Not so clean old-fashioned hate ahead for Georgia, Georgia Tech

sports@macon.comNovember 20, 2012 

The term used to describe the rivalry between Georgia and Georgia Tech is “clean, old-fashioned hate.” But this year, you have to wonder just how clean the hate will be when the two teams meet Saturday in Athens.

Both teams are headed to their respective conference championships, and that’s never happened before. But make no mistake about it: This game means everything, before next week’s league title games define the season.

You win your conference, you can hold that moniker for a long time, and that’s great. You know right off the bat the years your team has won a conference championship. You win your state championship, and there’s something else to brag about for a long time.

If Georgia, for example, loses to Georgia Tech and is knocked out of the national championship picture, the SEC championship might not matter as much next week. Georgia’s national title hopes will be over.

And if the Yellow Jackets lose to the Bulldogs and beat Florida State next week, a faction of the fans will still be unhappy.

That’s what this rivalry means. It’s a state thing. People in states like Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Florida -- just to name a few -- are going to experience the same thing this weekend. This is hate week, when state rivals square off for bragging rights.

It’s one thing to have rivals in your conference, and those teams (particularly Alabama and Auburn) that have state rivals in the same division are lucky to have that important game every year. But the state rival games are the ones you’ll be reminded about in your own backyard until the next game rolls around in another 365 days.

This game is the one you hear about from your “friends” that root for the other school. If they win, you’ll hear unending ribbing until your team has a chance at payback. If your team wins, you’ll hand out the verbal abuse for a while.

This year’s Georgia-Georgia Tech game has such a different meaning this year with the Bulldogs’ position in the BCS rankings. They are third in the country right now, and if they beat Georgia Tech and then beat Alabama next week, the Bulldogs will play for the national championship.

So you can only imagine what Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson has been telling his team this week. Sure, the Yellow Jackets need to play well to prepare for their own chance at a conference title, but they’ve probably been reminded about how big it would be to knock Georgia off its high perch.

Can you imagine what beating Georgia this year would do for the Georgia Tech program? It would wipe away the ugly losses to Middle Tennessee State and Brigham Young. All would be forgiven and forgotten about how much the team has struggled this season if the Jackets simply beat Georgia.

That’s why Georgia can’t overlook this game. On paper, the Bulldogs should beat Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs have a better defense, and it’s unlikely the shaky Yellow Jackets’ defense can stop what Georgia can throw at it offensively. But this is a rivalry game, a state rivalry, so you throw all the records and all the stuff on paper right out the window.

You probably could not find a Georgia fan this week who is taking Georgia Tech lightly. They know how much Tech fans and the Tech players will want this game. They know anything that has happened so far can be wiped away if the Yellow Jackets win.

And it should be a great game. Yes, Georgia Tech’s defense has to stop Georgia’s offense. The Bulldogs hope their dress rehearsal against Georgia Southern’s offense can help them against Georgia Tech, and there’s little doubt that Georgia’s defense seems to be getting better.

Will Georgia take a while to get going, as it did last week and in almost every game this year except for the Florida game? I doubt defensive back Shawn Williams will have to call out his teammates to get up for this game. If you can’t be inspired to play your state rival, you probably won’t deserve to win.

This game would be fun if both teams were 0-11, but the fact both Georgia and Georgia Tech have more work to do will make this one of the best games in years between two programs, two fan bases who just have clean, old-fashioned hate.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill on Twitter@yahoo.com.

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