008 with a 45-42 win and pieces of the Sanford Stadium hedges.
“That’s when I realized how huge the rivalry was,” fifth-year senior receiver Tavarres King said. “I didn’t understand it until then.”
Sanders Commings understood how important it is from back home in Augusta.
“There’s a mixture of the fans down there,” the fifth-year senior cornerback said. “There’s some Georgia fans, there’s some Georgia Tech fans. Excluding my redshirt year being undefeated against those guys will be a great feeling.”
A former teammate of Robinson’s sent the linebacker a text last week.
“Don’t lose that last one,” was the message from former Bulldogs defensive end Rod Battle, whose senior day was ruined in 2009 with a 34-27 loss to Kentucky. “You’ll live with it for the rest of your life.”
That text came before Georgia players knew that their path to the BCS title game had opened up over the weekend with upsets by the top two teams in the BCS, leaving the Bulldogs likely needing only to beat Georgia Tech and win the SEC championship to get to the national title game.
“We need this win,” senior Branden Smith. “To get where we want to get, we need to win every week.”
Smith, a cornerback who played at Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, said his home is a seven-minute drive from Georgia Tech’s campus. He got to know former Georgia Tech players Morgan Burnett (North Clayton) and Stephen Hill (Miller Grove).
Georgia Tech (6-5) can spoil Georgia’s BCS title hopes with the upset.
The Yellow Jackets were blown out this season by Middle Tennessee and BYU, but have won three straight and scored 110 points the past two games against North Carolina and Duke,
“Georgia Tech is scoring an awful lot of points lately, and they’re playing extremely well as a team,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “We know what this game means to our program on a year-to-year basis. We’re very excited about playing it. We know it’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be our senior day, the last shot for our seniors to play between the hedges and I hope they have a really positive experience.”
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson won in his first game in the series in 2008, but the Yellow Jackets have lost since by scores of 30-24, 42-34 and 31-17.
“We haven’t had much success, especially lately,” Johnson said Monday on Atlanta’s 680 The Fan. “We’ve had close games. Last year’s game was the first game since I’ve been here that really you can say didn’t go down to the last possession or so. For it to be a real rivalry, we need to uphold our end. We haven’t done that lately.”