ATLANTA - Georgia Tech-Georgia emotions are not only for natives of the state who grew up in the rivalry.
Just ask Georgia Tech quarterback Taylor Bennett.
Georgia has won six straight games and 13 of the last 16 in the state rivalry, and it's a sore subject for anyone in the Tech program, even for Bennett, a junior and first-year starter from St. Louis.
Asked Tuesday how much time passed after last Saturday's victory over North Carolina before his thoughts turned to Georgia, Bennett said 'About two and a half seconds.'
Bennett said he became immersed in the rivalry 'the first day I was here. That's it. It's a very serious thing down here.'
And Bennett takes a very serious tone when asked such innocent questions as if he'd dare wear Georgia red.
'No, I don't wear red,' Bennett said, dressed in blue.
Does he own any red shirts? Pants? Anything? 'No. Absolutely not,' he said. 'Not one.'
Does he ever see a teammate in red?
'Yeah, and they get an earful from me,' he said without a smile. 'I take it very serious.'
With that, Bennett made it clear he was not just tossing out rivalry rhetoric for reporters' ears. Clearly, Bennett is tired of Georgia's dominance in the series.
Bennett watched from the sideline the past two years when former starting quarterback Reggie Ball, who was 0-4 in the series, suffered close losses.
Bennett says last year's 15-12 loss in Athens left a blemish on the Yellow Jackets' plans for their first trip to the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.
'Yeah it puts a damper on it,' he said. 'You want to cap off a season with a win like that. When you don't it kind of makes you think about it and puts a damper on it. You still have to think about it for 365 days.'
Georgia Tech (7-4, 4-4 ACC) isn't going back to the ACC championship game this year, but winning the state bragging rights might be more important.
Bennett says a win Saturday would allow fans to 'pretty much forget about everything that has happened in the past six years, I would say.
'I think it's got that kind of impact,' he said. 'I think a win this Saturday would mean something to a lot of people, at a competition level, at a personal level, everything. Anytime you can get a win over your in-state rival like this, there's nothing comparable.'
The game promises to define Tech's season.
A Tech win could provide job security for coach Chan Gailey, whose job status is uncertain despite having four years left on his contract. It would give Tech its first eight-win regular season since 2000 and it would change the perception that Bennett's season has been mostly disappointing.
Bennett has thrown only five touchdown passes this season. He was 13 of 24 passing for 196 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions against North Carolina while also catching a touchdown pass from tailback Tashard Choice.
For the season, Bennett has completed 50.5 percent of his passes with eight interceptions.
Just as Ball's career was defined in part by his lack of success against Georgia, Bennett could earn a reputation as the drought-breaker.
'I try not to think of it like that,' he said. 'I don't want it to be like that. I just want it to be 'We beat Georgia, that Georgia Tech beat Georgia.' That's all I ever really focus on.'
Ball was only 6 of 22 passing for 42 yards with two interceptions in last season's close loss to Georgia. Ball also lost a fumble that Georgia returned for a touchdown.
Bennett filled in for Ball by throwing three touchdown passes in last year's Gator Bowl game against West Virginia, and he led Tech to a win in this year's season-opening win at Notre Dame.
But Gailey says neither game is the same as the Tech-Georgia rivalry in terms of learning how Bennett will handle the pressures and emotions of the series.
'I don't know. We haven't been in it yet,' Gailey said when asked if Bennett is ready for the game. 'I'll let you know about 7:30 on Saturday night. We've been in some big ballgames, but one with emotions like this? He hasn't been in that one yet.'
Punter Durant Brooks said Ball was unfairly blamed for the last four losses. Even so, Brooks said Bennett's first start against Georgia is a good time to end the losing streak in the series.
'I think it's just turning over a new leaf, and I think everybody will be behind him,' Brooks said of Bennett. 'It's a new year. You can't blame everything on Reggie like everybody does. I hate it for him that he never got a win. I think this is going to be the year and Taylor is going to lead us to the win. We're all behind him.'
Who knows? With a win, Bennett might even pull out his St. Louis Cardinals jacket.
As it turns out, he does own that one red clothing item and, he confessed, he wore the jacket after the Cardinals won the 2006 World Series.
Said Bennett: 'That was the only exception to that; only for a day.'
SideBar: Georgia at Georgia Tech
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Radio: Georgia, 750-AM; Georgia Tech, 790-AM