Georgia fans have more to be thankful for this football season: a bountiful supply of wins over their biggest rivals.
In a season in which the Bulldogs conquered Auburn, Tennessee and notched a rare win against Florida, Georgia Tech is now in their sights on Saturday.
The Bulldogs have pulled off beating all four of those teams in the same season just twice — in 1980 and 1981.
“It would mean a great deal to beat Georgia Tech,” said tight end Orson Charles, a Tampa native. “A lot of people around here hate Georgia Tech. I mean, I don’t like them, but my rival was Florida, but these people literally hate Georgia Tech.”
Charles said strength and conditioning coaches Joe Tereshinski and John Kasay — who started on the offensive line for SEC title teams and have been with the program for decades — talked to current players about their feelings for Georgia Tech.
“They’re stressing to us that even though we’re having a winning season and if we go to the SEC (championship game) and win, this is the game that you’ll remember,” Charles said. “We don’t want to look forward to who we’re going to play (next week), we need to focus on this game.”
Georgia has had Georgia Tech’s number under coach Mark Richt, winning nine of 10 games, including all five at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Georgia players want to add another win to that total, but when the season started, junior defensive end Abry Jones wanted one game the most.
“I really wanted to get the Florida win,” Jones said. “I hadn’t got one and talking to DeAngelo (Tyson) all the time, we talk a lot, and it being his last year, he always stressed that he never got a win (against the Gators). Me and him, we kind of put that on the top.”
Wide receiver Tavarres King sounds exhausted by rivalry games showing up so often on the Bulldogs’ schedule.
“This place has the most rivalries of any place in America,” King said. “If you think about it, man, how many do we have? For real, how many do we have?”
Well, you can scratch New Mexico State and Coastal Carolina for sure. Kentucky and Vanderbilt, too.
“The fact that we’ve beaten all of our rivals in the SEC says that we’re tested and we’re capable of going on a run and beating good teams,” kicker Blair Walsh said.
Except Georgia hasn’t quite beaten all of its SEC rivals if you happen to live in Augusta, which borders South Carolina. There was that 45-42 loss in September to the Gamecocks, who are certainly considered behind Florida and Auburn in the rivalry spectrum.
“I really think it’s what part of the state that you’re in,” fullback Bruce Figgins said. “With me being from Columbus, Auburn is always a big game. Guys in South Georgia and Valdosta, they can’t wait for Florida. It depends on the game and where you’re at in the state.”
Richt played up the importance of the Georgia Tech rivalry on the SEC teleconference on Wednesday, calling it “a 365 day game. It’s the one that everybody talks about all year long, everybody reminds each other about all offseason. It’s one that everybody wants to win.”
Even with a trip to the SEC championship game next week assured, tight end Aron White wasn’t downplaying the importance of this game against the Yellow Jackets.
“You can see that in 2008,” White said. “A lot of people would say that’s a successful season going 10-3 and winning the Capital One Bowl, but that loss to Tech really kind of ruined that season and left a sour note in everybody’s mouth.”
Added punter Drew Butler” “This is the state championship, it’s as simple as that. If you can’t get riled up for this game, you might as well not even come to Georgia.”