Some preliminary observations:
First, there’s no way I’m going to top the opener to Doug’s preview of the game.
Second, it saddens me a little bit to learn that SIAR, B! isn’t a selling point to recruits.
… When it comes to grabbing those top defensive recruits, Richt said, one thing that isn’t part of his sales pitch is Georgia’s seven-game winning streak over its in-state rival.
“I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it,” Richt said. “I think the kids care more about where they see themselves fitting into your system. They all want to know what are your plans for me here? I don’t think (the rivalry) crosses their mind that much.”
Third, Groo notes that while the weather may be taking a turn for the worst, it may not matter as much as we may hope, as Tech relies heavily on the old-fashioned handoff and the quarterback keeper to account for a significant majority of its running plays.
Bad weather or not, keeping the ball in the hands of the quarterbacks and Dwyer almost three quarters of the time when running the ball is a good way to minimize the risk of turning the ball over. You’ve probably seen the stat being bandied about this week about Johnson-coached teams being on a 14-0 run when they win the turnover battle. This year, Tech’s turnover margin in its eight wins is +1.25/game; in its three losses, the Jackets sport a -2/game turnover margin. This is a battle within the game that the Dawgs can’t lose. The good thing is that the trend line over this year shows that Tech has gotten more careless with the ball as the season has gone on.
One other big number that Georgia has to watch: Damaryius Thomas has 35 of Tech’s 65 total receptions in 2008 and over half of Georgia Tech’s receiving yardage, as well. It’s obviously in Georgia’s best interests to force Tech into throwing the ball, as Nesbitt is completing less than 50% of his pass attempts, but the Dawg secondary has to be aware of Thomas’ presence throughout the game. Ironically, if Tech has to throw the ball, itsr passing numbers suggest that the backup QB, Jaybo Shaw, is much more accomplished at throwing than is Nesbitt, with a much better completion percentage and a much higher yards per attempt figure.
With all the focus on the triple option, it seems that almost no attention has been paid to how Tech will handle Georgia’s offense. With apologies to Mr. Barnhart, Georgia’s offense is likely to pose the biggest challenge that Tech’s defense will face this season. The Dawgs are ranked 24th nationally in total offense. The next highest ranked opponent that the Jackets defended this year was Florida State, 47th in total offense, which scored 28 points and was an end zone fumble away from beating Tech in Atlanta earlier this month.
The one other number of interest that snuck up on me in looking at Tech’s stats was its field goal percentage in road games. 28.6%. That’s the kind of number that suggests going for it on fourth down early and often once you cross the 50.
The psychology of this game, particularly from Tech’s standpoint, is interesting. I don’t think the Jackets have much to lose here at all, other than playing in a more mediocre bowl game if they don’t win. Winning their ACC division is out of their control and in the hands of two teams they’ve already lost to this year. And if they lose in Athens tomorrow, it won’t be devastating (unless they get blown out) because of Gailey’s legacy.
But I believe Johnson’s a much better coach and much more motivated than Gailey. This is a guy, after all, who turned down more money to take the Tech job because he had a burning desire to prove he could win in a BCS conference. He knows how important it is for Tech to end the long losing streak and reestablish some degree of competitiveness to the series. He’ll have his kids playing loose. The success of the Miami game will no doubt feed into that.
Because of that, it’s important for Georgia to take charge in this game from the start. Tech’s going to get some yards and some big plays because of the triple option, but Tech’s also going to have to deal with a balanced Georgia offense that will get more than its fair share of yards and big plays, too. If the Dawgs can stay out of a mess with turnovers, it’s going to be difficult for the Jackets to keep up. And if Georgia can maintain a two score lead late in the game, Tech doesn’t have the makeup skill-wise or scheme-wise to come back.
In the end, it’s Senior Day and it’s a chance for these Dawgs to put their names in the record books. I’m guessing there’s too much pride in them to lose on Saturday.