It's rivalry week and that includes one in the Peach State, as the third-ranked Georgia Bulldogs play host to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the regular-season finale at Sanford Stadium on Saturday.
Mark Richt's Bulldogs have had a highly successful season to this point, as Georgia have won 10 of its 11 games thus far and captured the SEC East Division, guaranteeing a spot in the next week's SEC Championship Game. Georgia has won five straight games since its only loss of the season (35-7 at South Carolina), and at No. 3 in the current BCS rankings, has a shot at a spot in the national title game if the Bulldogs can knock off Alabama in the Georgia Dome on Dec. 1.
Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets don't have a national title shot in their immediate future, but with Miami-Florida's decision to forgo the postseason, Georgia Tech has earned the ACC's Coastal Division spot in the ACC Title Game. Georgia Tech has certainly had its ups and downs this season at 6-5 overall, but has won three straight games entering this contest and can secure a BCS bowl bid with an upset of Florida State in next week's ACC Championship Game. It is encouraging to Johnson to see Tech playing well down the stretch, but he admits that Georgia will certainly present a stiff challenge.
"We played pretty well offensively the last couple of games. We've played OK defensively in spots. The second halves have been better. We'll see. It's going to be a huge challenge. You don't want to get into a game with them where you have to score every possession. They're too good on defense for that. So we've got to find a way to get them stopped some this week."
Georgia leads the all-time series 62-39-5. With 106 total meetings, this is the 19th most frequently played series in FBS history. The Bulldogs have won three straight meetings and 10 of the last 11 overall.
There is no secret gameplan for Georgia Tech on the offensive side of the ball. The Yellow Jackets are one-dimensional, but that dimension is still tough to stop, with the team averaging an impressive 324.9 yards per game rushing on just under six yards per carry.
Johnson's spread option attack features the ACC's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in Tevin Washington (36), who is actually second on the team in rushing yards (598), but first by a large margin in TD runs (18) this season. Fellow QB Vad Lee has played a significant amount of time as well, with 447 yards and nine rushing scores, while both Orwin Smith (team- high 673 yards) and Zach Laskey (567 yards) have contributed greatly as well.
The Georgia Tech defense has shown flashes of strong play this season, just not all that often. The team is allowing a generous 29.6 ppg, showing itself vulnerable to the run (142.1 ypg) and the pass (251.0 ypg).
Junior safety Isaiah Johnson leads the Tech defense with 75 total tackles. Fellow junior DB Jemea Thomas (67 tackles) has provided strong play in the secondary as well with a team-high three INTs, while junior LB Jeremiah Attaouchu (53 tackles, 9.0 TFLs, 7.0 sacks) has done a good job getting upfield and making plays.
Georgia will do its best to take advantage of Tech's defense with a balanced offensive attack that is generating 471.4 yards of total offense per game. The Bulldogs have the ability to move the chains both on the ground (192.5 ypg) and through the air (278.9 ypg), but the undeniable leader is under center in quarterback Aaron Murray.
The junior signal-caller has been ultra efficient this season, completing 65.7 percent of his passes, for 2,986 yards, with 28 TDs and just seven INTs. While he has spread the ball amongst his receiving corps, Tavarres King has certainly made the most of his opportunities, catching 33 balls, for 685 yards and eight TDs.
The rushing attack is fueled by a freshman in Todd Gurley. The 6-foot-1, 218- pound youngster has been an instant success in Athens, rushing for 1,041 yards on 6.3 yards per carry, with 12 touchdowns.
The Georgia defense has been also had consistency issues at times, but for the most part has been sharp, limiting foes to just 18.4 ppg and 329.8 yards of total offense. The pass defense has been a particular strength, with the Bulldogs allowing just 179.4 yards per game.
It certainly helps to have one of the nation's most feared defenders anchoring the unit in All-American Jarvis Jones. The junior linebacker is having a second straight monster season. Of his 62 total tackles, 18 have come behind the line of scrimmage, while he has terrorized opposing quarterbacks to the tune of 10.5 sacks. Freshman LB Jordan Jenkins has followed in Jarvis' footsteps, posting 7.0 TFLs and 4.0 sacks on the year. Senior safety Shawn Williams (team-high 73 tackles) leads the way in the Georgia secondary.
Richt knows that facing the Paul Johnson's triple option presents its share of problems for a defense.
"There aren't a lot of people doing it, but he knows it so well that obviously he doesn't need a call sheet. It's in his brain, and he's seen just about everything under the sun, as far as people trying to defend it. When he sees something, he knows where to go next, and that's the beauty of the system that they have."