Two more days until the Sun Bowl. Had a few thoughts to reel off as I get ready for the press conference featuring the coordinators from both teams. Quarterbacks and B-backs coach Brian Bohannon will fill in for Paul Johnson as the Georgia Tech offensive coordinator, if you’re wondering.
1. One of the biggest matchups will be Tech center Jay Finch, with help from guards Omoregie Uzzi and Will Jackson/Shaquille Mason, against Utah nose tackle Star Lotulelei, a first-team All-Pac-12 pick. If Finch consistently can’t get him on the ground or create some push, it will bog down the dive play and make the Jackets less diverse in their options.
You may remember that Utah has a lot of past experience against an option-spread offense, having played Air Force in the Mountain West Conference annually until joining the Pac-12 this season. Lotulelei (lo-too-leh-lay) said Utah will defend Tech the same way it did Air Force.
“I think it’s helped, because we have pretty much the same guys we have from last year, so I think we’re pretty used to this kind of offense,” Lotulelei said, “but I think they have some better athletes than Air Force did in their backfield, so it’ll be a lot more challenging to compete with those athletes.”
Said Finch, “I’m looking forward for myself to see where I stand, see how I compare.”
Fact: Lotulelei’s given name is Starlite.
2. I think probably the more important matchup will be Tech’s run defense against Utah running back John White and the Utes offensive line. Tech is allowing 162.9 rushing yards per game, which is tied for 70th in the country. White is No. 10 in the country at 117.0 rushing yards per game. End Izaan Cross described him as “slippery.”
The onus will fall again on ends Jason Peters and Cross and nose tackle Logan Walls to hold the point and maintain gap integrity.
“Our defense in particular, we’ve had games that we’ve done very well, we’ve had games that we played poorly,” Cross said. “We just want to finish the season out on a high note.”
A matchup to watch is Peters vs. Utah offensive tackle Tony Bergstrom, who is pegged as a mid-round draft pick.
“Really big, really good and really fast,” Peters said. “Great player, great athlete, uses his hands well, moves his feet well. I’ve got to make sure I bring my ‘A’ game.”
Of note: Bergstrom, who served a two-year mission with the Mormon church out of high school, is 25 years old and is married with a child.
Utah offensive line coach Tim Davis: “We’re not going to get anything like home runs off ‘em. We’ve got to bang away and do our stuff and we’re got to hold up against them at the start because they do have a lot of speed. They do come at you.”
Fact: Cross said he got a mini-refrigerator for his dorm room for Christmas.
3. Tech can finish No. 1 in the country in third-down conversion percentage with a strong performance against Utah. The Jackets lead at 54.88 percent, but Wisconsin (54.1) is a close second. If Tech repeated its worst third-down performance (4 of 12 against N.C. State), it would drop to 53.4 percent. Kind of hard to believe, but Tech’s best third-down day was against Maryland, 13 of 20.
After a cursory look at the media guide, I couldn’t find the school record for single-season third-down percentage, but I’ve got to believe it would set the record, at least going as far back as records have been kept.