Clean, old-fashioned hate has become boring, uninspiring and irrelevant. The Georgia Bulldogs and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets used to share a bitter rivalry, but those days get more distant every year.
Since Mark Richt‘s tenure began in 2001, Tech has only managed one victory. Prior to 2001, Tech lost seven of the last 10 games, stumbling against several Georgia teams that were in turmoil during the Ray Goff years and struggling mightily in the SEC. George O’Leary had some success in the late 90s and early 2000s, but he left Tech unceremoniously in the cross-hairs of the NCAA Infractions Committee.
The newest generation of fans on both sides cannot remember the days of Pepper Rodgers versus Vince Dooley. They can only read about the 1950s-70s when the teams went toe-to-toe and the entire state would shut down when the Dawgs and Jackets teed it up. The game rarely has championship implications nor does it pique much national interest. It feels like a bad relationship where two people stay together out of obligation.
Why did this happen? Common sense says that in-state rivals should be the most heated simply due to proximity. The schools are 65 miles apart in a college football-crazed state where fall weekends are planned around kickoff times. Weddings during this time are forbidden. People mope about losses until at least the following Tuesday and revel in victories for years. In terms of college football, the state of Georgia is about as rabid as it gets and shows no signs of letup. Yet this rivalry has taken a backseat to other Southern rivalries in a big way.
Unlike Alabama–Auburn, these two teams do not share a conference. Georgia has bad-blooded rivalries with so many other teams in the SEC and the importance of those games has taken precedence in recent years. Georgia fans younger than 40 recall slugfests against Auburn, South Carolina or Florida as program-defining moments. That feeling does not seem to accompany the Tech game anymore. Maybe it is the exhaustion of the previous 11 games, but the atmosphere has become subdued with a “let’s get this over with” buzz in the air.
Unlike Clemson-South Carolina or Florida-Florida State, these two schools rarely go head-to-head for recruits anymore. Since Paul Johnson instituted the option offense at Tech, the recruiting strategy has changed drastically. Meanwhile, Georgia runs a pro set offense that is content with throwing 25-30 passes per game. Defensively, the differences are not as pronounced but on Signing Day, you will not likely see many players choosing between these two teams. The differences in the philosophies of these programs has caused an alienation of sorts. This game used to be a brother-against-brother backyard brawl. Now, it’s more like distant cousins fighting over who gets to play on the tire swing first.
The bad blood remains in some ways. The older fans still carry the clean, old-fashioned hate chip on their shoulders. They remember the days of close games where more than just bragging rights were at stake. As it stands, the all-time record is 64-39-5 in favor of the Dawgs. Last season saw Tech snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory in an overtime home loss that left many Tech fans shaking their heads. Until this series gets closer and the teams fight over recruits and national rankings again, this series is going to keep falling down the list of importance.
Georgia and Georgia Tech may be separated by a few miles of highway, but they are light years apart where it counts. Will this spell the end of this game in the future?