Its time for the annual match-up between longtime rivals, Clemson and Georgia Tech.
In spite of recent results favoring the Tigers the Yellow Jackets still lead the series 51–32–2, with 61 games played in Atlanta, and only 20 games played in Clemson’s Death Valley.
The teams first met in 1898, when Clemson’s third-year program defeated Georgia Tech 23–0 to finish with a 3–1 record. The following year, the Tigers beat Tech again, 41–5. In 1904, Georgia Tech lured away Clemson’s head coach, John Heisman, with the prospect of a $450 pay raise ($12,962 in today’s money), which was a substantial, 25% salary increase.
In 1974, Georgia Tech made it’s very first trip to Death Valley and I was there. The game was much anticipated, not because a Clemson victory was assumed, it wasn’t. Clemson head coach Red Parker was breathing new life into his Tiger program and needed a signature win. On that Saturday in late September, having been shackled to a yearly trip to Atlanta, the Tiger faithful felt liberated.
Thankfully, the rivalry would then be played on a home and home basis, therefore, a little more equitable. The Tigers won that game 21-17 and I have to admit, it was a great, exciting day to be a young Tiger.
However, in 1977, Georgia Tech, a year before it joined the ACC, decided to end its series with Clemson. George Bennett, a great Clemson supporter known to all, was determined to preserve the game, as the trip to Atlanta provided a unique experience for the Tiger players and fanbase who had not been to a bowl game since the 1959 Bluebonnet Bowl.
In what was supposed to be the final game of the yearly matchups in Atlanta, at Bennett’s suggestion, thousands of Clemson supporters paid their expenses with $2 dollar bills, stamped with the shape of an Orange tiger paw. This was to demonstrate the large amount of money that the Clemson fanbase regularly pumped into the local economy because of the game. Today, it still ranks highly among the best of the many college football traditions that makes the game special.
The series resumed in 1983 when Georgia Tech began playing football in the ACC. Since that game, it has become one of the most competitive rivalries in the ACC, with a record of 17-16, with Clemson currently leading the series by one game. These games have often been decided at the last minute and by small margins. Who could ever forget the 2001 game where Woody Dantzler became a living legend leading the Tigers to a thrilling come from behind 47-44 victory?
In the 2009 season, both teams won their respective division in the ACC. For the first time in series history, the two teams met for a second time in one season, in the ACC Championship Game. That game also marked the first postseason meeting between the programs. It was also the first time the series has been played outside of Atlanta or Clemson since 1899. Georgia Tech won 39–34; however, the NCAA later vacated the last 3 games of Georgia Tech’s 2009 season, along with the ACC Championship.
Dabo Swinney’s Tigers are on a six game win streak in the series. Third year head coach Geoff Collins has a huge rebuilding plan for the Jackets and though minuscule progress has been made, they are at least trending upward. Not being overconfident but realistic, I expect the winning streak to continue. That being said, when these two rivals play, regardless of records and streaks, anything can happen.
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