Peach State rivals get together in Athens for 113th edition of "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate"
They say it’s “clean, old-fashioned hate” between these Georgia and Georgia Tech, but it’s more like just plain hate. There is not a lot of “clean” between these two. Back in 1964, Tech left the SEC, then a few years later reconsidered and wanted back in. Reportedly, it was Georgia who prevented Tech’s return, so they went to the ACC in 1979 instead.
Now, the Bulldogs look to stay in contention for the national title. But as coaches seem to always say, the times that you don’t want to face a triple-option team are with just six days of preparation or the last game of the season. For the Bulldogs, they get both of these bugaboos working against them. Still, this is a Bulldog team that has finally figured out how to ground and pound to make their offense as diversified as anyone in the country.
Tech comes into this game with an upset-minded mentality, relishing the chance to ruin their rival’s season. They also come in with a four-game winning streak, playing with the most confidence in an campaign that started 1-3. Last week, Tech gave up a game-tying field goal with one second left, which allowed Virginia to send the game into overtime. But once there, the Jackets won it with a 40-yard field goal by Wesley Wells followed by a Cavalier miss from kicker Brian Delaney.
Georgia Tech at Georgia
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 24 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Spread: Georgia -17
Three Things to Watch
1. Yellow Jackets' line vs. the hunkering Dawgs
As you might expect with its triple-option attack, the offensive line of Georgia Tech is going to look to establish a new line of scrimmage with every snap, bringing their running game to the fore. As we’ve seen at times this season, Georgia’s front seven on defense can be shaky. On top of that, inside linebacker Monty Rice got injured in warmups before the UMass game and is questionable, Defensive end David Marshall is out with a foot injury and tackle Daquan Hawkins-Muckle has missed the last few games. Keep a keen eye on the Tech running game and its yards before contact. If the Jackets are able to go untouched for four or five yards on a regular basis then you know their running game is clicking and it bodes well for an upset. Tech leads the nation with 354 rushing yards per game.
2. Don’t sleep on Georgia’s rushing attack
While Tech leads the nation in rushing, you can’t overlook the improvement that the Bulldogs have made in their ground game. D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield have been on fire the last few games and the Georgia offensive line is ranked second among the Power 5 conferences in run blocking grade, so even though Tech has the freakish offense, it’s the Silver Britches who bring the steamrolling line and the more talented ball carriers to this one. Georgia is averaging 312.3 yards per game on the ground since the loss to LSU, with Swift gaining 495 yards and Holyfield 329. If the Dawgs run effectively and can control the clock, it’s game over.
3. The passing games
For vastly different reasons, both of these teams need to make their passing game effective. For Tech, that means wildly talented TaQuon Marshall making at least five or six connections down the field, to keep the Bulldogs' back four from crowding the box. Last week against Virginia, he completed just one pass. Georgia will rely on its athleticism to clog things up in the running game, so some surprise passes to a one-on-one matchup on the outside will be necessary. Meanwhile, the Jackets' back seven is giving up 223 yards per game through the air so you have to figure Jake Fromm and Co. are licking their chops to get their aerial game in high gear this Saturday. The only thing that gives me pause for thought is if Fromm is feeling the pressure of having Justin Fields breathing down his neck on the depth chart and that makes him play tight.
I actually like Georgia Tech’s chances of moving the ball on the Bulldogs, since the triple option is such a freaky offense to prepare for in just six days' time and discipline is such a huge key. So look for the Rambling Wreck to get some yards and points. But the good side for that Georgia defense is the fact that they tackle at a 94.8 percent rate. The Dawgs have missed only 56 tackles as a team this season, which is the best in the nation.
In addition to all that, Georgia is still a very motivated squad aiming to stay in the College Football Playoff conversation. But do tread lightly, Tech has won the last two games played between these two between the hedges. And yes, this Tech offense gives the Yellow Jackets a chance to stay in any game they play. I just think the defense won’t be strong enough. Still, it's been a great bounce-back season for the Techsters.
Prediction: Georgia 34, Georgia Tech 24
— 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.