ATLANTA — Georgia Tech is standing between Georgia and its last hopes for a bowl game.
That’s a little added motivation for an in-state rivalry that never lacks for incentive.
Georgia Tech (6-5) is bowl-eligible for the 14th consecutive season. Georgia (5-6) also is looking for its 14th straight bowl bid. The Bulldogs must beat the Yellow Jackets on Saturday night in Athens to be considered for a postseason game.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said Sunday the rivalry is more important than extending the streak of bowl games, including those in all nine of his seasons in Athens.
“It’s most important because we’re playing Georgia Tech,” Richt said. “I really mean that. That’s the most important part of this game. That’s the motivating factor for me ... regardless of whether or not it has any bowl implications for us.”
Added Richt: “Number two is to allow our seniors to leave Sanford Stadium with a great memory.”
Paul Johnson is 1-1 in the series as Georgia Tech’s coach. One year ago, Georgia upset Johnson’s No. 7 Yellow Jackets 30-24 in Atlanta.
Johnson said last year’s loss should motivate his players, just as he said Georgia players appeared to be motivated after losing to the Yellow Jackets in 2008.
“I think anytime you get beat, if you’re a competitor it motivates you,” Johnson said Sunday. “I’m sure they were motivated when they came in here last year. They sure played like it. I don’t think motivation will be a problem for either team.”
Johnson said this will not be a make-or-break game for either team. He said each team has too many losses to claim a win in the final game makes a successful season.
“I don’t know that what your records are changes the nature of the game,” Johnson said. “I don’t think the records of either team is going to diminish the game or how the kids view it.
“Winning or losing the game isn’t going to make anybody’s season, I don’t think. Nobody is going to deem their season a success, win or lose, I don’t think. I know we wouldn’t.”
Georgia Tech ended a three-game losing streak with Saturday’s home win over Duke. Tevin Washington, who has replaced injured senior Joshua Nesbitt at quarterback, had a 79-yard scoring pass to Stephen Hill with 71/2 minutes remaining. Georgia Tech completed only one other pass.
Georgia had an off week after a 49-31 loss at Auburn on Nov. 13.
Richt said it’s clear Johnson hasn’t changed his run-first option offense with the change to Washington.
“Georgia Tech does a great job running the ball,” Richt said. “They always have.
“I’m glad we had an extra week to prepare for it. Hopefully it will make us enough better than it would have been on a week’s notice.”
Georgia freshman quarterback Aaron Murray suffered a bruised knee and a bruised sternum in the loss at Auburn. Richt said he hopes Murray can practice on Monday.
“Tomorrow’s practice will be a good indicator of where he’s at,” Richt said.