(Will Roddy Jones and his friends have a good day Saturday?)
In the South, we take our football seriously—and there is no football more serious than a good rivalry.
Bill Curry won 26 games in three years at Alabama, and he went to the Sugar Bowl. But he was an unacceptable 0-3 against Auburn, a record that just wasn't right in the eyes of fans. The relationship soured, and Curry was gone.
Chan Gailey, to use a more appropriate example, was a whopping 0-6 against the Bulldogs. Most of the time, his Yellow Jackets came close, but the only great constant in Gailey-coached Georgia games was the result.
Fast-forward to the Saturday after Thanksgiving, 2008. Paul Johnson takes Georgia Tech into the locker room in Athens down 16 points, only to blow past Georgia in the second half in a 45-42 win, thus immediately separating himself from his predecessor.
The point? Games like these make villains, and they can make legends.
So when Georgia Tech hosts Georgia on Saturday night in Atlanta, records should honestly be thrown out, because games like these have a tendency to turn out their own, entirely distinct stories.
I understand that none of this is original thought, but it's important, when breaking down any facet of games like these, to view them from the frame of mind that rivalry games really do breed unpredictable, inexplicable, emotional moments that can't be applied to any metric or assigned any statistic.
I've already offered a few off-the-cuff thoughts on Georgia (sorry, I had limited time to work with; it's been a busy Sunday). So this won't be bullets, but a bit of a longer diatribe on the bigger-picture issues riding on this game.
For Georgia Tech, this game is all about respect. As a born-and-bred Georgian, I will tell you that UGA has always been the mean older brother in the eyes of Tech fans everywhere.
Walk into any Atlanta-area sporting goods store—Georgia gear will dwarf Tech gear. At any local school, church, or other place of social gathering, Georgia fans will outnumber Tech fans 3-to-1. Georgia is the big state school; it gets the love.
Beating Georgia, which admittedly doesn't happen very often, is a way for the Jackets to stick it to the perceived big boys. If they can do it in a year that asserts their dominance while at the same time solidifying Georgia as one of the nation's truly average teams, all the better.
For Georgia, beating Tech is about keeping the natural order. The nerds on the Flats don't do it nearly as big as they do in Athens, and the score at the end of the game should prove that.
This year, it's even more important for the Bulldogs, who would love to use a win over Georgia Tech to erase a disappointing season, make the case for a respectable bowl game, and as a springboard to a better 2010.
For Paul Johnson, this game is about image. Beat Georgia two years running—and on the way to an ACC title game—and Johnson can basically write his ticket. He's already beloved; this win would make him worshipped.
For Mark Richt, it's about cooling the seat he's on right now. Georgia should never have started this season in the top 15 in any poll; that was a pipe dream. But this team has looked lost, listless, and out of control for most of the season.
They are undisciplined and without any obvious leadership, and it's spiraled them to a 6-5 record that includes a home loss to Kentucky.
Beat Georgia Tech and win your bowl, and a lot of that ill will gets erased. Fail to do either (or both) of those things, and the seat you're on and the shirt you're wearing will become the same color.
There are so many storylines in this game—so many storylines in all these games. Like the time Luke Manget, who essentially said he would have crawled to Athens to play for Georgia, hit a game-winning field goal in overtime to beat the Bulldogs 51-48, after his first attempt on the possession was blocked.
Or Hines Ward beating Georgia Tech basically by himself in Atlanta. I think the only thing Ward didn't do that day was kick the extra point...or did he?
These are just some of Hates this 22-year-old cub reporter can remember. There have been many, many more.
What will we remember about this year?