On September 4th, Tennessee and Georgia Tech will kick off in a Labor Day match up at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on ESPN. The Vols and the Yellow Jackets will be meeting for the first time since 1987, renewing what was once one of the Deep South's oldest rivalries.
There was a time when that team down in Athens was not the only rival out of the Peach State that the Volunteers faced regularly. Prior to the 1964 season, Tennessee faced Georgia Tech annually as conference foes (Georgia Tech withdrew from the SEC and became independent in 1964). These two teams are among the elite and historic college football programs, combining for a total of ten national championships (4 for Georgia Tech and 6 for Tennessee), several conference titles and a long line of legendary players and coaches.
College football coaching legends Bobby Dodd and General Robert Neyland faced off against each other during the 1940s and early 1950s, adding to the rich history and intensity of the old Tennessee-Georgia Tech rivalry. Dodd, who played at Tennessee from 1928-1930, was a Quarterback under Coach Neyland. In fact, when the two teams renewed their rivalry in 1946 after a 36 years absence in Knoxville, Neyland called Dodd one of "his most illustrious pupils." Tennessee currently holds a 24-17-2 edge in the series.
In its long history, the rivalry between these two programs have made for a plethora of notable and memorable match ups. Here’s a look at some notable Tennessee vs Georgia Tech Games:
- Nov. 22, 1902: The first meeting between the Vols and the Jackets took place in Atlanta in 1902, in which Tennessee emerged victorious, grinding out a 10-6 win on a dark and rainy afternoon.
- Nov. 4, 1905: John Heisman (yes, that Heisman) coached Georgia Tech to a 45-0 win over the Vols in what is still the largest margin of victory in this historic rivalry.
- Sept. 28, 1946: After 35 years, the game was once again renewed, pitting Neyland against his former player Bobby Dodd. In this match up, the teacher defeated the student, 13-9.
- Sept. 27, 1947: The Volunteers suffered their worst loss under Neyland when Bobby Dodd's Yellow Jackets defeated Tennessee 27-0. The New York Times wrote of the loss "the 'old Gray Fox' from Tennessee, got a football lesson today from a former pupil"
- Nov. 6, 1948: Unranked Tennessee tops 6th ranked Georgia Tech in a 13-6 upset in Atlanta.
- Nov. 5, 1955: Tennessee's Johnny Majors scored on the game's opening drive to go up 7-0. Tech would later score in the game which ended in a 7-7 tie, the first in the history of the rivalry.
- Nov. 10, 1956: #3 Tennessee and #2 Georgia Tech met with a chance to play in the Sugar Bowl on the line. The Vols emerged victorious and the win moved them to #1 in the AP Poll.
- Nov. 11, 1961: Tennessee upsets #9 Georgia Tech, 10-6 in Atlanta.
- Nov. 6, 1965: Tennessee again knocks off a top 10 Georgia Tech team with a 21-7 win in Atlanta.
- Oct. 8, 1966: A field goal was the difference in a 6-3 win for #9 Georgia Tech over #8 Tennessee in Knoxville.
- Oct. 10, 1970: Tennessee's defense forced four turnovers in a 17-6 win over #13 Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
- Oct. 10, 1981: Trailing 7-3 in the 4th quarter, Tennessee quarterback Steve Alatorre hit Anthony Hancock 42 yard touchdown pass to take a 10-7 lead, capping off an 80 yard game winning drive.
- Oct. 27, 1984: Tied at 21, Tennessee quarterback Tony Robinson completed a 31 yard pass to Jeff Smith on fourth down to keep the final drive alive. The critical play lead to a Fuad Reveiz field goal to give the Vols a 24-21 in Atlanta.
- Oct. 25, 1986: In the second to last meeting between the two teams, Fuad Reveiz, the hero of the 1984 match up, missed a game winning field goal to give Georgia Tech a close 14-13 win.
The older generation of Tennessee fans still remember the days when the Jackets and Vols squared off on the gridiron, but this game will be something new for many fans. With Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson’s offseason comments regarding Tennessee and the SEC, this game should have the feel of a rivalry, which is how it should be.