Clean, Old-fashioned Hate is upon us. On Saturday the #18 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets travel to Athens to take on their hated rival #13 Georgia Bulldogs. This has developed into a very important game for both teams which was unforeseen at the beginning of the season. Most "experts" had Georgia tabbed as the nation's best team, laying the heavy load of national title expectations on their backs. They didn't quite make those expectations. As for Georgia Tech, some "experts" predicted them to win just three games. The Yellow Jackets more than passed those predictions. And that is college football folks, that's why we watch. The unexpected is seemingly happening every year now. There's a great chance for rain during the game, so it will be interesting to see how each team adjusts. Rushing and holding on to the ball should be critical for each team.
Georgia comes into the game tomorrow with a 9-2 record and is a likely lock to play Ohio State in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day. Not a bad season, right? Well, for many Bulldog fans, frustration can only describe their season. Georgia was blown out at home against Alabama. Then came the big game with Florida. The Gators ran away with it and took more than just a victory. They seem to have stolen Georgia's pride. What's left to play for with national title hopes and conference title hopes, for that matter, out the window? In recent games at Kentucky and Auburn, that Georgia passion and pride was left off the field. They got the job done but if anyone has been paying attention, it wasn't the Georgia team we've seen in recent years. The Bulldogs, with a week off to get ready under their belt, are faced with a challenge tomorrow. The challenge is to pick up their pride and defend their home field against Georgia Tech, who wants this game more than anything. Head coach Mark Richt hasn't lost this game and should make it known to his team that he's not ready to see it happen.
Georgia Tech arrives in Athens with some confidence on both offense and defense after a 41-23 victory over Miami. The Yellow Jackets' first team defense held Miami to 218 yards before taking their 1st-stringers out. They led 41-10 going into the 4th quarter and racked up 518 yards of offense on the night. New head coach Paul Johnson has Tech at an 8-3 overall record which already more than the usual seven wins former coach Chan Gailey use to get. Georgia Tech will automatically be at least co-Coastal division champs and will play in the ACC title game if Virginia can beat Virginia Tech. None of that is on the team's mind though as the number one goal of the season is the task at hand. Beat Georgia. This is no easy task for the Yellow Jackets, who have lost seven straight to the Bulldogs. But Coach Johnson has brought a new toughness to his program and says they will never play scared. His winning attitude is contagious in Atlanta and he is ready to change the national perception of Georgia Tech.
Georgia's strength: This year it's the offense for a team that has traditionally ridden its defense to competing for conference titles. Quarterback Matt Stafford, running back Knowshon Moreno, and wide receivers A.J. Green and Mohamed Massaquoi all may be future NFL first-round draft picks. The Bulldogs have all you could ever want in terms of offensive play-makers.
Georgia's weakness: The offensive line has been pegged as UGA's weakness because of some important injuries, but offensive production by yards haven't been a problem. The defensive line also isn't one to be remembered in the future as so many have before them. However, the biggest weakness is discipline. Georgia is second to last in all the NCAA for penalties per game. The Bulldogs average almost nine penalties per game, giving up over 74 yards to their opponent every time out.
Georgia Tech's strength: The offense is getting better every week, but the defensive line is the heart and soul of the team. The line is led by three senior starters in end Michael Johnson and tackles Vance Walker and Darryl Richard. Sophomore Derrick Morgan has been every bit as good as the others, too. These four have helped lead Tech to 30 sacks and 87 tackles for loss.
Georgia Tech's weakness: It's simple--holding on to the ball. It's been hard to pull victories out when Tech has put the ball on the ground. In each of the three losses, fumbles were a big reason for the outcome. The good news is the Yellow Jackets are on the better side of turnover margin.
RB Knowshon Moreno - The redshirt sophomore running back has amassed 1,244 rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns, averaging just under 6 yards per carry. He should be the best running back Georgia Tech has seen all year. Moreno has the ability to hit the hole hard and make defenders miss by changing directions.
WLB Rennie Curran - He might as well be THE Georgia defense. Curran is 2nd in the SEC in tackles with 98. He also has 9 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and has forced 2 fumbles. Curran will be relied upon greatly by the Bulldogs to stop Tech's offense.
QB Matt Stafford - He is about as good as any when it comes to quarterbacks. Stafford has a cannon for an arm and can put the ball on the money. He is having his best season as a junior throwing to A.J. Green and Mohamed Massaquoi. He's throwing at a 61% completion rate for just over 2,802 yards, with 17 touchdowns to 8 interceptions.
B-back Jonathan Dwyer - Dwyer has proved to be perfect for Coach Johnson's offense with his blend of size, speed, and strength. The sophomore has rushed for 1,184 yards averaging 7 yards per carry. He's a big-play threat with 11 touchdowns and averages almost 47 yards on each score.
ROV Morgan Burnett - Burnett is a ball-hawk who has a knack for making big plays. He leads the team with 73 tackles and also has 5.5 tackles for loss, 6 interceptions, 14 passes defended, and one forced fumble. He will have to play a huge part in helping stop Georgia's talented receiving corps.
DE Michael Johnson - He is proving his stock as a sure-fire first-round draft pick in the NFL next spring. The 6'7" defensive end has 36 tackles, 13 for loss, 6 sacks, an interception returned for a TD, 7 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and a blocked kick.
UGA gives up just 104.5 rushing yards per game (15th in nation) vs. Georgia Tech averaging 270.8 yards per game (4th in nation). This is a similar match up as the Miami and Florida State games for Tech.
UGA passes for 268.5 yards per game (19th in nation) vs. Georgia Tech gives up 176.6 yards through the air each game (21st in nation). Tech has not seen as talented a passing game yet like UGA's.
Scoring offenses: UGA - 31.2 points per game GT - 24.5 points per game
Scoring defenses: UGA - 23.8 points per game GT - 16.7 points per game
Penalties: GT - 23rd in nation for fewest penalties per game vs. UGA - 118th in the nation
There are five important factors the teams will have to overcome or win to pull out a victory.
1. The rainy weather.
2. Turnover margin.
3. Battle of the trenches.
4. Penalty margin.
5. Rushing the ball.
Both teams should be fired up as Tech is looking for some revenge and respect. Georgia should be playing for its pride. A loss to Tech would be a big letdown for Georgia. The game should be a battle like the last four meetings between the teams.