Originally created 08/27/99

Bulldogs, Yellow Jackets very rarely are poll-mates



Quincy Carter can't recall the last time so much was expected of both his Georgia Bulldogs and their rivals to the southwest, Georgia Tech.

"I guess it's been a while since both of us have been on top," said the Bulldogs' sophomore quarterback from Decatur, Ga.

Quite a while, actually. The last time these two were both in the preseason Associated Press poll was 1992. And before that? A mere 28 years ago in 1971, six years before Carter was born. Before that? Never.

Though both schools boast a rich football past, seldom do the Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets share national acclaim. Which might make this season -- in which Georgia Tech is ranked No. 11 and Georgia No. 14 in preseason -- quite a memorable one for college football in the Peach State.

That both teams also sport Heisman Trophy candidates at quarterback adds sauce to the feast. Perhaps it isn't a coincidence that the hopes of the Bulldogs and Jackets rest squarely on the shoulders of their celebrated signal-callers, Carter and his counterpart at Georgia Tech, Joe Hamilton.

"You love expectations," said Hamilton, who is hoping to improve on the Yellow Jackets' 10-2 record of 1998. "You work four or five years to get those expectations. Bring it on. We'll live up to it. There's no pressure on us."

There seldom has been. Since 1960, the Yellow Jackets have been ranked four times in the preseason AP poll. In the same span, Georgia was ranked 21 times in the preseason poll.

In this series, it seems one team's splendor invariably and ironically coincides with the other's struggles.

When the Yellow Jackets shocked the nation with an 11-0-1 national championship season in 1990, the Bulldogs slumbered to a 4-7 mark, their worst in 29 years.

When Georgia was winning a national title (1980) and three conference titles in the 1980s, Tech was posting just four winning marks and chalking up meager totals of 1-9-1 (1980), 1-10 (1981) and 2-9 (1987).

The Yellow Jackets notched a 9-3 season in 1970 but never did better that decade, while the Bulldogs picked up an SEC title (1976), an 11-win season (1971) and two nine-win records (1975 and 1978).

Tech fashioned six consecutive winning marks from 1961 to 1966, while the Bulldogs fell to two three-win seasons in 1961 and 1962.

It was 1966 that represented the rarest of instances in this rivalry, as both programs put up big-time numbers simultaneously. The No. 7 Bulldogs topped the Yellow Jackets 23-14 in Athens to cap a 9-1 regular season and give third-year coach named Vince Dooley the first of his six conference titles.

Tech, undefeated and ranked No. 5 heading into that game, went on to lose to Florida in the Orange Bowl and finish 9-2.

Last year gave 1966 added significance, as it was the first time since that both squads entered the season finale ranked -- Georgia Tech at No. 17, Georgia at No. 12.

So the rivalry has come full circle since then. A giant, yawning circle that spans generations. But believe this: it's still a rivalry. Now more than ever.

"I just want us to be on top," said Carter, whose Bulldogs suffered a bitter 21-19 loss at the hands of Hamilton and the Yellow Jackets last season. "They're on top right now, so it doesn't mean a lot to me to have them ranked above us, but we'll settle that score at the end of the season."

Rare Air

Three times since 1950, including this year, have both Georgia and Georgia Tech been ranked in the Associated Press preseason poll. The rankings and results of the rare shared expectations from the rivals.

Team / Preseason rank / Record / Rank

Georgia....................18.............11-1 (No. 7)

Georgia Tech..........17............6-6 (not ranked)

Georgia....................14.............10-2 (No. 8)

Georgia Tech..........23............5-6 (not ranked)

Georgia....................14...............?

Georgia Tech.........11...............?

Note: 1950 was the first year the Associated Press conducted a preseason poll.

Larry Williams covers the Southeastern Conference for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3645 or at larrywill7@yahoo.com.