Looking ahead to Tech-UGA: A huge game or just a prelude?

This is how it looked when last Tech and UGA played as ranked teams. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

How it looked when last Tech and UGA met as ranked teams. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Speaking of one rival Saturday night, Georgia’s coach pointed toward another. “Florida’s the fastest team we play every year,” Mark Richt said, “and there’s no way to simulate that in practice. It’s like preparing for the option — your scout team can run it perfectly and it still won’t be the same.”

Let’s see. Anybody we know run the option? Wait, wait … don’t tell me …

Coming Nov. 26 at Bobby Dodd Stadium: The biggest Georgia Tech-Georgia game of the new millennium? Or an appetizer before the entree?

Both teams just won huge games, Tech whipping No. 5 Clemson three hours after Georgia disposed of nemesis Florida. Both teams are included in the BCS rankings (Georgia at No. 18, Tech at No. 23). Both teams stand a chance of playing for conference championships the week after they meet one another. (Georgia still needs South Carolina to lose, which could happen Saturday night at Arkansas; Tech needs Virginia to lose, which it will.)

Both Tech and Georgia have been ranked when they met only once since 2005. That was in 2008, when the Jackets surged from 16 points behind at the half to win 45-42 in Athens. It marks the only time in 10 tries the Jackets have beaten a Georgia team coached by Mark Richt. This game could be similarly epic, though in different ways.

1. The final score won’t be 45-42. It won’t even be the 42-34 of last season. Two programs that fired defensive coordinators the same offseason and hired replacements the same day — Jan. 10, 2010 — are seeing the benefits. Georgia ranks No. 7 nationally in total defense, and Tech ranks third to Florida State and Virginia Tech in that category in ACC play.

Todd Grantham’s 3-4 limited Florida’s offense, coached by Mr. Schematic Advantage himself  (i.e., the overblown Charlie Weis), to 32 yards and one first down the second half. Take away the missed tackles on the game’s first snap and the blown assignment on the fourth-and-19 touchdown and the fleet Gators managed a total of 103 yards. On a telling sequence, Florida took possession at the Georgia 13 after Aaron Murray’s pass hit Isaiah Crowell in the back of the head and was intercepted … and the Gators wound up punting.

Very quietly, Tech has developed a D to complement its famous O. Al Groh’s 3-4 kept the losses to Virginia and Miami from getting completely out of hand, and Saturday night it limited a Clemson team that had scored 115 points in its past two games to a first-half field goal. Tech no longer has to score 35 points just to have a chance. Against Clemson, 18 would have sufficed.

2. Then again, the final score COULD be 45-42 — with a half-dozen special teams gaffes on both sides. There’s no way to sugarcoat this: The local schools — which used to have special-teams aces like Gary Lee and Scott Sisson and Kevin Butler and Rex Robinson — are terrible at almost anything that involves kicking.

Tech lost to Miami after a first half in which it failed on a fake punt, hoisted a 13-yard punt, fumbled a punt into the end zone to hand the Hurricanes a touchdown and yielded a 64-yard kickoff return to spawn another touchdown. “Something we’re doing ain’t right,” said Tech coach Paul Johnson after that epic display.

A week later, Georgia traveled to the state of Florida and was, astonishingly, even worse. It missed two point-blank field goals. It yielded a kickoff return to near midfield on the game’s first play that was nullified by penalty. It yielded a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to the Gators’ No. 2 kickoff returner. Said Richt: “Our special teams were mostly average to scary.”

3. For the first time ever, both teams could enter the symbolic state championship game with bigger fish to fry. It would be hard for either side ever to look beyond Thanksgiving weekend — these teams, as you’ve heard, don’t like each other — but what happens if both are playing for real championships a week later? Should Georgia win the SEC East, will its sights be set on Alabama/LSU in the Dome? Will Tech, should it finish atop the ACC Coastal, be scheming for another run at Dabo Swinney in Charlotte?

Maybe it’s me, but I can’t imagine a Tech-Georgia game serving as an undercard. But I am, as we know, often surprised. I wasn’t sure Georgia could beat Florida ever again, and I darn sure didn’t expect Tech to shut down Clemson. But that’s why, I suppose, they persist in playing these games — to make me look silly.

More silliness: On Nov. 26, Georgia will beat Tech 24-20.

By Mark Bradley

359 comments Add your comment

Buck Commander

November 1st, 2011
11:45 am

Good Morning Mark.

Mark Bradley

November 1st, 2011
11:46 am

Morning, sir. But it’s nearly noon, I note.

DawgsOWNTech

November 1st, 2011
11:47 am

Coach Mark Richt will make it 9 out of 10 against the maggots.

Georgia’s Georgia, Dawg!

PTC DAWG

November 1st, 2011
11:49 am

Both teams need help. Gt also needs Virginia to lose a game.

Dawgs42-tech34

November 1st, 2011
11:50 am

Not worried about tech, looking ahead to Auburn and a GOOD shot at the SEC Championship game in December. Go Dawgs! GATA!

Luke

November 1st, 2011
11:51 am

@DawgsOWNTech

November 1st, 2011
11:52 am

I believe you mean 10 out of 11

Erin

November 1st, 2011
11:53 am

I sure hope it’s not silliness! GO DAWGS!!

Luke

November 1st, 2011
11:54 am

Not worried about UGA. Looking forward to Tech and an even BETTER shot at the ACC championship and a BCS bowl in January. Go Jackets!

Mark, I will have you note that our special teams looked pretty solid on Saturday night. Averaged 45 yards a punt, and 25 yards a return. Held big bad Sammy Watkins to about 22 yards and most of his returns started at the 10. Pretty good day all around against the Tigers.

kappellmeister

November 1st, 2011
11:54 am

24 is not a good number for this game, Mark. That would imply that UGA scores 3 TD with converted extra points AND a made field goal! Maybe 18 – 12 is a better number …

Mark Bradley

November 1st, 2011
11:54 am

More like a jinx, Erin. But sometimes I’m right. Not often lately, I’m afraid.

PMC

November 1st, 2011
11:55 am

SPECIAL…teams

gt_blume

November 1st, 2011
11:55 am

Mark, if we lose to Duke that is probably good for an additional 20 points vs. UGA.

Mark Bradley

November 1st, 2011
11:55 am

Point taken, kappellmeister. Though I believe Georgia just scored 24 points in Jacksonville.

Mark Bradley

November 1st, 2011
11:56 am

I cannot believe Tech will lose to Duke.

Not Disappointed

November 1st, 2011
11:58 am

It should be a very good game. I don’t know about high scores but I look forward to the game nonetheless. It depends on what offense shows up. I watched a Ga Tech team that wasn’t intimidated last Saturday nite. It was scary good. Go Jackets!

Luke

November 1st, 2011
11:58 am

Agreed Mark. Actually, I don’t see Tech losing to VT at home on a Thursday night either….

GIVE ME A BREAK

November 1st, 2011
11:59 am

Great article, Mark. The game is going to be the best ever. Hope both teams continue to climb in the rankings. ” ROCK & ROLL YELLOW JACKETS “

GT Dude

November 1st, 2011
12:00 pm

It would be cool but, odds of both teams playing in their respective CCG is about 10:1

Only thing I can say about your prediction is that you must be dyslexic it is GT 24 – UGA 20

Stay Thirsty My Friends

IndyGT

November 1st, 2011
12:00 pm

Here’s the difference between Tech and UGAg. We play a top 5 team at home – and send a message. UGAg plays a top 5 team in essentially a home game – and isn’t even competitive. We’ll settle it at BDS, but I believe in CPJ.

reality

November 1st, 2011
12:01 pm

Tech wins this

Ted M

November 1st, 2011
12:02 pm

This game could be a blow out either way. I gonna wait to make my prediction.

gt_blume

November 1st, 2011
12:02 pm

I couldn’t believe they would lose to UVA. I guess the Idaho game really galvanized the Cavs.

robodawg

November 1st, 2011
12:03 pm

I like that final score. I think Georgia wins on D. We’re especially stout against the run this year (holding Florida to negative yards rushing). Junkyard Dawgs are back.

But, we’re susceptible to special teams gaffes, turning the ball over, and potentially getting faked out on a long pass play. I think we’re in for a nail biter.

NativeAtlantan

November 1st, 2011
12:04 pm

NNo idea who takes this one. Should be another barn burner on the Flats. Just hope the SEC officiating crew doesn’t figure prominently in the result. They have a habit of doing that when this game is played in Atlanta.

kappellmeister

November 1st, 2011
12:04 pm

Ha! Touche’

GTBob

November 1st, 2011
12:06 pm

Our annual game will never be “huge” unless one of the teams is a contender for a MNC game or at least an at large BCS bid. If both teams make their conference championship games then both teams will probably be looking ahead to some extent.

JACKETfan12

November 1st, 2011
12:06 pm

This is why Tech lost to UVA and Miami. We started talking about the “what-if’s” leading up to the Clemson game 2 or 3 weeks before the game and still had football to play before that. That is why the players came out flat against UVA and Miami. They started hearing all the hype about the Clemson game. Coaches and players will sit there and say they don’t pay attention to that stuff, but truth is, they do. The players are 20 years old and will read and listen stuff that the AJC and ESPN says about them. CPJ says “I don’t even look at that stuff”- lies. He called Dinich out 2 years ago about constantly picking against Tech. They all listen. And by us hyping up this UGA/Tech game, players from both sides will start anticipating that match-up. Tech has a HUGE game against VT that we need to start hyping up and UGA needs to look forward to Auburn FAR before we start talking about the Thanksgiving match-up.

Actually, the TO that Tech runs...

November 1st, 2011
12:06 pm

…is not really difficult to stop – if you didn’t have 18-22 years to do the stopping. UVA and UM showed that, at least against GT, all you have to do is tackle the B back, and make the QB the focus runner – Clemson failed because 1) either their DC is hard headed and did not pay close attention to what UM and UVA did, or 2) their 18-22 year olds did not listen and play to the discipline required to stop the QB. Not exactly rocket science.

UGA’s offense, on the other hand, is so simple to stop that all you have to do is let their QB self destruct, and he will, at some point during the game, because he is 18-22 years old and cannot, or will not, listen to what he is coached to do if he runs out of time to throw a pass (or in his case, throw the pass when his receiver is looking). How many times in the past 21 games has he taken a sack while running to the sideline trying to escape the rush when all has to do, while running for his life, is throw the ball out of bounds so as not to lose yardage.

If Tech is able to play D against the rest of the teams they face, including UGA, half as well as they played against Clemson, then UGA has no shot in the game – whether Grantham can get his guys to stay disciplined against the Tech TO remains to be seen…

GIVE ME A BREAK

November 1st, 2011
12:07 pm

Tech’s defense has given up a net of 17 points in each of the last 3 games and 16 in the game before that. ” KEEP ROLLING JACKETS “

RAMBLE ON!!!

November 1st, 2011
12:07 pm

Mark, if UGA beats GT 24-20, then that will be their 1st win against a good team.

George Stein

November 1st, 2011
12:08 pm

So much is dependent upon which teams show up. If it’s the Tech team that played Clemson, we’ll kill UGA. If it’s the one that showed up at UVA, we’ll get killed.

kappellmeister

November 1st, 2011
12:08 pm

Hey IndyGT – what kind of message was it that was sent in the UVA game? At least the Dawgs only losses were against ranked teams. I say it has more to do with early season games for UGA. What’s your excuse? See ya at Bobby Dodd.

Reality

November 1st, 2011
12:09 pm

Nothing Georgia throws at us at WR will be faster or better than Sammy Watkins, thats for sure. Georgia is slow compared to Clemson. GT wins this one IMO.

Dogs Smell

November 1st, 2011
12:10 pm

Georgia loses to Auburn and Tech.

piermontdawgny

November 1st, 2011
12:10 pm

do we rest our injured starters should we play the following week against lsu or alabama?
no…you play to win, each and every week…period.
unless, of course, you are playing new mexico state
dawgs win out and play in sec champtionship game
dawgs beat the yellow bellies 38-24

TheItalianDawg

November 1st, 2011
12:14 pm

Not worry about Tech! they couldn’t beat a miserable Georgia team last year! I’m looking forward to South Carolina vs Arkansas

Tech404

November 1st, 2011
12:14 pm

Hey Kappell – what kind of a message was sent vs. Vandy?

Ted M

November 1st, 2011
12:15 pm

CPJ did NOT have the Jackets prepared to play VA & Miami but it had nothing to do with the fans looking ahead to the Clemson game.

Johnson simply did not have them ready.

McDawg

November 1st, 2011
12:15 pm

a big factor of course will whether the refs call the chop blocks

Techs QB is way too slow to effectively run the option and he can’t pass-i see the OLBs & corners from UGA having a huge game

GIVE ME A BREAK

November 1st, 2011
12:15 pm

GEORGIA TECH’s defense will hold both VT and Duke under 17 points and probably UGA, too.

Not Disappointed

November 1st, 2011
12:16 pm

I’m concerned with Virginia Tech! They always manage to win; even with a so-so team. If the Hokies face the Jackets that played last Saturday. We can expect a victory!

I don’t think Auburn can beat UGA. I wasn’t surprised when the Dawgs beat the Gators. Lets be honest, Florida sux this year.
As always, Ramblin Wreck!!

Truly Gold

November 1st, 2011
12:18 pm

Tech was just as bad as Georgia last year Italian. Not worried about UGAG at all this year :) Go Jackets. Gotta beat VT!

GA Sandlapper

November 1st, 2011
12:19 pm

SC loses to Arkansas & UGA falls to Auburn

OkieDawg

November 1st, 2011
12:20 pm

UGA’s linebackers are big and fast. We have legitimate NTs for a 3-4 defense. Since GT doesn’t use that thing called a forward pass, Ga. can cheat up Shawn Williams from Safety. Georgia’s D should completely shut down that 1970’s era vintage offense that is out-of-style in Big Boy football. The offense should score enough to get the job done. But, our special team play IS “scary”.

UGA will also have to get acclimated to playing in a stadium that has a max. capacity of only 55,000. Just hope they do not think they are back in high school.

Golden Tornado

November 1st, 2011
12:21 pm

I always like your articles, Mark – balanced and knowledgeable. As to the November 26 game, nobody knows – Tech-Georgia could go either way. Amid success the other night, and at home, Tech still suffered somewhat from the officiating. A Clemson offside was not even seen. I join the guy who said, “Don’t let the officials in the next game be Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder.”

Ramblin Man

November 1st, 2011
12:22 pm

Worry about UGA after the Duke game and not before. Worry about the Duke game after VT and not before. I would say the same for UGA as neither of these programs need to worry about anybody other than the opponent in front of them. To do other wise would be SILLY.

JACKETfan12

November 1st, 2011
12:22 pm

Ted M- I can agree with you in that he did not have them ready to play. I still think that it had to do with the players looking forward to Clemson and taking UVA and Miami lightly. When we play at home and the stadium is sold out and its a night game, the players are obviously fired up and they can play with almost anyone- as seen with the Clemson game. Looked like a complete different team. Good thing is, the VT game will be the same situation.

Dodd Squad

November 1st, 2011
12:23 pm

Have you seen the Jackets at home? Clemson is much better offensively than UGA, although granted, UGA’s defense is supposedly much better than Clemson’s. However, UGA has lost to the two best offenses it’s seen all season, making hay only against inferior SEC bottom feeder offenses. Combine that with the fact that UGA’s defensive stats against GT since 2008 are atrocious, and I’m not sure that UGA’s defense will give CPJ’s crew as much trouble as some would think.GT certainly has an offensive edge. Once again, bet on the underdog GT and make some money! GT has only had issues when they don’t show up for games…and you can believe they’ll show up for Nov. 26th.

ccatlanta

November 1st, 2011
12:23 pm

“The local schools — which used to have special-teams aces like Gary Lee and Scott Sisson and Kevin Butler and Rex Robinson — are terrible at almost anything that involves kicking.”

Don’t forget Luke Manget who kicked for Tech 1999-2003 and still holds the school record for most points by a Tech player. He was 100 percent on extra points and something like 70-75 percent on field goals through four years. Came one point short of setting a NCAA record for consecutive extra points.