ATHENS, Ga. -- Another week, another big rivalry for the Georgia Bulldogs.
Already, they've faced Florida, Auburn, Tennessee and Clemson - each game accompanied by all sorts of periphery issues and personal vendettas.
On Saturday, the No. 5 Bulldogs (10-1) will take on Georgia Tech (7-4) in the final regular-season game at Sanford Stadium.
Clearly, this is viewed as the biggest game on the schedule, but is that really the case?
After all, the teams are in different leagues, so Georgia's bid to win its first Southeastern Conference championship in 20 years won't be affected at all.
Also, the Bulldogs have taken command of the series in the past four decades, winning 27 of the last 38 meetings.
Still, Georgia linebacker Boss Bailey scoffed at the notion that this is no longer the most important game of the year.
"You can win or lose to Florida or Auburn and you're not going to hear about it the rest of the year like Tech," Bailey said Tuesday. "This is one of those games you hear about all year. I know they heard about it when we beat them last year, just like we heard about when they beat us the three years before that."
Indeed, Georgia Tech won three straight over the Bulldogs from 1998-00 - its longest run of success in the series since the early 1960s. That memory is still fresh in the minds of Georgia's older players.
"I think they understand, I think they know," coach Mark Richt said. "This group has won one game against Tech. If they're thinking anything other than this being the biggest game of the year, they're sadly mistaken. They know firsthand this is a big game."
Clearly, Georgia has held up well in its biggest games this season. The only exception was a 20-13 loss to Florida, which has beaten the Bulldogs 12 of the last 13 meetings.
Otherwise, Georgia swept Alabama and Auburn on the road, defeated both Clemson and South Carolina, and knocked off Tennessee for the third year in a row.
"We're the Alabama state champs, we're the Tennessee state champs, we're the South Carolina state champs," Bulldogs defensive end David Pollack said. "Now, we want to be Georgia state champs."
Richt, who's in his second season at Georgia, wasn't all that familiar with the Georgia Tech rivalry when he arrived in Athens. It didn't take him long to figure it out.
"Last year, when we beat Tennessee, I got a lot of positive reaction from the fans," Richt said. "But after beating Georgia Tech, I got at least five times as many positive comments. You can tell people are so much more passionate about the Tech game."
The importance of the game stretches beyond mere passion. When the Yellow Jackets gained an upper hand in the series in the late '90s, it certainly boosted their recruiting within the state. Richt knows that every top prospect in the state is being pursued by both schools, and Saturday's outcome could sway recruiting.
So, while Georgia-Auburn is the oldest rivalry in the Deep South, and Georgia-Florida is the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party," this game means more than any other in the Bulldog Nation.
"When you play people over and over, you're going to develop rivalries," Richt said. "We have more than one. But Tech is the most important."
Extra Points: WR Terrence Edwards is recovering faster than expected. The senior receiver has returned to practice and may be able to play a few series Saturday - just three weeks after going down with a separated shoulder. "It feels good right now," Edwards said after practice. "I'll probably be a little afraid the first time I catch a ball." ... WR Damien Gary (muscle tear) also is coming along better than expected, but the Bulldogs are pointing to the Dec. 7 SEC championship game as most likely for his return.
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