Rivalry game is important, as usual

dshirley@macon.comNovember 29, 2013 

Florida-Florida State showcases a team chasing a national title and another one searching for answers.

Clemson-South Carolina is a matchup of top-10 teams with plenty of intrigue.

And Alabama-Auburn could be the game of the season, with two top-five teams going at it, the winner advancing to the SEC championship game and maybe even the BCS championship game.

Georgia-Georgia Tech?

Well, it features two 7-4 teams that have struggled with injuries and disappointing losses and have had to battle just to get through the season.

Still, there is plenty on the line for the two teams. Both are trying to improve their bowl standing for next month, and for teams that have had seasons like the Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets have endured, that’s what they have to play for at this point.

But there is a bigger-picture aspect to this game for both programs.

Aaron Murray’s season-ending injury last week against Kentucky has changed the focus for the Georgia football team. Hutson Mason will make his first start at quarterback, and he will be the first quarterback to start a game for the Bulldogs other than Murray since 2009. Mason will be the starter next year in his lone season as the No. 1 quarterback for the Bulldogs, and Murray’s unfortunate injury gives Mason a little extra time to be the starter.

He gets this week to be the team’s leader and then will work with the starters in bowl practices and through spring practice to help him prepare for next year and his one shot. Mason’s play will be key to the Bulldogs’ chances against the Yellow Jackets, but he has been waiting for this chance for years and should be ready to go.

The Yellow Jackets have been waiting all season for a signature win, and this is their final chance to get one in the regular season (there’s no guarantee the bowl game will offer that chance).

Going into this game, Georgia Tech’s best win of the season is against Duke. Yes, Duke is 9-2 and has won seven straight games as David Cutcliffe continues to do a tremendous job with that program.

But it’s still Duke, and Georgia Tech should beat Duke in most years.

Georgia, on the other hand, is a different animal and has been for years for the Yellow Jackets. The Bulldogs have won four straight in the series and 11 of the past 12, dominating their instate rivals.

Georgia Tech needs to win this game, especially this season when the Bulldogs have had so many injuries and especially since Georgia lost its star player last week.

So, while the spotlight might be on the rivalries going on in other states around us, this is a key game for the Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets ... just like it should be.

Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or dshirley@macon.com

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