Georgia Tech-Georgia used to be a hot rivalry. It’s not now

Football-wise, the Georgia Bulldogs have it all — except a national championship of recent vintage, and that could be subject to change. They’re great at recruiting. They’re great at banking donations. They’ve again gotten good at winning games. Heck, they have Jeremy Pruitt’s precious indoor practice facility, though that hasn’t helped Jake Fromm in the rain, has it?

The Bulldogs have become serial overdogs. They’ve lost six games over three seasons, two in overtime. They’ve won the SEC East three years running. They’ve been favored in every game this season. They’re favored by four touchdowns against Georgia Tech. Sometimes, though, the team that has nearly everything doesn’t get enough credit for doing a small thing. Today we attempt to right that tiny wrong.

When it comes to "Clean Old-Fashioned Hate," the Bulldogs almost never trip over themselves. A Georgia team ranked among the nation's top 15 has never lost to an unranked Tech. A Georgia team with an Atlanta game awaiting the week after it plays the Yellow Jackets has been made to sweat in the battle for the Governor's Trophy only once. (Speaking of which: Couldn't they have thought of something with a bit more pizzazz? The Chattahoochee Shootout? The Old Oaken Peach?)

Seven times the Bulldogs have faced Tech knowing they’re bound for the SEC Championship game. (This will make eight.) The margins of victory in those games — 44, 17, 7, 14, 32, 31 and 24. That’s an average spread of 24.1 points. And how, you ask, have the Jackets fared against Georgia when they were headed to the ACC title tilt? Lost by three, lost by six as a 9.5-point favorite, lost by 32.

In contemporary times, Tech-Georgia has come to mean far more to Tech. When Paul Johnson’s 2009 team, probably his best, was beaten by a 6-5 Georgia that had just lost to Kentucky, he harrumphed that his program “had bigger fish to fry.” (Those Jackets would beat Clemson, a title later vacated.) Johnson’s claim was something of a tough sell, given that the song “Ramblin’ Wreck” includes the cheery sentiment: “To hell with Georgia.”

Indeed, that’s Tech’s little saying. One son/daughter of George P. Burdell asks, “What’s the good word?” Another responds: “To hell with Georgia.” (Which is technically four words, but never mind.)

The enmity, at least in latter days, isn’t quite mutual. Among Georgia’s rivals, Tech lags Florida and Auburn, though the Jackets might have drawn ahead of Pruitt’s Tennessee. We say again: Tech folks stew about Georgia every day of every year; Georgia folks stew about Tech only in those years when they deem the Jackets a clear and present danger.

No, it wasn’t always thus. Tech under Bobby Dodd beat Georgia so often that, after the Bulldogs won 7-0 in 1957 to snap an eight-year losing skid, the touchdown-making Theron Sapp was christened “The Drought-Breaker.” (A huge photo of Sapp’s touchdown graces the Sanford Stadium press box.)

Vince Dooley, whom Techies cannot abide, changed everything. He went 19-6 against the Jackets. Ray Goff didn’t beat many teams, but he was 5-2 against Tech. Mark Richt was 13-2, the losses coming by three points and in overtime. Kirby Smart is about to be 3-1. The only Georgia coach since Dooley to have a losing record versus the Jackets was Jim Donnan (2-3). He was fired because of it.

Conventional wisdom has long held that Tech alums would be satisfied to beat Georgia once every three years. The Jackets have gone 14-41 against the hated mutts since 1963, which means they’ve averaging a win every 3.9 years. (A loss Saturday would make it a flat 4.0.) With Georgia in the ascendancy under Smart and Tech beginning a rebuild under Geoff Collins, it’s tough to imagine when the Jackets’ next win will arrive. Maybe 2022?

Chan Gailey worked six non-losing seasons and went 0-for-Georgia. (He was fired because of it.) Paul Johnson, fryer of fish, did better, winning three times in 11 seasons, which was one win per every 3.6 years. Tech hasn’t beaten Georgia at Bobby Dodd Stadium this century, which sounds wrong until you tick off the games in your head and think, “That’s really true.” (If you ask Georgia fans, who still turn purple at the mention of 1999 and the unseeing Al Ford, Tech hasn’t beaten the Bulldogs in Atlanta since 1989.)

This is supposed to be a rivalry, but many years — most years — it doesn’t feel like one. In a rivalry, you’re supposed to Throw The Record Book Out The Window. The ledger of Clean Old-Fashioned Hate sits undisturbed on its dusty shelf. Bulldogs old-timers who recall the Drought and its Breaker still take nothing for granted, but to everyone else it has become Georgia’s game to lose. It mightn’t lose it again for a while.