Originally created 11/30/02

Georgia can't get caught looking ahead against Yellow Jackets



ATHENS, Ga. -- Normally, Georgia doesn't have any trouble getting excited to play Georgia Tech.

This season is a little different, though.

Sure, the No. 5 Bulldogs (10-1) are as eager as ever to beat Georgia Tech (7-4) Saturday. But Georgia also has to avoid sneaking a peak at a game that's even more important in the grand scheme of things: next week's Southeastern Conference championship.

Georgia earned a spot in the game for the first time ever, setting up a chance to win its first SEC title since 1982 and play in a major bowl for the first time since the '83 season. Neither of those potential prizes will be affected by Saturday's outcome.

Even so, the Bulldogs insist they won't get caught looking ahead.

"That's not going to be a big problem," receiver Fred Gibson said. "We know who we're playing this weekend. We know what it means to beat Tech. We're not even thinking about the SEC championship. This is a big game. This is for bragging rights."

Georgia already has made this a season to remember, pulling out the SEC East championship with a 24-21 victory at Auburn two weeks ago. David Greene threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Michael Johnson on fourth-and-15 with 1:25 remaining.

Certainly, that game - and the season - would be less memorable for Georgia if the Yellow Jackets pull off an upset.

"A loss would definitely tarnish something that's a little special around here," offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb said. "We're going to do everything we can to prevent that from happening."

The Bulldogs also are clinging to the slender chance of playing for the national championship. The most likely path was cut off last week when No. 2 Ohio State completed a perfect regular season, but top-ranked Miami and No. 3 Oklahoma both have two games remaining.

Those three teams are the only ones ahead of Georgia in the BCS rankings. The top two will meet in the Fiesta Bowl.

Georgia Tech, which has qualified for a sixth straight bowl trip, might still be thinking about last year's 31-17 loss to Georgia, which snapped the Yellow Jackets' three-game winning streak in the series.

Georgia Tech quarterback A.J. Suggs is looking for some Sanford Stadium redemption. His last game in Athens was two years ago, but he wasn't playing for the Yellow Jackets.

Suggs was the Tennessee quarterback on the losing end of a 21-10 decision that snapped Georgia's nine-game losing streak in the series and set off a wild celebration that damaged the famed hedges in Athens.

"The fans storming the field with time still on the clock, that would be my most vivid memory," he said. "We didn't play real well that night. ... That would be the other memory."

Suggs hopes to create some different memories Saturday.

"It's a great chance for me to go up there and get another shot at those guys at their place," he said. "It'll be my last time to play up there, so I'm looking forward to it."

Georgia has won five games this season that were decided by six points or fewer, which might bode well in a series that was extremely close from 1995-99. Georgia Tech won three times, Georgia twice, and the average margin was under four points. Four of those games were decided in the final minute or overtime.

"I'm sure you gain a certain level of confidence by being able to win a number of those type of games," Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey said. "They've done a nice job in those games this season."

Georgia coach Mark Richt keeps insisting that he'll use two quarterbacks, but backup D.J. Shockley has hardly played at all the last two games.

Richt is clearly more comfortable with Greene, who has thrown for 2,394 yards and 20 touchdowns - the third-most scoring passes in school history.

"He does a lot of things well," Gailey said. "There really isn't anything flashy about him. All he does is win and in my book, that's pretty flashy."

Greene could also get a boost from the return of Terrence Edwards, who missed the Auburn game with a separated shoulder. The senior receiver practiced this week and was hoping to play, assuming he could deal with the pain.

"Just Terrence's presence in the huddle means a lot," Greene said. "The guy has made so many big plays for Georgia."