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Tech-Tennessee to Renew Rivalry on Big Stage

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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There is great anticipation surrounding the schedule's opening weekend, one where the finish may prove to be a fitting one.

Two pillars of college football tradition, Georgia Tech and Tennessee have a famed history that dates back well over 100 years. Former founding members of both the Southern and Southeastern Conferences, these two long-time rivals will soon renew their storied series for the first time since 1987, stepping into the spotlight of a stand-alone Labor Day showcase in new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. There is great anticipation surrounding the schedule's opening weekend, one where the finish may prove to be a fitting one.  

Though Alabama-Florida State, the first half of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff double-header, is being hyped as the "Greatest Opener of All Time", Monday's encore presentation has a lore all its own. Albeit never before in this sparkling, state-of-the-art facility, many great moments between Georgia Tech and Tennessee have occurred in the city of Atlanta. The last meeting in midtown was a memorable one: a fourth quarter touchdown and a late missed kick resulted in a dramatic 14-13 Yellow Jacket victory.  

Twice former league peers, Georgia Tech and Tennessee competed together in the SoCon from 1921-1932 and the SEC from 1932-1964, until the Yellow Jackets left to become an Independent. They played regularly from the late 1940s up through the late 1980s, with three of the last four pairings being decided by three points or less. The final meeting between the two featured standout coaches Bill Curry and Johnny Majors; generations before, legends Bobby Dodd and Robert Neyland led their teams into battle.      

The old gold and white and orange and white, adorning two iconic logos, are are part of the fabric of college football's most notable colors. Georgia Tech, all-time, has more wins than Florida. Tennessee has more victories than Southern Cal. Both programs have modern national championships, the Volunteers in 1998 and the Yellow Jackets in 1990. Players like Calvin Johnson, Peyton Manning and Reggie White are among the game's biggest names ever.    

Georgia Tech enters this season riding a four-game win streak from a year ago, a stretch which included triumphs at Virginia Tech and at Georgia. The Yellow Jackets, entering Paul Johnson's tenth season, return 15 offensive and defensive starters. Dating back to 1997, Georgia Tech has made a bowl game 19 of 20 years running, still beating a top ten team the one season they didn't. The Yellow Jackets are 5-1 in their last half-dozen matchups against the SEC.    

Tennessee won four of five down the home stretch to finish 2016, including a two-touchdown victory over Nebraska in the Music City Bowl. Though there are questions at key positions, quarterback included, the Volunteers will boast one of the nation's top offensive lines. Former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke has been brought in to coach the defensive front. In the recently-released pre-season USA Today Coaches Poll, the Volunteers came in ranked 24th.

The winner, late Monday night, will get a significant springboard forward, momentum which could prove to be especially-key. Georgia Tech travels to Miami in early October, while Tennessee plays rivals Florida and Georgia in the opening month of September. The Yellow Jackets and Volunteers were both picked third in their respective divisions at conference media days back in July.

College football's opening Thursday evening to, later, Monday night, a great opening slate approaches. 

When Georgia Tech and Tennessee take the field for week one's final showdown, a long-line of pigskin pageantry will stand alongside.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Matt Osborne and Kevin Thomas on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network and is the sports director for multiple ESPN Radio affiliates based throughout southeast Georgia. @BJBennettSports