Originally created 11/29/03

Georgia Tech a factor in ex-conference



ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech is back in the Southeastern Conference.

Well, sort of.

For one week and one week only, the Yellow Jackets have a say in determining the SEC champion. Forget about them abandoning the league after the 1963 season. Never mind they now play in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

This much is clear: No. 5 Georgia (9-2) needs a victory over its state rival Saturday to remain in the running for another SEC East championship.

"We're used to playing Tech just for pride purposes," Bulldogs quarterback David Greene said. "Now, so much of what we do as far as the SEC championship game is based on this game. This is a different situation that it's been for the last 30 years of so."

Actually, it's been 51 years since Georgia vs. Georgia Tech had a bearing on the SEC title. The Yellow Jackets won 23-9 in 1952 to clinch the last of five championships in their former league. Eleven years later, they dropped out of the SEC.

Now, under a convoluted tiebreaker that was hastily adopted by the SEC, the BCS standings could determine if Georgia gets a chance to play in the league's Dec. 6 championship game.

Here's the skinny: Georgia must beat the Yellow Jackets (6-5) and have Tennessee defeat Kentucky, creating a three-way tie with Florida atop the East standings.

Under that scenario, the bottom team in the BCS standings would be eliminated and the top two - assuming they are within five places of each other in the standings - would settle things based on their head-to-head meeting.

In the most recent BCS rankings, Georgia was seventh, Tennessee eighth and Florida 11th. If that order holds, the Bulldogs would win the tiebreaker based on their 41-14 victory over the Volunteers seven weeks ago.

Got it?

"I do know we want to root for Tennessee," Greene said. "I don't have any love for them, but I'm still rooting for them. And we've got to win. That's the big key. We've got to take care of our business."

The Yellow Jackets, who are likely headed for either the Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., or the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho, would love nothing better than to knock Georgia out of BCS race.

"That would be icing on the cake," Tech center Hugh Reilly said.

Especially after what happened a year ago, when the Bulldogs routed Georgia Tech 51-7 for their biggest victory ever in the series.

"This is really bigger than a bowl game," Yellow Jackets receiver Jonathan Smith said. "Everybody in this state roots for either Georgia or Georgia Tech. This is pretty much the season in my eyes."

To pull off the upset, freshman quarterback Reggie Ball will have to move the ball against one of the nation's most dominant defenses. Georgia has allowed just 11.4 points per game - second in the nation behind LSU - and expects to have star safety Sean Jones, who missed the last two games with a shoulder injury.

The Yellow Jackets have mirrored their young quarterback, playing extremely well some weeks (victories over Auburn, Maryland, North Carolina State; a near-upset of Florida State) and downright awful in other games (a 36-3 loss to Clemson, a 41-17 rout by Duke).

But Tech coach Chan Gailey is confident that Ball can handle whatever the Bulldogs throw his way. The freshman has played every offensive snap this season, essentially giving him a full year of experience heading into the final regular-season game.

"We have seen some pretty unusual things this year," Gailey said. "It's not so out of the ordinary that it will befuddle him."

Smith (66 receptions, 1,016 yards) and tailback P.J. Daniels (1,110 yards rushing) are Ball's most effective tools, though Daniels has been limited in practice this week by an injury of some sort.

Gailey refuses to disclose the nature of injuries, and the normally talkative Daniels clammed up, too.

Greene is the key to Georgia's offense, which doesn't have a dominant player at any position. No runner has gained 100 yards in a game. The top receiver has accounted for just 508 yards. The offensive line has surrendered 36 sacks.

"In a traditional offense, you have one guy you're looking to count on," lineman Russ Tanner said. "With us, it's been a week-to-week thing. We're fortunate. Someone seems to step up each week."