Oct. 21, 2010
By Matt Winkeljohn
Maybe the question was poorly phrased because when I asked four Georgia Tech football players if Clemson was Tech’s biggest ACC rival, the initial answers they shot back were kind of bland.
Then, there was Dominique Reese.
The senior cornerback is from Auburn, where they know a thing or two about college rivalries. He wasn’t necessarily buying the Clemson-Tech/north-south/down-up deal even though he agreed that Saturday’s game in Clemson, S.C., figures to be a bit different – for fans.
“It’s just like every other game,” Reese said. “I guess because it’s closer, but I hate all the teams the same, with the same amount of passion. I guess you’d say Clemson because it’s so close and fans are going to travel to that game more. I guess they are our biggest rival.”
Not exactly a hard sell, huh?
This might be more of a topic for fans than players.
Proximity and the fact so many players from the state of Georgia (15) are on the Clemson roster. There are a modest four South Carolinians on Tech’s roster.
The Jackets have played Clemson more often (75 times, holding a 49-24-2 edge) than any team except Georgia (104), Auburn (92), and Duke (77), but that’s kind of an awkward litmus inasmuch as Tech hasn’t been in the same conference with Auburn for years, and the Jackets are not even in Clemson’s division within the ACC.
It’s clearly different for fans, though, and players too – even if they’re not exactly bleeding from their eyes in wild anticipation of the game like they do at, say, Auburn and Alabama.
“I think so, yeah,” Nesbitt said when asked if there is anything different about this game as opposed to other ACC games. “I would say we get up more it than any other game because it’s Clemson. The last couple games, you take away a couple plays and everything goes different.”
Tech’s four-game winning streak over the Tigers has been laden with heavy moments, to be sure.
The ACC Championship Game last December was most important, but the regular-season contest in Bobby Dodd Stadium last season was borderline epic.
The Jackets stormed to a big lead by all manners, including a touchdown pass thrown by kicker Scott Blair, only to see Clemson rally to lead late. Then, Blair kicked a couple late field goals, the last with 0:57 on the clock, and . . . Tech hung on to win.
“Since I’ve been here, every single game has been decided by just a few points,” Blair said. “I’d say they’re one of our biggest rivals.”
Not exactly a border war, perhaps, but good stuff.
“Over the past few years they are because we’ve played them the most and every time we play them it’s a big game. It always means something,” said A-back Roddy Jones. We definitely know what kind of game it’s going to be; it’s going to be a physical game, a 60-minute game.
“I think any time you go to a place like Death Valley and play a team like Clemson, there is a little something extra. Even if it’s just a buzz in the stands or the size of the stadium, there is something that you can feel. But we have to prepare for it like every game is the same.”
Will it be the same for you? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.