Bulldogs look to avoid upset against Yellow Jackets in "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate" rivalry
Let's just say it here, the No. 4 Georgia can't have a repeat of last week. The Bulldogs (10-1, 7-1 SEC) labored their way to a six-point escape of unranked Texas A&M. In fact, you could say they played downright listlessly in the second half of the game. Hey, maybe they were looking past the Aggies to their rivalry game vs. Georgia Tech?... Okay, I'm not funny.
Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets (3-8, 2-6 ACC) are coming off a fresh stinging. They hope to keep the season-ruining theme going after defeating NC State 28-26 last Thursday. That loss dropped the Wolfpack to 4-7, ending their shot at a bowl game.
Can Tech come out and ruin another team's season? The Bulldogs can't get caught looking past their rivals and have their national championship hopes dashed.
Georgia at Georgia Tech
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 1 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Georgia -29
When Georgia Has the Ball
Just do what you do. I don't have a ton of confidence in this Georgia Tech defense. I mean, sure, the Yellow Jackets looked good at times against NC State last week. But that was NC State. The week before that the Virginia Tech Hokies scored 45 points on 461 yards of total offense against the Jackets. Jake Fromm had an off day vs. the Aggies, going just 11-of-23 for 163 yards. I don't look for that to happen again. Fromm could be without leading receiver Lawrence Cager, however. Cager, who tops the team in both receptions (33) and yards (476), suffered an ankle injury in practice on Wednesday, putting his status for this game (and possibly the SEC Championship Game next week) in doubt.
Run Swiftly and Herrien-ly... and do it often. Virginia Tech and NC State both ran for more than 230 yards on this Jackets defense. And one thing the Bulldogs are very capable of doing is running the ball effectively (the A&M game was an aberration). The Bulldogs must establish D'Andre Swift and Brian Herrien and that running game right away this week, especially when you consider Georgia Tech ranks 119th nationally against the run (214.9 ypg). Just give them the damn ball, as Keyshawn Johnson would say.
Study the A&M defensive film. Yeah I know, Tech probably doesn't have the athletes that Texas A&M does and I'm relatively sure the Jackets' coaching staff has poured over the Aggies-Bulldogs tape to figure out how to work things. But the Dogs had a devil of a time getting some traction in the passing game vs. Texas A&M as mentioned above. Mixing up the blitzes and keeping Fromm guessing where the rush will come from next will be huge for Georgia Tech's chances of hanging around.
When Georgia Tech Has the Ball
The Youth Movement. The Yellow Jackets have a great first-year combo with quarterback James Graham and wideout Ahmarean Brown. Against NC State, Graham had 112 rushing yards and 129 passing (on just seven completions). Ahmarean caught just two passes but both went for touchdowns. Sophomore running back Jordan Mason added 141 yards on the ground as Tech piled up 395 yards of offense in the win. Brown is a huge weapon with Tyreek Hill-type of difference-making speed who must get more involved in the offense if the Jackets are to have a chance.
Get the game to the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter has not been a friend to Georgia lately. Against Auburn, the Bulldogs had a grand total of two yards, zero first downs and no points. Against Texas A&M it was more of the same in the final frame with 60 yards, four first downs and three points. On the other hand, the fourth quarter has been the second-highest scoring frame of the season for the Jackets and also they've held their opponents to the second-fewest points in the fourth as well. Let's face it, a close game in the final 15 minutes gives the underdogs a chance here.
The O-line/D-line matchup. The Yellow Jackets' front five looked completely different last week against the NC State, opening up gaping holes and getting a good push on basic running plays. It also opened up Graham and that passing game. It will be really interesting to see how this reinvigorated front line will do against a defensive front as talented as Georgia's. Especially since the Junkyard Dogs boast the nation's No. 2-ranked rushing defense, one that held Texas A&M to negative yards on the ground last week (-2 on 20 carries).
On paper, of course, the Georgia Bulldogs should win this matchup by a couple or three touchdowns. It's a talent thing, don't cha know. But in these rivalry games, sometimes weird things happen.
Georgia is one of only two teams not to allow more than 21 points in any game yet this season (the other is Clemson) and Georgia Tech scored 21 in the first half alone last week vs. NC State. But the Yellow Jackets are 3-15 against the Dawgs since 2001 and have lost nine straight in the series at home. I'm thinking form will hold true here. I'm going with the fighting Kirby Smarts as they earn their claim their straight 11-win season with a W in Atlanta.
Prediction: Georgia 31, Georgia Tech 10
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.