Georgia-Ga Tech Preview: Yellow Jackets Adjustments Are the Difference
This may be the most heated rivalry in the South—so much so that the schools can't even agree on the series record.
Georgia Tech says it is 59-39-5, while Georgia claims a 59-37-5 series lead, not counting Tech's victories in 1943 and 1944.
You can throw the series record out this year, as we find a role reversal with Georgia Tech's eyes set on a BCS bid while Georgia is fighting for a 7-5 season.
UGA head coach Mark Richt started out 7-0 against Tech after arriving in 2001, largely because of the Bulldogs' three straight losses to the Yellow Jackets.
Before last season though, Georgia Tech hired Paul Johnson to restore this game to rivalry status, and he did in year one, beating UGA in Athens. With Johnson's arrival, Georgia Tech is 19-5 in two seasons and favored over their in-state nemesis by a touchdown.
Things are not as rosy in Athens, where Richt and his staff have come under fire with two straight disappointing seasons.
Friendships are lost, families are divided, and coaches fired over Clean, Old Fashioned Hate.
Keys for Georgia Tech
1. Don't Beat Yourself
Georgia Tech's offense is on a roll and has largely avoided coughing the ball up this season. But the option is a high risk, high reward offense that can be slowed by turnovers. Quarterback Josh Nesbitt needs to continue his good decision-making this season and not give UGA any easy scoring chances.
The Bulldogs have only recovered one fumble this season, so they will have to reverse recent fortune. But Nesbitt is third in fumbles among active players.
I think defensive coordinator Willie Martinez has to force the ball out to the pitch, where turnovers are more likely.
2. Pass Defense
Despite the success on offense, Ga Tech's defense has left something to be desired with their pass defense ranking 78th nationally.
Star WR A.J. Green's status is doubtful, so guys like Mike Moore, Rantavious Wooten, and Orson Charles will need to step up and take advantage of a porous Jackets defense.
The Yellow Jackets' pass defense will be greatly aided if they can get pressure from the front four and especially from guys other than star DE Derrick Morgan. Georgia's offensive line has played pretty well in pass protection, allowing just one sack per game.
Keys for Georgia
1. Control the Clock
Georgia Tech leads the nation in time of possession, and that time on the field, combined with a punishing running game, wears opposing defenses out. Georgia has to establish a running game to hold on to the ball and keep it away from the explosive Yellow Jacket offense.
GT's key to holding on to the ball is their conversion rate on third down, ranking third nationally. UGA ranks 27th nationally in opponent third down conversions.
2. Pass Coverage
I know you are scratching your head, Georgia fans, but hear me out. Everyone knows Ga. Tech is going to run the ball, and UGA is going to try to load the box to stop it.
But when Nesbitt can consistently connect with his receivers downfield, especially Demaryius Thomas, this offense is nearly unstoppable.
For GT, they have to get the ball to the edge enough to keep those corners and safeties peeking into the backfield. Those DBs peeking is a reason why Nesbitt is second in the country in passes completed over 50 yards.
Last year, Georgia Tech won the game by outscoring Georgia 33-14 in the second half and has never looked back.
I think this game goes back and forth in the first half, but in the second half Georgia Tech's offense makes the necessary adjustments, leaving Mark Richt, Willie Martinez, and the Georgia Bulldogs befuddled again.
Georgia Tech Wins
Georgia Tech Covers -7.5
You can check out this preview and other rivalry week previews at The ACC & SEC Blog .
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