Over the last couple of days, perhaps in a turkey-induced stupor, I’ve had a change of heart about today’s game. Not about which team was going to win – Tech’s got an any-given-Saturday’s chance, of course, but not much more – but about whether the Dawgs could cover. My first thought was that in keeping with the recent history of the series, Tech would do enough to keep the spread from being covered. But I’ve gone to the dark side, and I’ve done so for what I think are two compelling reasons.
The first is the offense vs. defense matchups. There’s no question that Tech’s going to get some yards today (although the message board reliance on “Georgia Southern rushed for 302 yards” is a bit misplaced in that a big chunk of that came in fourth-quarter garbage time). But if you look at the metrics the guys at Football Outsiders compile, the yawning gap is between Georgia’s offense and Georgia Tech’s defense. The chart there shows that Tech can’t defend the rush, can’t handle offenses that aren’t in passing downs and faces the best passing offense in D-1.
If you want what that means in English, here’s Bill Connelly to explain:
Groh or not, Tech has been an outright sieve on standard downs, ranking 101st in the country. Meanwhile, that’s where Georgia thrives. The Bulldogs are both balanced — running back Todd Gurley crossed the 1,000-yard mark last week, and the Dawgs rank 26th in Rushing S&P+; meanwhile, they rank FIRST in Passing S&P+ — and deep, with eight different players (three running backs, five receivers) logging at least one play of 30 yards or more. Despite the losses of receivers Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown to injury, quarterback Aaron Murray has found ample targets, from Tavarres King (685 yards, 12.9 per target), to Malcolm Mitchell (444 yards, 10.6 per target), to Arthur Lynch (308 yards, 14.0 per target), to Chris Conley (192 yards, 9.6 per target).
Barring turnover diarrhea – and admittedly, that shouldn’t be totally brushed off, as Tech has been better holding on to the ball than Georgia has this year, surprisingly – I don’t see how Tech keeps up, even if the Jackets win the time-of-possession edge today.
Enough on the stats. The other reason I like Georgia today is intangibles. No, not Richt’s track record against Tech, or even that the Dawgs do have something big to play for today, although neither hurts, certainly. But the intangible I’m hanging my hat on is the one consistent thing about Georgia this year: it plays well when it’s got something to be angry about. Vanderbilt, Florida and Auburn are Georgia’s three most consistent, focused efforts of the 2012 season and what they all have in common is Georgia’s kids playing with chips on their shoulders. It’s Tech. That should always be enough to light a fire.
I’m heading up in about fifteen minutes, so consider this your game day invitation to comment.
By the way, those of you reading this who are going to the game, make sure you get there by 11:45 to honor the seniors. If there’s a bunch of Dawgs who deserve our appreciation today, it’s them. They’ve done a helluva job bringing the program back to a level of respectability and they deserve to hear a little about it.