No need to sugar coat it — It's just Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate — nothing more, nothing less. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will travel east to Athens from downtown Atlanta on Saturday to take on their most bitter rival — the Georgia Bulldogs.
Tech comes into this year's contest at 7-4 and much improved from last year. The Yellow Jackets may be playing their best football right now, having won four of their last five games. This team recently beat a quality Virginia Tech squad on the road and also had a 38-7 home win over Vanderbilt. For what it's worth, the Commodores beat Georgia this year.
The Bulldogs come into this one with a little momentum — finally. It's been an up-and-down year for Georgia, which also is 7-4. At one point in the season, the Bulldogs had lost four of their last five games. But more recently, they have been able to reel off three consecutive wins, including an upset victory over Auburn. Georgia also may be playing its best football of the year in late November.
Truly one of the South's oldest rivalries, this will be the 111th all-time meeting between Georgia and Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs lead the series 65-40-5 and have won six of the last seven matchups. However, the last time the series was played in Athens two years ago, Georgia Tech scored a 30-24 win.
Georgia Tech at Georgia
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 26 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: SEC Network
Spread: Georgia -4
Three Things to Watch
1. The Triple Option vs. UGA's Run Defense
Tech's ninth-year head coach Paul Johnson is a big fan of clock control and wearing teams out on the ground. Georgia Tech's triple option is one of college football's most unique and traditional offenses… and it's hard to stop. The Yellow Jackets are ninth in the FBS, averaging more than 260 yards per game on the ground. Conversely, Georgia is ranked 33rd against the run. The Bulldogs may have given up a lot of yards at times this season but they've held firm up front for the most part. Two weeks ago, Georgia allowed Auburn to rush for only 127 yards. Up until last week against Louisiana-Lafayette, the Bulldogs hadn't allowed any team to crack 200 rushing yards.
2. Georgia QB Jacob Eason vs. Tech's Secondary
This may be an area where Georgia has the advantage. The Bulldogs’ true freshman quarterback has accounted for more than 2,100 passing yards this season. That's not a remarkable figure, but it's a great sign for the future as long as he continues developing into what Georgia thinks he can be — a superstar. Eason's numbers have been good for a freshman this season. He had 300-yard outputs against Missouri and Vanderbilt, and also played well in the upset win over Auburn. But it would be nice for Georgia fans to see Eason come up big in a clutch situation and that could end up being the decision in this game. The Yellow Jackets' secondary allows more than 240 passing yards per game, which places them 81st in the nation.
3. Georgia's Secondary
Speaking of secondaries, the Bulldogs' defensive backfield has been one of the most improved units in the country over the second half of the season. The 'Dawgs have the nation's No. 16 pass defense and give up only about 189 yards per game through the air. This is the same defensive unit that got torched earlier in the season — giving up 376, 330, 230 and 288 passing yards in consecutive games. But since allowing South Carolina to throw for 288 yards on Oct. 9, this Bulldogs secondary has been superb, not allowing more than 189 passing yards in any game. In fact, Georgia has allowed only one touchdown pass since giving up three against Tennessee on Oct. 1. Another fun fact: Georgia Tech's passing offense only nets 128 yards per game (125th in the FBS). Obviously, it's not Tech's style to throw the ball around. But will the Jackets be able to make critical plays in the air when Georgia stacks the box?
It's a rivalry game, so really you might as well throw all the stats out the window. These teams typically play each other close and that's why Georgia is only a four-point favorite. Both are peaking at the right time and have the chance to get to eight wins on Saturday. I think Georgia Tech is an incredibly difficult team to prepare for because of its style of offense — and that certainly will give Georgia trouble in this game — but the Bulldogs are beginning to play better defense week to week under first-year head coach Kirby Smart. I expect the Bulldogs to stack the box with an improved run defense and make Georgia Tech throw the ball more than it wants to. And that's a matchup where Georgia has the advantage. Late in the game, the 'Dawgs secondary will make a play to seal it.
Prediction: Georgia 27, Georgia Tech 24
— Written by Cody McClure, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a radio host on Sports Radio 1180 WVLZ in Knoxville, Tenn. Follow him on Twitter @CodyMcClureCFB.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)