Han Vance on Georgia football: (#5) Georgia Bulldogs host the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, winners of 6-of-7 football games, in Athens Saturday at noon Between the Hedges. Tech won close games twice consecutively on trips to the Classic City. Kirby Smart is 1-1 lifetime versus UGA’s only in-state rival.
Back when current-Athenian Jim Donnan was coaching UGA, after successful stints at a moving-up Marshall as head coach, after having been an offensive coach at traditional football power Oklahoma, the rivalry was much more real. Ray Goff did fine enough versus the Jackets but had his alma mater’s major sporting program mired in mediocrity. Donnan came to a Georgia in the clear shadow of Florida and Tennessee, in the new SEC East, but overall slightly ahead of Tech in national status.
His failures versus the Jackets led to his exit after four years and the dawning of the Mark Richt era, totally dominated by the state flagship 13-2. Tech was actually my full-time dedicated business client part of that time period of Peach State dominance. Be it Athens or ATL, I was there in red.
Georgia and Tech are historically similar, old programs, with Tech actually having the upper hand quite often throughout the long fabled stories of football at both universities. Advantage Atlanta, the older major stadium served a Tech that were a power way back in the teens and roaring ’20s. Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field being the oldest on-campus college football stadium, Georgia, crazy as it sounds, often borrowed the Tech site for big home games.
Stadium Sanford opened in 1929, and the “Train Series” went to another level in intensity. See, throughout Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, the ultimately important element of fan experience was all about an exciting anticipation and period of dejection or ovation in easy train travel back-and-forth between Athens and Atlanta. Folks trying to stay alert or avoid DUIs in bumper-to-bumper traffic on 316 is hardly a replacement for this sheer excitement, this experiential college football glory of days gone. Georgians could and should demand this back.
Georgia dominated the long-running series in the great 1940s. It was a time when UGA first played in college football bowl games, won the (split) national championship in 1942, had running heroes and war heroes, went undefeated and were robbed of another natty in 1946.
People forget that Tech were charter members of the SEC. They tend to forget Tech football, as a national name brand. It has been said, only Georgia Tech and Syracuse are both football schools and basketball schools, and every other major college can be identified as one or the other.
Georgia won it all unanimously in 1980; Tech got a spilt natty in 1990. 66-41-5 is the all-time series advantage. Take out Richt’s 13 wins over a decade-and-a-half, and it was a much closer series. Before Richt, 1978-1997 was the period when Georgia finally surged ahead in the standings, going 16-4.
Times had changed by the time former Georgia defensive back Kirby Smart began the series with a resounding thud, the only loss in an otherwise strong 4-1 stretch that culminated an unsuccessful 8-5 season, replacing the perennial 10-game winner. Georgia had owned Tech. That stung.
Times have changed again. Dawgs whipped the Jackets soundly in Atlanta last year on the way to the SEC championship, not won by the superior program since 2005. Georgia stand 10-1 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the end of the Herschel Walker era (1980-1982).
A major regression will take place on Saturday, or Georgia wins. All the pressure is on the Bulldogs. For their parts, Tech have won 3-of-5 in Athens, and 4-of-6 would equal a lasting negative trend. Dogs are favored by 17, a field goal and two touchdowns. No home losses have occurred since the Jackets last visited.
UGA swept Tech last year: getting the best of them in all three of the biggest college sports: football, men’s basketball and baseball. Another sweep season could begin in earnest on Saturday, and I got my tickets for the upcoming Georgia at Tech basketball game, which looks a little worse now. Georgia is a football school, through and through; a 3-3 start in football would equal the sky falling on fans of the Dawgs.
Georgia Tech averages a tops in the nation 353.7 rushing yards per game, and Georgia has struggled with running defense and gap assignments at times, featuring a defense that had major attrition in replacing a 2017 defense, which had had 13-of-15 leading tacklers return. This could be a tipping point. Most of this season’s key defenders were not starting at Georgia, as I watched the Governor’s Cup win with many family members under my hometown skyline last season.
The triple option offense, only instituted by the three service academies and Georgia Tech, gets way easier to defend once the majority of guys have seen it in-person on the field. No such luck, here. I took Georgia 34-20, but a less than 10-point game may favor the clock-control Jackets.
Win and we won’t have to hate, saving our ire as a fanbase for the evil empire a state away.