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Teams: Georgia Tech (6–6, 4–4 ACC) vs. Air Force (8–4, 5–3 MWC)
Date: Dec. 27, 2010 at 5 p.m. Eastern
Location: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, La.
The top two rushing offenses in the land go helmet-to-helmet — in a style fitting of leather helmets — in what should be the shortest bowl game of the year. Only TV timeouts can stop the clock when the option attacks of Georgia Tech and Air Force hit the field in Shreveport. If the Yellow Jackets and Falcons hold true to their regular season form, the two will combine for roughly 650 rushing yards and barely 200 passing yards.
Georgia Tech had a disappointing season after winning the ACC and earning an Orange Bowl berth last season. Meanwhile, Air Force has had an underrated season; three of its four losses have come against teams ranked inside the top 10 on the day of the game — at TCU (38–7), at Oklahoma (27–24) and Utah (28–23).
When Georgia Tech has the ball
After senior quarterback Joshua Nesbitt went down with a broken arm, redshirt sophomore Tevin Washington took over the reins of coach Paul Johnson’s offense. As a starter, Washington is averaging 97.3 passing yards and 96.3 rushing yards per game. But he is still no Nesbitt. The Yellow Jackets will likely lean on sledgehammer B-back Anthony Allen (1,225 yards, 6 TDs), who has had a good but not great season after entering the year with high expectations. With Demaryius Thomas gone to the NFL, the GT passing game is a non-factor, ranking 119 out of 120 FBS teams.
Fittingly, Air Force was nearly the best aerial defense in the country. But the nation’s fifth-ranked pass defense — led by veteran corners Reggie Rembert and Anthony Wright — struggled at times against the run, ranking 100th in the country and allowing TCU to run for 377 yards (7.4 ypc). But the Falcons’ 3-4 scheme also stepped up on occasion, holding Oklahoma to 113 yards (3.3 ypc).
When Air Force has the ball
Quarterback Tim Jefferson and running back Asher Clark power the Falcons offense. A three-year starter, Jefferson accounted for 769 yards and 15 TDs on the ground as well as 1,342 yards, 10 TDs and six INTs through the air. Clark, a Georgia native, did much of the legwork (1,001 yards) but received relatively little reward (5 TDs) this year, as Jefferson was the man finishing drives in the end zone. Jared Tew (540 yards, 3 TDs) and Nathan Walker (453 yards, 6 TDs) must also be accounted for in Air Force’s ground game.
The Georgia Tech 3-4 defense was torched on the ground several times this season. Strong outings by Clemson’s Andre Ellington (166 yards, 2 TDs), Georgia’s Washaun Ealey (118 yards, 2 TDs) and the entire Miami backfield (277 yards, 4 TDs) should give coach Troy Calhoun’s squad something to look forward to. Then again, the Ramblin’ Wreck stop-unit does practice against the best run-game in the nation on a daily basis.
Air Force kicker Erik Soderberg is unreliable — two missed PATs and a much-worse 5-for-10 on FGs, including a long of 30 and an 0-for-4 run from 40-plus. On the other hand, Georgia Tech’s Scott Blair is 15-for-17 on FGs, with a long of 47. Don’t hold your breath if this game comes down to one kick.
Georgia Tech NCAA Rankings
Rush Offense: 1 (327.0 ypg)
Pass Offense: 119 (87.5 ypg)
Scoring Offense: 53 (27.6 ppg)
Rush Defense: 79 (169.7 ypg)
Pass Defense: 47 (209.0 ypg)
Scoring Defense: 59 (26.2 ppg)
Turnover Margin: 67 (-.17)
Air Force NCAA Rankings
Rush Offense: 2 (317.9 ypg)
Pass Offense: 117 (119.5 ypg)
Scoring Offense: 32 (32.3 ppg)
Rush Defense: 100 (195.1 ypg)
Pass Defense: 5 (156.7 ypg)
Scoring Defense: 36 (22.3 ppg)
Turnover Margin: 49 (+.08)
In a mirror-image matchup, a more dedicated Air Force will outlast a more talented Georgia Tech.
Air Force by 6