ATLANTA – The Georgia Tech-Georgia matchup of high-powered offenses places a spotlight on Justin Thomas and Hutson Mason.
The first quarterback to blink may be the one to lose.
Mason, a senior for No. 8 Georgia, has only a small edge in experience over Thomas, a sophomore. This will be the first time Thomas has been more than an observer for No. 16 Georgia Tech in the rivalry game. Mason took over as Georgia's starter in last year's win over the Yellow Jackets.
Each team ranks among the nation's top 15 in scoring. That puts pressure on the quarterbacks to avoid wasting any possession.
Of course, scoring on every possession is always the goal. The stakes are higher, however, when each team's offense is so productive.
Georgia (9-2) ranks seventh in the nation with its average of 43.3 points per game. Georgia Tech (9-2) is tied for 13th at 37.8.
"We like to move the ball down the field, get first downs and stay ahead of the sticks," Thomas said. "We like to get the ball in the end zone if possible and at the same time take some time off the clock. If we keep moving the ball, I feel like we'll be in good shape."
A missed opportunity could be difficult to overcome for either team.
"We know that we're going to lose a possession or two in this game," said Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. "You preach all week that every possession is more important than it might be any other week, every red-zone opportunity is more important."
Bobo said the Bulldogs are spending extra time practicing for the most crucial plays — third downs and inside the 20.
The Yellow Jackets rank third in the nation in rushing. Georgia is 12th. Bobo said the Yellow Jackets' edge is the way they dominate the clock by holding the ball.
"Hopefully we can steal a possession in the turnover battle or the kicking game," Bobo said. "You try to steal a possession because they're going to control the ball, they're going to control the clock."
The offensive potential for each team was on display last year when Georgia Tech took a 20-0 lead but Georgia rallied to win 41-34 in double-overtime.
"We started off fast last year and if we can get a good start like that again this year, we just have to hang onto it," Thomas said. "We have to keep doing what we're doing. As long as we can keep moving the chains, we put ourselves in a good position."
Thomas leads Georgia Tech and ranks fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference with 827 yards rushing.
Mason has completed 68.4 percent of his passes, a pace for Georgia's single-season record for accuracy.
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said Mason is "a smart kid."
"He gets them in the right place," Johnson said. "He completes a high percentage of his throws and he can move the chains. He's an experienced guy. Even though he hasn't started, he's been in the program a long time."
Georgia coach Mark Richt said Thomas is a "winner."
"He's good. He's a winner. He's got 'it,'" Richt said. "You know, obviously the physical tools, speed, agility, even a feel. ... You see him execute extremely well, and on the decisions that he has to make, and even the pitches that he makes. He's just very clean in his ball-handling and the pitches. And he throws the ball very well."
Mason and the Bulldogs will be cheering on Friday for Arkansas against Missouri. If Arkansas wins, Georgia would win the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division.
Asked if he considers this a successful season, Mason said "It's still unfinished. Hopefully I'll be able to say yes in a couple of weeks."
Georgia Tech already has won the ACC's Coastal Division and will play Florida State in next week's ACC championship game in Charlotte.