Posted: 7:50 pm Friday, November 25th, 2016
By Jay Black
How does the new UGA regime handle Tech’s option?
Isn’t this always the number one thing to watch for when Georgia plays Georgia Tech?
The new wrinkle this year, UGA coach Kirby Smart has never faced Paul Johnson’s triple option.
Smart says the only time he’s really seen it was as Alabama defensive coordinator against Georgia Southern in 2011. The Crimson Tide won but still allowed 302 rushing yards.
So Smart started preparing for Georgia Tech in the spring, sprinkling in practice against the flexbone option when he could. Smart has also called other coaches asking for advice and has even brought in former UGA defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder as a consultant for the final three games of the season.
The Dawgs defense — despite the second string struggling in the fourth quarter last week — is still ranked 13th in the NCAA in total yards allowed. Against the run, Georgia is 33rd, allowing 133.3 yards per game.
The Yellow Jackets are ranked ninth in America in rushing, at 260 yards per game. But that is the second lowest since Johnson has been at Tech, just four yards better than the low mark set last year.
GT does get leading rusher Dedrick Mills back. The freshman has rushed for 578 yards despite missing four games, including the last two with a suspension. Tech QB Justin Thomas leads the team with 121 carries, but hasn’t quite been as effective as he was two years ago. Sophomore A-Back Clinton Lynch is fourth on the team in rushing, but first with 10.7 yards per carry.
Can Georgia take advantage of Tech defense?
There have been times this season when the Jackets have looked totally lost trying to stop the football. Mainly the 559 yards complied by Duke and the rock-bottom 636 allowed to North Carolina.
The Jackets have put things back together a little bit in this two game winning streak against Virginia Tech and Virginia. Still GT has allowed less than 300 yards only once this season (Vanderbilt) and less than 400 in only two ACC games (Miami and Boston College).
Tech is ranked 10th in the ACC in passing yards allowed, rushing yards allowed and total yards allowed.
Georgia is slowly getting better as the season winds down. After one of the worst offensive performances in 20 years against Florida, the Dawgs have had a 100 yard rusher in each of the last three games.
Nick Chubb might not quite be the player we saw before the injury or against North Carolina, but he is quietly progressing.
Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason should get a few opportunities to take his shots against the Jackets. Tech’s pass rush is mediocre at best. It is last in the ACC with 16 sacks, but has half of those in the last two games.
The Dawgs set their season high in points scored last week against Louisiana-Lafayette. It would be no surprise if Georgia crosses the 30-point mark again Saturday.
Could it come down to another kick?
While Georgia has totally dominated this rivalry since 2001, that doesn’t mean it has been easy.
Since 2004, this game has been decided by eight points or less nine times, including the last three games. That’s the most among Georgia’s regular opponents.
Chances are the kickers will be needed.
So far, it’s all square between Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship and Georgia Tech’s Harrison Butker. Both are 11-for-13 in field goals and haven’t missed an extra point.
The last time Tech came to Athens in 2014, Butker made a 53-yarder to send the game to overtime. GT won it.
This year, Butker is on the verge of becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer. He has yet to attempt a kick over 50 yards, but he is perfect from 40 and above (6-for-6).
Blankenship has become a UGA folk hero after his game-winning kick against Kentucky. He has stabilized Georgia’s biggest weakness. His only misses this season were his first kick at Ole Miss and a 49-yarder against Auburn. Not bad.
If it comes down to a kick, both coaches have to like their chances.
But this is for the state championship, after all.