For the 111th time, the Georgia Bulldogs will face off against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets for the state title of best team. For Georgia, it is about the seniors last game at Sanford Stadium and wanting to go out with a win. For Georgia Tech, it is about reclaiming the Governor’s Cup trophy and winning in Athens for a second straight time. Both teams come into the game with a 7-4 record as well as well as going 4-4 in conference play. In addition, the Dawgs and Yellow Jackets have each faced two common opponents on their schedule this far, North Carolina and Vanderbilt. Georgia and Tech each went 1-1 in those games, winning against the opposite teams. Georgia opened their year with a 33-24 win against North Carolina while Tech lost in Chapel Hill to the Tar Heels 48-20. On the other hand, Tech beat Vanderbilt at home 38-7 while Georgia lost 17-16 back in October.
Looking at the series history of the Dawgs and Jackets, Georgia has done well in this series of late. Winning 13 of the last 15 meetings or 20 of the last 25 games. During that span, Georgia has two separate 7 game winning streaks (1991-1997 and 2001-2007). Though it should be noted that 4 of Georgia Tech’s 5 wins since 1991 have come at Sanford Stadium in Athens. Including the last meeting in 2014, with Tech winning in Overtime 30-24. It happened after Tech kicker Harrison Butker kicking a game-tying 53 yard field goal at the end of regulation and Georgia Quarterback Hutson Mason throwing a pick in Overtime to seal the victory for Tech. Last year’s game in Atlanta was a low-scoring affair with Georgia prevailing 13-7 behind Sony Michel’s 149 yard performance and Georgia’s defense forcing 3 turnovers. The last play of the game was a Malkom Parrish interception, which ended up being the last play for head coach Mark Richt, finishing 13-2 in the state rivalry. For Kirby Smart to have similar success, let us look at the 3 keys to the game.
The first key will be Georgia’s ability to control time of possession much like the Auburn game, in fact Georgia Tech’s defense is on the field for an average of 10 more plays a game than their offense. So, Georgia’s ability to convert third downs to keep the chains moving will prevent Justin Thomas and company from finding a rhythm. It also helps that Georgia Tech’s offense is 112th in the country in first downs, with only 195 on the season. The second key will be Georgia’s ability to contain Tech’s A backs which line up on the edge. Georgia has done well on stuffing the run up the middle but not so much on the edge. Tech’s motions with their A backs can cause confusion, especially when both run to the same side as one acts as a lead blocker for the other. So, Georgia will need good games from both Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter in order to win. Finally, Georgia needs to continue to do well in the passing game against Tech, who has the 88th pass defense in the country as well as being 108th in the country in sacks with only 16. Look for Eason to connect with Riley Ridley and Javon Wims on the deep ball, both whom Eason is more comfortable with in the 12th game.
With all of that being said, I expect both teams to run the ball a lot, meaning the clock will be running more, thus each possession is crucial. The line for the game is 4 ½ for Georgia which seems about right, look for Georgia to win a close ballgame 21-17 and improve to 8-4 on the regular season. With a win against Tech, Georgia would improve to 2-2 on the season against their 4 biggest rivals (Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, and Tech). Georgia has beaten at least 2 of the 4 in every year since 2001, so Georgia needs a victory on Saturday to keep the streak alive. In fact, it would be the 4th time in the last ten years (2006, 2009, 2015, & 2016) that Georgia would start off 0-2 (losses to Tennessee and Florida) and finish 2-0 (wins against Auburn and Tech). So lets hope Kirby Smart starts off on the right foot and beats Georgia Tech in his first year.
God Bless and Go Dawgs!