Georgia Tech will make a little bit of history just by playing No. 7 Mississippi State Dec. 31 in the Orange Bowl. It will be just the third time in team history that the Yellow Jackets will have played ranked teams in four consecutive games.
The first was 1959, when coach Bobby Dodd’s team defeated No. 6 SMU, No. 6 Clemson and No. 8 Tennessee before finally falling to No. 11 Auburn in four consecutive weeks. The accomplishment is watered down a little by the fact that that was in September and October, and both SMU and Tennessee ultimately finished 5-4-1 and only Clemson finished the season ranked, at No. 11. (Though the rankings were only 20 deep at the time.)
In 2008, coach Paul Johnson’s first year, Tech closed the regular season with No. 16 Florida State (31-28 win), No. 19 North Carolina (28-7 loss), No. 23 Miami (41-23 win) and No. 13 Georgia (45-42 win). Tech lost 35-3 to an unranked LSU team in the Chick-fil-A Bowl that was the defending national champion. Florida State finished No. 21, North Carolina and Miami fell out of the polls and Georgia finished No. 13.
However, this season, all four of Tech’s most recent opponents could finish inside the top 15. Clemson is No. 17, Georgia is No. 13, Florida State is No. 3 and the Bulldogs (the Crimson kind) are No. 7. That’s noteworthy company, and, obviously, Tech nearly managed to sweep the first three games. Especially considering the competition, this is one of the strongest sustained runs the Jackets have made in recent history and probably in team history.
“They’re obviously a great football team,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. “You just watch what they’ve been able to do all season against top competition and everyone they play.”
Comparable four-game sets
In 1980, coach Bill Curry’s first season, Tech played Notre Dame and Georgia in a three-week span when both were ranked No. 1. You may remember that the Jackets tied Notre Dame on the same day that Georgia memorably beat Florida to launch them to No. 1 and the national championship. In between those two games, Tech played a Navy team that finished 8-4. Notre Dame finished No. 9.
Alas, the team prior to Notre Dame was Duke, which finished a very Duke-like 2-9.
However, Tech did open the next season against No. 4 Alabama, stunning the Crimson Tide 24-21. If you want to count that, then that would arguably surpass the Jackets’ current four-game run. Alabama finished 9-2-1, winning the SEC.
In 1969, Tech played Tennessee (9-2, No. 15 in final poll), Auburn (8-3, No. 20) and USC (10-0-1 and No. 3) in consecutive games, losing all three. However, the teams on either side, Clemson and Duke, finished below .500.
In 1942, Tech finished with Alabama (8-3, No. 10), Florida (3-7), Georgia (11-1, No. 2) and Texas (9-2, No. 11). That was Clint Castleberry’s only season, when the Jackets finished 9-2 and finished No. 5 in the poll. Tech beat Alabama and Florida and then lost to Georgia and Texas.
That’s from a relatively quick glance at the media guide and not meant to be comprehensive.