0

Stakes higher for Tech in rematch with Irish

ATLANTA - Less hype, more significance.

For Georgia Tech, that sums up today's season-opening rematch with Notre Dame.

Last year, both teams featured Heisman Trophy hopefuls, Notre Dame ranked No. 2 in the polls and was considered a national title contender, and Georgia Tech had something to prove.

Consequently, the game highlighted college football's opening weekend, with ESPN's GameDay crew on hand and ABC broadcasting it nationally in primetime.

This year, Heisman-ites Brady Quinn and Calvin Johnson are in the NFL, Notre Dame is unranked and considered a rebuilding team, and Georgia Tech is no longer in search of respect.

And the game is just one of many intriguing matchups, albeit one televised by NBC with a late-afternoon start time.

But it's bigger than that for the Yellow Jackets.

"This year, instead of trying to see how good we are and trying to show the nation something, we just want to go out and show ourselves how well we're going to play all year," tailback Tashard Choice said. "We want to make a statement. We want to show what Georgia Tech is about this year and get rolling."

Expectations are high inside Georgia Tech's locker room. The Yellow Jackets' run to the Atlantic Coast Conference's best record last season gave them confidence while their late-season swoon - they lost their final three games - grounded them heading into 2007.

Many teams talk big in the preseason. Georgia Tech's players seem particularly determined to make those hopes a reality.

"We feel this team can win a national championship," defensive tackle Darryl Richard said. "We're going in trying to win every game and dominate every game. We realize a lot of things have to happen for us to get to that point and play for a national championship, but the one thing we can do is take control in every game we play.

"We know we can compete. We have to go out every week and get it done."

Opening with a victory in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus would be a good way to start. Notre Dame is down, but beating the Irish on their home field is still a feat.

The Las Vegas oddsmakers think so, installing Notre Dame as a 2-1⁄2 point favorite despite Georgia Tech's experience and talent.

The Yellow Jackets relish the underdog role. They've pulled upsets at Auburn, Miami, Virginia Tech and Clemson the last three seasons. Notre Dame can't be any tougher a place to play than the others, head coach Chan Gailey said.

"It holds a great deal of history, and it's obviously a great place to play, but it's a place that you have to go try to win," Gailey said. "I don't get chills when I walk into the stadium.

"You can't let the situation get to you. I don't believe or guys will."

SideBar: TECH AT NOTRE DAME

When: Today, 3:30 p.m.

Where: South Bend, Ind.

TV/Radio: NBC/790-AM