The time is here.
The yearly battle deemed as “Clean, Old Fashioned Hate” is upon us, as the the Georgia Bulldogs travel down the road to Atlanta to face-off with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Saturday afternoon at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Unfortunately for both teams, there are no “championship” aspirations on the line in this one, but that certainly won’t take away from the animosity on both sides, and this quickly becomes the biggest game of the season for both sides once it kicks off. Without further ado, let’s get to the preview.
Georgia Offense vs. Georgia Tech Defense
The lead story in this one is the debut of UGA’s Hutson Mason, as Aaron Murray famously went down with an ACL tear in last week’s win over Kentucky. On the season, Mason’s numbers are very good (68.6% completion, 10 yards per attempt), but they are an incredibly small sample, and we have to assume at least a mild step down from the All-American level of Murray.
That plays directly into the hands of what has been a very stingy Tech defense this season, which is already in the top-25 in the country in both yards allowed and points allowed. It will certainly help Mason to have his full compliment of weapons, as Chris Conley, Rantavious Wooten, Michael Bennett, and Arthur Lynch are all now healthy, but it would certainly benefit him to be able to lean on a quality run game to open up passing lanes. However, star defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu has been vocal in pursuit of Mason this week, and with his 27 career sacks, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him take up residence in the backfield.
With that, Todd Gurley faces off against an excellent Tech run defense, and that could be the match-up to watch in the entire game. Gurley is an absolute superstar, rushing for 781 yards and 7 touchdowns in less than 8 full games of action, but the Jackets are stingy as a unit, allowing only 103.3 rushing yards per game, which is good for 9th in all of FBS. Gurley will get his yards, simply because of his immense talent, but if Ted Roof and company can keep him under control, it will make Mason’s life difficult and swing the pendulum back toward the Jackets.
Georgia Tech Offense vs. Georgia Defense
The big-time battle on this end of the field is obviously on the ground. Tech is always among the nation’s leaders in rushing, and this year is no different, as they currently sit at 5th in the country with over 316 yards per game. On the UGA side, they have been far better against the run (138.1 yards per game) than the pass, though, making it a more favorable match-up than you would expect.
The full stable of running backs (and quarterbacks) will be on display for the Jackets, and that begins with David Sims and Robert Godhigh. Sims has been the most consistent back for Tech this season, putting up over 700 yards and 11 touchdowns, and Godhigh exploded onto the scene with a huge game against Clemson (even in a loss) that displayed his high-end burst. We’re sure to see a steady diet of Vad Lee in this one, as well, as the QB leads the team in carries with 152 this season, and he’ll see the lion’s share of snaps at the position.
Through the air, Tech doesn’t really have the “big-play” threat that they’ve possessed in the past with guys like Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, and Stephen Hill. In fact, no Jacket has over 20 receptions (not a misprint) on the season, and the aforementioned Godhigh is the leading receiver on the team. It would be huge for the Jackets to hit a downfield pass or two during the game, but the highly scrutinized UGA secondary should have a bit of a break here.
In the end, this is one of the closer match-ups (at least on paper) of the past few seasons in this game. Georgia has been banged up and/or struggling for much of the second half of the season, and while Tech doesn’t have the huge wins this year, their defense is legitimate, and that keeps them in it. It does seem as if the Bulldogs have the talent edge, simply because Todd Gurley is the best player on the field (Jeremiah Attaochu would argue, but alas), but the fact that Aaron Murray will be watching from the sidelines make this more of a coin-toss than most people imagined. Either way, it’s going to be must-see TV for any resident of this state, and the winner will take home bragging rights for the next 12 months.
Stay tuned for post-game coverage, and a live game thread that will open on Saturday morning.