Can Georgia Tech ruin UGA’s season? (Video added)




The dynamics changed Monday morning. With Miami’s decision to exclude itself from postseason play, Georgia Tech claimed the ACC Coastal Division title. So now, for the first time, Tech and Georgia will meet with both having, to borrow Paul Johnson’s pithy phrase, bigger fish to fry. Win or lose Saturday, both will play for conference championships a week later.

But these two division titlists are not equal. The Jackets are 6-5, and the best they can do is to play in the Orange Bowl. (Not that the Orange Bowl, given that Tech just nosed above .500, would be a bad deal.) The Bulldogs are 10-1, and with two more victories they will play for the BCS crown. Georgia has much more to lose. The Jackets are 14-point road underdogs against an opponent they’ve beaten once since George Godsey ran through Jim Donnan’s crew of NFL-caliber defenders in 2000.

If these teams met 10 times, Georgia would win nine. But the Jackets have only to beat Georgia once to make their season and royally roil the Bulldogs’. Lest we forget, the signature victory of Johnson’s time at Tech came in Athens on a day in 2008 when his team wasn’t supposed to win.

That this game will be staged between the hallowed hedges might actually benefit the visitors. Under Johnson, the Jackets have played better against Georgia at Sanford Stadium than off North Avenue. The worst loss — well, at least until Middle Tennessee — of his Tech tenure was against Georgia at Bobby Dodd Stadium in 2009, when 10-1 Tech, which was bound for the ACC title game and ranked No. 7 in the land, lost 30-24 to the 6-5 Bulldogs. Last year’s meeting in Atlanta marked the only time Georgia has truly handled the Johnson-coached Jackets, winning 31-17.

Fun with numbers: Georgia has both the better offense (25th nationally to Tech’s 28th) and defense (20th to Tech’s 61st). But the Jackets’ rushing offense is the nation’s third-best, and the Bulldogs’ rushing defense is tepid (49th-best among 120 FBS schools). Twice in the past four meetings (in 2008 and in the frantic 2010 game, which Georgia won 42-34), Tech has rushed for more than 400 yards. And it must be noted that Georgia Southern, which is housed in a lower division, just rushed for 302 yards against these Bulldogs.

That said, it’s revealing that, under two defensive coordinators, Georgia has fared much better the second time around. Tech rushed for 409 yards against Willie Martinez’s defense in 2008; in 2009 the Jackets managed 205. Tech rushed for 411 yards against Todd Grantham’s D in 2010; in 2011 the Jackets managed 243. There are days when Johnson’s option-based spread can shred even a decent defense — North Carolina ranks in the upper half of the ACC in every major defensive category, and Tech stacked 588 yards and 68 points on the Tar Heels — but it’s hard to imagine that happening to a unit that has Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree and Jonathan Jenkins and Shawn Williams.

This Georgia defense hasn’t always played to capacity. Heck, it needed Williams’ pre-Florida “soft” declaration to boot itself into gear. Even so, Tech hasn’t faced a defense half this talented. The Bulldogs’ D would have to have a terrible day for the Tech O to have a great one. That could happen. But even if it did …

Will Tech beat Georgia?

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Tech would still have to stop Georgia, and there’s the mismatch. The Jackets are working under their second defensive coordinator of the season (first Al Groh, now Charles Kelly), and even Tech’s rise to the top of the Coastal hasn’t been paved with shutdown defending. Georgia has scored 37 or more points in eight of its 11 games, and Tech has yielded 40 or more points in five of its 11.

Tech’s best-case scenario: Its offense has that great day and bleeds the clock — this happened against Duke on Saturday; Tech had five 70-yard drives and hogged the ball for 38 minutes — and renders Aaron Murray a spectator, and Georgia’s offense gets antsy when it finally takes its turn and starts turning it over. It’s not unthinkable that Tech could forge an early lead, and in a game of such importance the pressure on a trailing favorite can be immense. Witness formerly No. 1 Kansas State, just beaten 52-24 by the 4-5 Baylor Bears.

But we can forget about Georgia looking beyond Tech to Alabama (presumably) in the Dome. Mark Richt’s history reflects that his Bulldogs have struggled to beat the Jackets only once — in 2005, when Tim Jennings intercepted a Reggie Ball pass with a minute left — in the four times they’ve been bound for the SEC title game. For all the talk about Richt’s too-even keel, he has his men primed for the state championship. Even in 2008, his one loss to Tech, Georgia led 28-12 at the half.

Yes, strange things can happen in rivalry games, but not often in this rivalry. In 16 tries, Tech has never beaten a Georgia team ranked in the Top 10.(The 1927 victory over the unbeaten Bulldogs predated the AP and UPI polls.) This wouldn’t seem to be the breakthrough. Expect the Jackets to play hard and well. Expect the Bulldogs to win 35-24.

Further reading: Heat Check – hot ‘Dogs face a warm swarm of Yellow Jackets.

Oh, and not to say I told you so: Pigskin’ pickin – Tech wins its division; Georgia takes the SEC.

Say what you will about this guy, but he owns Georgia Tech. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Say what you will about Mark Richt, but he does own Georgia Tech. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

By Mark Bradley

679 comments Add your comment

Goldenrod

November 19th, 2012
2:13 pm

Tech will prevail, throw Helen Hunt’s record against GT out the window, ever since the Midd Tenn St & BYU losses Coach Johnson preparing for one thing – to beat the Mutts!

Jackets 51-Puppies 17

seankelly

November 19th, 2012
2:16 pm

Goldenrod is an idiot

[...] And further still: Can Tech ruin Georgia’s season? It’s possible. But probable? [...]

Duncan

November 19th, 2012
2:17 pm

The fact that Tech’s defense is ranked 61st is remarkable. Figured it to be much worse.

UGA wins this one 48-20.

dean

November 19th, 2012
2:18 pm

Golden….I told you last week to leave the Acapulco gold alone!

Birdhair

November 19th, 2012
2:19 pm

I was just waiting all day for an AJC writer to suggest that CPJ is a better coach than me.

Remember two years ago when the ACJ hailed CPJ as the best coach in the state?

Birdhair has a better winning percentage than spurrier and saban.

Nerd fans wanted CPJ fired earlier this season. CPJ wouldn’t survive 11 seasons in the SEC

Eddie in acworth

November 19th, 2012
2:19 pm

Correction. Goldenrod is a moron. Hows the view from your moms basement???

Dawgs 41 maggots 21

Tech is pathetic

Boris

November 19th, 2012
2:21 pm

Expect this game to mirror the one last week against Southern. Tech will keep it close for a quarter, maybe even a half. Then the Dawgs’ superior talent and depth take over and it gets ugly for the Fish Fryers.

Habersham Dawg

November 19th, 2012
2:23 pm

First half, Georgia 24 Tech 21, Game Final: Georgia 45 Tech 35

TechFalcon fan

November 19th, 2012
2:24 pm

UGA hasn’t played anybody and they are overrated. Tech rolls

Jackets 52

Rednecks 21

UGA sucks

Shug

November 19th, 2012
2:25 pm

“Last year’s meeting in Atlanta marked the only time Georgia has truly handled the Johnson-coached Jackets, winning 31-17 after leading by three touchdowns with seven minutes left.”

So they won by 2 touchdowns after, at one point, leading by 3. What’s the significance of that? How about something like, “Georgia won by 2 touchdowns in a game that wasn’t that close.”

Ah, never mind, you do the writing.

George Stein

November 19th, 2012
2:26 pm

This is a fair representation of the game. I think we will play hard and give UGA all they want for 55 minutes. Then we’ll lose, because that’s what we do.

I hope I’m wrong, but until we beat UGA with any measure of consistency, I have to deal with facts.

John Wayne

November 19th, 2012
2:26 pm

Typical obnoxious UGA trolls on here. Get back to work rednecks.

Mask of False Bravado

November 19th, 2012
2:27 pm

Birdhair- Find ONE objective person to say that “birdhair” is a better coach than Saban.

GTBob

November 19th, 2012
2:29 pm

Honestly, GT should start preparing for FSU. Trying to beat UGA is a bit of a waste of time.

Birdhair

November 19th, 2012
2:29 pm

All I am saying is that Birdhair is a great coach. And the AJC wrote two years ago that CPJ was a better coach. I definitely think Saban is the better coach, but wanted to help state the case for Birdman.

DS CE'91

November 19th, 2012
2:30 pm

Hard to be too optimistic on this one if you are a Tech fan, as I am. We just don’t have the horses on defense, especially up front and in the linebacking corps. Much like in previous years, I think they try to ram it right down our throats with the two young RB’s. I just don’t see how we stop that.

All that said, IF…. our playmakers on offense (hello Mr. Lee) make a few unexpected plays, IF…. we get a takeaway on special teams, IF… the UGA backs don’t take care of the football, we might have a shot. Unfortunately, most would concur that is an unlikely confluence of events.

But I still have HOPE! I’ll be pulling hard for the Jackets on Saturday. And I will still be a proud GT alumni on Sunday……

Birdhair

November 19th, 2012
2:30 pm

GTBob, then why do you waste so much time on the UGA blogs? Hit the road to the FSU wall posts

GT

November 19th, 2012
2:31 pm

Like them playing in Athens. Tech looked really bad last year in Atlanta; something Tech is app to do when they are flat, like the BYU game this year. Georgia playing Ga. Southern should help Georgia get ready and if Georgia is ready there is no contest here. One thing can help Tech and that is if Georgia wants to show off to the home crowd. They start jawing and forget what they are suppose to do.

GTBob

November 19th, 2012
2:32 pm

GTBob, then why do you waste so much time on the UGA blogs? Hit the road to the FSU wall posts

Just because GT might not ever beat UGA again doesn’t mean I can’t bring UGA fans back down to earth every once in a while.

NativeAtlantan

November 19th, 2012
2:32 pm

Tech has no defense. Dwags prevail 64-48.

Reebok

November 19th, 2012
2:33 pm

Tech can score, but I don’t see them ever making Georgia punt. GT’s only real chance is to force some turnovers and keep the Dogs off the field with long drives. I figure Georgia by something like 42-24.

BuzzGT

November 19th, 2012
2:33 pm

I expect UGA to beat GT as bad in football and GT will beat them in basketball this year.

Mask of False Bravado

November 19th, 2012
2:33 pm

…by the way, after the SECCG, the winnining percentages figure to be CMR .743, and CNS .742. So make that claim while you can, because it’ll flip-flop next year.

Mark Bradley

November 19th, 2012
2:33 pm

Actually, Shug, I wasn’t thrilled with that sentence, either. So I shortened it. Thanks for editing.

St. Simons Jacket

November 19th, 2012
2:33 pm

45-42! 45-42! 45-42!

Under The Bleachers

November 19th, 2012
2:34 pm

Anything is Possible, Tech could win if UGA did everything wrong, and Tech did everything right! But when was the last time either of those things happened? You get my point.

Tech needs to worry about whether they let UGA hang half a century on them. And UGA needs to worry about how many players they get hurt one week prior to their biggest game since Hershel was relevant.

Hankie Aron

November 19th, 2012
2:34 pm

As an honest Dawg fan who doesn’t hate Tech but 1 Saturday a year, I just can’t see the talent on GT’s sidelines capable of engineering a victory over this UGA team. I was at that game in 2008. Tech played an unbelievable second half and yet Matthew Stafford still nearly led UGA to victory before succombing to defeat.

Mask of False Bravado

November 19th, 2012
2:35 pm

Birdhair gets really good players and beats highly ranked teams rarely. Birdhair beats who he’s supposed to beat and beats teams with even talent RARELY.

Ed Pilcher

November 19th, 2012
2:36 pm

Thanks, MB. You just gave GT the kiss of death by even suggesting that they could beat UGA.

Now for the reality………In my opinion, GT just does not have the defense to stop UGA. UGA, on the other hand will be able to stop GT just enough to win the game. Oh, there’s no doubt that GT will get their yards…….but they don’t have enough of a balanced attack to pull off the upset. The passing is improving…..but not enough to make GT a legitimate threat to pull the upset. After all, if they were all that, they wouldn’t be 6-5, no?

Reservoir Dawg

November 19th, 2012
2:37 pm

Helen Hunt?

Have to admit Goldenrod, that made me laugh :)

Go Dawgs, squash the bugs!

sean jones

November 19th, 2012
2:37 pm

UGA 13 BAMA 49…..nuff said!

Mark Bradley

November 19th, 2012
2:37 pm

So I didn’t give Georgia the kiss of death by picking it to beat Tech?

MaconDawg

November 19th, 2012
2:37 pm

Mark, even as a lifelong Dawgs fan I felt sorry, yes sorry for GT in last year’s game. I mean, just like Auburn this year they were not even competitive. Yes the final score was 31-17 but Coach Richt really could have ran it up much higher. Georgia looked like they were playing Parkview, which is what tech is with Tevin Washington at QB. Now with Vad Lee back there the wreck may make it only a 13-point loss this season to the #3 Dawgs, who Run This State.

Mask of False Bravado

November 19th, 2012
2:38 pm

Given equal talent, I’d choose CPJ over CMR. CPJ hasn’t had near CMR’s talent and has beaten him once and come close a couple of other times. UGA has won ONE game of any consequence this year. IF UF had any sort of offense, you’d be screaming for “birdhead’s” head

wes

November 19th, 2012
2:38 pm

Tech’s defense is really REALLY bad.

Don’t see the good guys winning this one.

Dwags 45
GT 34

Mark Bradley

November 19th, 2012
2:38 pm

CHDawg

November 19th, 2012
2:39 pm

CPJ has a great offensive mind imo. Also, who would have thought Baylor would stand a chance against KSU–great O and terrible D? You really can’t rule anything out on rivalries and huge games. Having said that, the Dawgs have a very experienced team and they have a lot of character. They have played some great teams over the past couple of years and are battle hardened. Turnovers could keep Tech in it if the Dawgs cough it up. If they take care of business and the Bees make the mistakes, not even a Varsity orange and chili dawg will drown your sorrows. No prediction…I think I’ll just watch it…hope everyone has a great T-giving and nobody gets injured Saturday! Go Dawgs.

Hankie Aron

November 19th, 2012
2:40 pm

But that Tech team was pretty talented. This one is a middle of the road type team.

Birdhair

November 19th, 2012
2:40 pm

CPJ and his gimmick offense would get ruined in the S.E.C. It’s CJP’s own fault that he can’t get a better job or recruit better players

Ed Pilcher

November 19th, 2012
2:41 pm

Just messin with you, Mark…….Kinda like messin with Sasquatch.

Ed Pilcher

November 19th, 2012
2:42 pm

It’s all fun until Sasquatch effs you up.

Jacket Man

November 19th, 2012
2:42 pm

No sense in GA Tech even showing up Saturday; just forfeit to the Bulldogs and start concentrating on FSU, right? Georgia can even start to focus on Alabama right away; best of both worlds.

Funny thing about college football…you just never know what happens come game time. It may be true UGA wins by 14; heck, they may win by 35 for all I know. On the other hand, GA Tech might actually surprise just like Baylor surprised KSU or Stanford surprised Oregon last weekend, or Texas A&M surprised Alabama a few weeks back. You just never know, especially with a rivalry game.

And everyone counting the Jacket defense out; personally I’m actually cautiously optimistic coming into the game based on how they’ve been able to make adjustments against North Carolina and Duke and play really well the second half of both of those games. Both of these teams are pass-happy with complex running games and screens thrown in and yet the Jacket defense really bowed up and took charge in both of those games. Will the same thing happen this Saturday? Only time will tell…

George Stein

November 19th, 2012
2:42 pm

The key non-turnover metric will be Tech’s fullback production. If they go for about 120 yards, it means we’re gashing UGA and have a shot. If we get nothing from them, it’ll be lights out.

sean jones

November 19th, 2012
2:43 pm

1 Nat’l Title<13 Nat'l Titles….just sayin

Mask of False Bravado

November 19th, 2012
2:43 pm

That UGA team had 3 future 1st rounders at offensive skilled positions.

Ed Pilcher

November 19th, 2012
2:43 pm

Jacket Man, that may be the wisest decision y’all could make. Do this.

GTBob

November 19th, 2012
2:43 pm

So I didn’t give Georgia the kiss of death by picking it to beat Tech?

Considering we are on our third string kicker and our best player may not even play I think you are pretty safe.

GeoffDawg

November 19th, 2012
2:44 pm

People like goldenrod remind me that the spirit of Andy Kaufman is alive and well and living with his parents.

Hankie Aron

November 19th, 2012
2:44 pm

George Stein is not a Tech troll. His comments are honest and responsible for his team. He would love Tech to kick UGA’s tail on Saturday but knows it probably won’t happen.