Kirby Smart’s University of Georgia football team is a big thing statewide, and it’s not a new thing. His 12-0 Bulldogs just rolled through the regular season at No. 1 in the country, and remember: they won the national championship last year. Furthermore, before the pandemic, forbes in the fall of 2019 found them to be the seventh most valuable college football program in the nation with a three-year average revenue of $125 million.
Think about it now: 63. That’s the number of times in a row all 92,746 seats at Sanford Stadium have been filled, and so it was on Saturday in Athens, Georgia, where the SEC’s Bulldogs met the ACC’s Georgia Tech in the most overstated form . Rivalry Game of the Weekend.
These were Saturday’s true rivalry games: Notre Dame vs. Southern Cal, South Carolina vs. Clemson, Indiana vs. Purdue, Oregon vs. Oregon State, Louisville vs. Kentucky.
They also had one in Columbus, Ohio.
Just take a look . . . Oh, Ohio State vs. Michigan.
Because Georgia has beaten most teams this year with a defense that allows opponents fewer points per game (11) than anyone else in the country, and because Georgia owned an offense with Heisman Trophy sleeper contender Stetson Bennett at quarterback , the best tight end in the world country (Brock Bowers) who didn’t call Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer and the Bulldogs’ normal collection of nice running backs, it was not surprising that Georgia was expected to be a barely mediocre Georgia Tech -Team would annihilate by five touchdowns.
There was also this non-rivalry thing between Georgia and Georgia Tech in the last half of those 129-year games called “Clean Old Fashioned Hate.” Lately it’s been more like “Just another win (and often not even close) for Georgia”.
Prior to Saturday, Georgia had won four straight games, along with every game this century except three. Which meant the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets were probably wasting their time on that 71-mile drive from downtown Atlanta to Athens.
Instead, in front of another packed and noisy home crowd and Senior Day, which should motivate Georgia’s team even more, the Bulldogs won by just three touchdowns and a little less than a field goal. They were actually overplayed in the first half after Georgia Tech roared 75 yards into the end zone on the game’s opening drive.
In case you didn’t know better, the now 5-7 Yellow Jackets made it seem like Georgia would be looking ahead to this Saturday’s SEC Championship game in Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium against LSU.
“We probably didn’t start as fast today as we have in the past, but you’re not going to start every game with guns blazing,” Smart said, alluding to the bottom line as Georgia’s head coach, which was the Bulldogs bounced back from their slow start to one 37-14 win. “We had to respond to adversity again.”
Well, the Bulldogs had help.
With Georgia Tech still close to an upset early in the third quarter when the Jackets were only 13-7 down, they parried a punt that Georgia recovered and converted the turnover into a quick touchdown.
Five minutes later, Georgia Tech fumbled and the Bulldogs recovered to take the game from 20-7 to 23-7 after a field goal and the blowout was official. Georgia Tech also contributed dropped passes for potentially big winners along the way.
The crowd remained supportive despite Georgia’s inertia, but Bennett was among those in his dressing room who explained that much of this was unacceptable for a team looking to secure back-to-back national titles.
“I wasn’t really happy with how we started today, but we still scored 37 goals,” Bennett said after a game in which he personally underperformed. He completed a season-low with 10 of 18 passes, and his 140 yards through the air was his second-lowest total in that category for the season. Bennett threw two touchdown passes, and there was something else: “We ran really well with the ball today,” Bennett said, referring to the Bulldogs’ 264 yards.
They did something else well too: they wowed the crowds in the Bulldog Nation with another unrivaled win.