ATLANTA - One team is eyeing its second conference title in 14 years, the other its first New Year's Day bowl appearance of the new millennium.
Not that anybody cares this week.
For Georgia and Georgia Tech, the past six days have been about today's showdown at Bobby Dodd Stadium, not the games beyond. This is Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, a rivalry dubbed "Clean, Old-fashioned Hate" many years ago and the game each year fans and alumni can't stomach losing.
"It doesn't matter if you go 10-1 and lose to Georgia, nobody remembers that you went 10-1," Georgia Tech safety Chris Reis said. "If you went 1-10 and beat Georgia, they just remember that you beat Georgia. Nothing else matters."
So forget Georgia's berth in the Southeastern Conference Championship game and Georgia Tech's possible Gator Bowl bid.
Both teams have had good seasons. Only the rivalry's winner will claim a great one.
"It's like the state championship," Georgia linebacker Danny Verdun Wheeler of Thomson said. "You know everyone around the state is talking about it. You want to win it for personal pride. They want to beat us; we want to beat them."
Today's game is Georgia Tech's seniors' last - and best - chance to beat the rivals. They're 0-4 against the Bulldogs, a streak marked by three lopsided losses.
Georgia coach Mark Richt has overseen each of those defeats. He took over the Bulldogs' program in 2001 after they'd lost three in a row to the Yellow Jackets.
Richt has since elevated Georgia's program to the nation's top level. The Bulldogs won the 2002 SEC title game and have played in a New Year's bowl each of the past three seasons.
Georgia Tech, meanwhile, has scratched out winning records and mid- to lower tier bowl appearances.
If the Yellow Jackets can beat Georgia - even if only by a point - they will likely earn a date against Louisville on Jan. 2 in the Gator Bowl. That's contingent upon Virginia Tech beating Florida State in next week's Atlantic Coast Conference title game to earn the league's Bowl Championship Series bid.
Reach Adam Van Brimmer at (404) 589-8424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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