ATLANTA — A Georgia Tech team that returns only one starter and a more experienced Georgia team will meet several weeks earlier than usual in the season opener.
Scheduling conflicts made Friday night the only choice for the annual state rivalry game generally held in December or January.
Georgia coach Mark Fox said he doesn't mind opening against Georgia Tech but prefers to have the Bulldogs play their first game of the season at home.
"You want to open at home," Fox said Wednesday. "I don't necessarily mind playing a rival the first game. Opening on the road, no coach probably is excited about that."
Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory said he can't let the pressure of the rivalry game interfere with his evaluation of a revamped roster.
"You usually don't start off the season with something like this, but it's good for us," Gregory said Tuesday.
Fans use the game for bragging rights. Gregory, who has won each of his first three games in the rivalry, would like to keep bragging. But he said the bigger emphasis is the response by his team against a tough opponent.
"It's one game," Gregory said. "You don't want to put too much into you one way or the other, whatever ends up happening.
"It's an opportunity to play a high-quality team in order to gauge where you're at. But after that game, there will be a lot of improvements to be made one way or another. I think that's important that as a coaching staff you keep that in mind and as players you keep that in mind as well."
Guard Marcus Georges-Hunt is the Yellow Jackets' only returning starter.
The Yellow Jackets are expected to have four transfers in their rotation, including former Maryland forward Charles Mitchell.
Mitchell has two years of eligibility remaining. He joins senior forward Demarco Cox from Mississippi, sophomore guard Josh Heath from South Florida and former East Carolina forward Robert Sampson, a senior who is the son of Hall of Famer Ralph Sampson. Another transfer, senior forward Nick Jacobs from Alabama, won't be eligible until 2015-16.
In the offseason, forward Robert Carter Jr. transferred to Maryland. Gregory also lost three seniors from last year's team: point guard Trae Golden, center Daniel Miller and forward Kammeon Holsey.
Georgia is trying to build off a strong finish last year. Georgia returns three starters, including guards Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines, and seven of its top nine players from a 20-14 team that tied Kentucky for second place in the Southeastern Conference at 12-6.
Forward-center Yante Maten (6-8, 240), a freshman from Pontiac, Michigan, had 10 points and 12 rebounds in the Bulldogs' 65-61 exhibition win over Georgia Southwestern last week.
Fox said Maten gave himself a D-plus grade for the effort.
"He's got high expectations for himself," Fox said. "He's going to be a good player. He really is. His approach is one reason he's going to be a good one. He's really driven to high standards."