ATHENS, Ga — To the outside world, the Georgia-Georgia Tech football rivalry is residing in near irrelevance.
The Bulldogs defeated the Yellow Jackets 38-7 two years ago in Atlanta and built a 45-7 lead through three quarters in Sanford Stadium last November before taking their foot off the gas in a 45-21 cruising. Georgia opened Sunday as a 29-point favorite for this weekend's matchup in Bobby Dodd Stadium — the largest spread ever in this in-state pairing.
A 10-1 Georgia facing a 3-8 Georgia Tech will not be must-see television compared to Ohio State-Michigan, the Iron Bowl and other traditional showdowns this Thanksgiving week, but the importance of this rivalry hasn't lessened for the team that's owning it.
"This game has always been the big game for me," Bulldogs senior tight end Charlie Woerner said. "I love the rivalry week thing. All around the country, this is a big week for football, and this has always been a big game to a lot of people in Georgia. It's always fun to watch this game.
"It doesn't matter the record of each team, because each team will bring a different level of intensity and passion."
The Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry has been coined "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate," with the two programs having met since 1893. For the past quarter century, the winner gets to possess the Governor's Cup, which has resided mostly in Athens due to former Bulldogs coach Mark Richt posting a 13-2 mark in the series.
Georgia and Georgia Tech can't agree on their series record, which is probably how it should be. The Bulldogs claim they own a 67-39-5 advantage and don't recognize Georgia Tech's 48-0 and 44-0 wins during the 1943-44 seasons, when the Yellow Jackets used players from a naval officers training program that was hosted on their Atlanta campus.
The Yellow Jackets could use all the help they can get when facing the Bulldogs in Atlanta, having lost nine straight series meetings in Bobby Dodd Stadium. Georgia fans will argue that it should be 14 straight, with the controversial Jasper Sanks fumble aiding Georgia Tech's 51-48 overtime win in 1999.
Georgia fourth-year coach and former Bulldogs safety Kirby Smart needs no more motivation for this game than the 1998 result, when the Yellow Jackets traveled to Sanford Stadium and pulled out a 21-19 triumph.
"You don't remember the positives. Sometimes you remember the bad," Smart said. "It was my last home game at Sanford Stadium, and we lost on a game-winning field goal after Joe Hamilton's drive. That was my last memory of Sanford Stadium.
"Thank God I got into coaching, and I got to fix that. Otherwise that would have been the last time that I was in there."
Smart's first game as a head coach against Georgia Tech was a 28-27 loss in the last minute of a 2016 thriller. The last two years have been very different, which has Smart on the verge of doing something no other Bulldogs coach has accomplished.
The Bulldogs have never defeated the Yellow Jackets three straight years by at least 20 points.
"To me, this will always be 'Hate Week,' and that's exciting," Bulldogs fifth-year senior inside linebacker Tae Crowder said. "No matter what record they have and what record we've got, it's Hate Week. We're going to come out and try to play the best game that we can."
Odds and ends
Bulldogs first-year defensive coordinator Dan Lanning is among the 15 semifinalists for the Frank Broyles Award, given annually to college football's top assistant coach, with Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and LSU passing-game coordinator Joe Brady the other semifinalists from the SEC. ... Quarterback D'Wan Mathis, a freshman who underwent surgery in May to remove a cyst from his brain, has been working with the scout team but is not allowed to take hits. ... Redshirt sophomore cornerback Eric Stokes hasn't participated in contact drills this week but is expected to today, according to Smart.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.