Bobby Pope

Time for a big change for Bulldogs-Yellow Jackets rivalry

Georgia running back Nick Chubb (27) turns a short pass into a 49-yard touchdown during fourth-quarter action Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Georgia running back Nick Chubb (27) turns a short pass into a 49-yard touchdown during fourth-quarter action Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette.

The annual Georgia-Georgia Tech football game, which takes place in Athens at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, has been the regular-season ending game for both teams for decades with the only exception coming in 2001. That year, both teams, like the majority of teams in the nation, postponed games Sept. 13, just two days after the terrorist attacks on our country.

Georgia Tech rescheduled its contest with Florida State for Dec. 1 while Georgia used the same date for its meeting with Houston. Those two games were played after the Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets had met in Atlanta a week earlier with Georgia winning 31-17 in Mark Richt’s first season between the hedges. Florida State beat Georgia Tech 31-17 while Georgia had no problem turning back the Cougars 35-7.

With that lone exception, Georgia Tech has ended its regular season against Georgia every year since 1934 while Georgia Tech has been Georgia’s final regular-season opponent annually since 1953.

Now to tell you where I am going with all of this, I think it is time for a change in the schedule between Georgia Tech and Georgia. In my opinion, the game should be the season opener for both teams.

Think about it. Both teams come in unbeaten; an early loss is not as devastating as a season-ending setback if either team has national championship aspirations: They play in different conferences, so there is no drawback for either team there, and fans would be much more excited about the meeting. Look back to last season when Georgia Tech entered the game at 3-8 and Georgia was 8-3. How fired up were you to see that game over Thanksgiving weekend?

This year both teams are 7-4 and playing for a better bowl game.

Not only should Georgia Tech-Georgia play early, but also Florida State-Florida, South Carolina-Clemson and Kentucky-Louisville. Kentucky and Louisville opened their seasons against each other 15 of 18 years between 1994 and 2012, but they have played a regular-season ending game the past two years and will do so again this year.

Some nuggets from the Georgia Tech-Georgia rivalry. The two teams didn’t play from 1917 through 1924 because of a dispute caused by a Georgia parade float that ridiculed the Yellow Jackets for playing football during World War I. This rift also caused Georgia to cancel several games at Grant Field in Atlanta, which was commonly used as its home venue. The Yellow Jackets were then coached by John Heisman for whom the Heisman Trophy is named.

If you check the all-time records between the two programs, you will find a discrepancy. Georgia Tech’s account will show Georgia holding a 65-40-5 mark against its rival while the Bulldogs’ record book indicates 65-38-5. Georgia does not count two Georgia Tech wins during World War II — 48-0 in 1943 and 44-0 in 1944 when they accused the Yellow Jackets of using ineligible players. Since Vince Dooley took over as the Bulldogs’ head coach in 1964 Georgia has a 39-13 record against the Yellow Jackets.

While this is Kirby Smart’s first game as the Georgia head coach, he went 3-1 as a player between 1995 and 1998. Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson has a 2-6 mark against Georgia.

Georgia’s original colors were old gold, black and crimson, but the Bulldogs’ first head coach, Charles Herty, changed them. He felt that old gold was too similar to yellow and that yellow symbolized cowardice.

What are the chances that Georgia Tech and Georgia would play to open the season? Slim and none, and slim has already left town.

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