Yellow Jackets aim for postseason spot with upset of Bulldogs
It’s no secret that these two teams will lean heavily on both the running game and being able to stop the other one on the ground as a key to winning. For you throwback enthusiasts of the proverbial three-yards-and-a-cloud of dust out there, this will be as close as we get to your college football nirvana. Well, this side of the service academies that is.
Well this isn’t exactly the Emory Bellard wishbone vs. the Bill Yoemen veer or anything. Both Georgia and Georgia Tech run sophisticated offenses that seem to be almost impossible to contain when they get going downhill. Tech is one of only four teams that runs the triple option from under center. The Yellow Jackets also feature a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in QB TaQuon Marshall (1,074 yards, 4.7 ypc) and running back KirVonte Benson (1,009, 5.3) and the Bulldogs lean on the big-play abilities of running backs Nick Chubb (1,045, 6.3) and Sony Michel (818, 7.4).
While the 10-1 Silver Britches are still aiming for a national title, Georgia Tech (5-5, 4-4 ACC) has lost three of its last four games, including last week’s ugly blowout loss to Duke, 43-20.
Georgia at Georgia Tech
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 25 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Georgia -11
Three Things to Watch
1. Will the Junkyard Dogs be disciplined enough?
You hear it all the time, this bizarre hybrid flexbone offense for Georgia Tech is so difficult to prepare for, especially when you’ve only got a week to do so. Tech runs that triple-option offense for an average of 319 yards per game, good for fourth nationally. But Georgia is fifth in the nation in total defense, holding opponents to just 276 yards per game and sixth in rushing defense, relenting just 105 yards on the ground. Of course, those kind of stats are sort of thrown out the window when you play a freakish offense like Tech has. The most important factor of the game could very well be how disciplined Georgia’s four linebackers are. The good thing is there are three seniors (Lorenzo Carter, Deandre Bellamy and Reggie Carter) and one junior (Roquan Smith, a Butkus Award finalist) manning those spots, so you figure they’re used to dealing with the Tech offense by this point in their careers.
2. Follow the Auburn blueprint
Yellow Jacket D-Coordinator Ted Roof and his defensive staff have surely been pouring over the game film from Georgia’s blowout loss to Auburn all week trying to figure out how the Tigers stopped the Bulldog run game in that 40-17 blowout. In that loss, Nick Chubb had 11 carries for 27 yards and Sony Michel had nine attempts for 21 yards. Somehow, a running game that came into that contest rated sixth in the country was held to 46 rushing yards. I don’t expect the Bees to emulate that effort, especially since the Bulldogs got back on track last week vs. Kentucky to the tune of 381 yards on the ground, but if Tech can stymie those talented backs in some way, shape or form and put the pressure on Jake Fromm and that passing game instead, it’ll be a huge advantage for the Jackets. Obviously that’s a big if.
3. The Hardman to stop
The last thing Tech wants to see in their upset attempt is to give up huge chunks in the kicking game. Or, worse yet, give up a touchdown on a punt return or kick return. Well the bad news is that Georgia’s Mecole Hardman has been, well, a hard man to stop on special teams, currently sitting as the SEC leader in kickoff returns (27.1 yards per return) and punt returns (10.8 ypr). Though a non-starter, the speedy Hardman also has 15 catches on the year and occasionally totes the rock (9.4 ypc) on running plays.
While it was Georgia’s defense referenced above, Georgia Tech has a pretty stout D as well, ranking 29th nationally (allowing 343 ypg), so don’t count the Yellow Jackets out of this one. Especially considering they played pretty stout in losses to Clemson and Miami, and a solid win over Virginia Tech. You also have to give the Jackets a little bump in the confidence factor of knowing they’ve beaten Georgia in two of their last three meetings, all in white-knuckle fashion.
But man alive, it’s tough to overlook that ugly loss to Duke, which allowed the Blue Devils to snap a six-game skid. Tech is 5-5 and playing for their postseason lives here. But this is such a tough assignment for the Jackets, especially facing a team that is driven with national title hopes still alive. Georgia Tech hasn’t beaten Georgia at home since 1999. Gotta go with the Dawgs in this one.
Prediction: Georgia 35, Georgia Tech 17
— 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.