Originally created 11/29/03

Georgia's future rides on rivalry



Nobody needed to tell Georgia that getting back to the SEC Championship game meant navigating a conference schedule that included trips to Knoxville, Tenn., and Baton Rouge, La., and games against Florida and Auburn.

Of course, nobody could have fathomed that a non-conference game at Georgia Tech would be part of the deal, too.

Thanks to the SEC East's revamped three-way tiebreaker, Georgia's season-ending rivalry game today at Grant Field is like another SEC game. Just like the old days, before Georgia Tech left the SEC after the 1963 season.

"This game has big implications," senior tight end Robert Brannon said. "If we slip up, it could be possibly a big blemish on a great season we've had so far."

If fifth-ranked Georgia (9-2, 6-2 SEC) beats Georgia Tech (6-5) and No. 7 Tennessee (9-2, 5-2) defeats Kentucky this afternoon, the Bulldogs will be in strong position to win a three-way tiebreaker in the SEC East and play No. 3 Louisiana State in one week at the Georgia Dome.

"Just a win over them would be big," Georgia Tech linebacker Daryl Smith said. "For them to be knocked out of the SEC Championship would be even better."

Georgia has won nine of the past 12 games in the series, including a 51-7 thumping last season, its largest win since the series began in 1893.

"They seem a lot more confident," Greene said. "They've won some big ballgames this year. I'm sure they've probably been circling this one ever since last year."

The Yellow Jackets' strength has been their defense - 28th in the nation in scoring defense (20.2 points per game) and 33rd in total defense (336.7) - but Georgia Tech has allowed 94 points in its past three games against Duke, North Carolina and Virginia.

Still, Richt has talked up Georgia Tech's 17-3 win against Auburn and its 14-13 loss to Florida State, and insisted that Georgia Tech does the best job of any team Georgia has faced in disguising its defensive looks.

"I don't think it's safe to say that Georgia had a great season if they don't beat Georgia Tech," Greene said. "It's a must-win game."