In case you wanted more torment, I attempted to place Saturday’s 49-28 loss to Middle Tennessee State in Georgia Tech’s bad loss history. As some of you probably know better than I do, it’s historically bad. You could argue it’s worse than the 17-14 Furman loss in 1983, as the margin of defeat was greater and I don’t know that much was expected from that team.
The losses were based on two criteria – that the opponent be a lesser-caliber team and margin of victory. It excludes costly ACC losses or losses to Georgia, but my thinking is that a loss to Georgia or an ACC team (or opponents of the other leagues Tech has belonged to in the past) is more understandable than a loss to a team from the Sun Belt Conference or, in the case of Furman, an FCS team. I’m distinguishing between a bad loss and a costly or emotionally painful loss. Miami was costly. MTSU was bad.
“Lesser caliber” is difficult to determine, particularly the further you go back. The Sagaran rating for the 1902 St. Albans team is not readily accessible, for example. (Much of the information, particularly about opponents, is from websites that I deem to be reasonably reliable.)
1983 – 17-14 loss to Furman. The Paladins were, and are, an FCS (or I-AA) team, so would be even less expected to beat Tech than MTSU was. It remains Tech’s only loss to an FCS-level team. (The Jackets tied Furman in 1986.)
1981 – 28-15 loss to Memphis. (then Memphis State) The Tigers were an independent so I don’t know how you’d categorize them, but they were pretty rancid. Memphis (State) scored more than 13 points only once that season, and that was against Tech in its only win of the season. Tech also went 1-10 after opening the season with a win over No. 4 Alabama in Birmingham in Bill Curry’s second season. I know some about that game, but that’s a tough one to understand.
1968 – 35-14 loss to Navy. The Midshipmen were 2-8 against a rigorous independent schedule. They beat Tech in November, part of a four-game losing streak to end Bud Carson’s second season after the retirement of Bobby Dodd. Navy’s only other win was over Pittsburgh. Tech was 4-6.
From this point to the beginning of the century, Tech’s schedule was almost exclusively comprised of teams on its level, and the Jackets beat just about all of the more suspect outfits.
1902 – 17-0 loss to St. Albans (Va.). St. Albans lost to Virginia 15-0 and 10-0 to N.C. State and tied Furman 0-0, according to sports-reference.com, just two days after beating Tech at Brisbine Park. That Tech team was 0-6-2 under the leadership of Coach John McKee and captain Bully Young, so it’s hard to call this a bad loss, given that the Jackets weren’t very good, as was the case of most of Tech’s first teams. McKee did not return for the 1903 season, after which John Heisman became coach. Brisbine Park, possibly Brisbane Park, was about eight blocks west of where Turner Field now stands.
1900 – 23-0 loss to Nashville. I believe this is the University of Nashville, which Wikipedia says closed in 1909. Nashville lost to Auburn 28-0 and 18-0 to Vanderbilt that season. Tech was 0-4 that season and was outscored 107-6. Games were played at Piedmont Park.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog