I hope everyone had a healthy and happy Thanksgiving yesterday, and that all of you have come back fed, rested, and ready for some Clean Old-Fashioned Hate, because the Georgia Bulldogs host the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets between the hedges at high noon tomorrow, and, in order to be prepared for that state championship showdown, you need not just a handful of data inputs, but, instead, Too Much Information:
The Bulldogs have beaten the Auburn Tigers, the Florida Gators, and the Tennessee Volunteers in the same season four times, in 1980, 1981, 2011, and 2012. In the previous three campaigns during which the Red and Black accomplished that impressive orange sweep, the Classic City Canines were 3-0 against the Yellow Jackets, winning by margins of 18 points in 1980, 37 in 1981, and 14 in 2011.
It’s no secret what the Engineers plan to do offensively: Georgia Tech ranks third in the country in rushing offense, behind a pair of service academies, and the Ramblin’ Wreck ranks 119th in the land in passing offense, ahead of all three service academies, New Mexico, and Temple. While they take different routes to reach the end zone, the combatants are about equally effective at scoring (Georgia averages 37.6 points per game, just slightly behind Georgia Tech’s 38.5) and at moving the ball (Georgia averages 471.4 yards of total offense per game, just slightly ahead of Georgia Tech’s 461.7). Where there is the greatest disparity between the two, though, is on the other side of the ball: Georgia allows only 18.4 points per game, while the Golden Tornado concedes 29.6 points on average. Each team is roughly as adept at moving the ball and scoring as the other, but the Bulldogs are significantly superior at stopping the opposition.
The Red and Black have taken three straight series meetings from the Old Gold and Navy, marking the twelfth time in the history of the rivalry that Georgia has had a winning streak over Georgia Tech of exactly three games. On the last eleven occasions on which the Bulldogs carried a three-game series victory skein into the showdown with the Yellow Jackets, the Classic City Canines posted a 7-3-1 record against their in-state rivals, with one of those Engineer victories (in 1943) having an asterisk next to it in the Red and Black record book.
Georgia Tech has problems when it comes to special teams. The Yellow Jackets give up their league’s third-highest average kickoff return, surrender their conference’s second-most kickoff return yards per game, and have allowed 13 kickoff returns of 30 or more yards and ten of 40 or more yards, both by far the worst in the ACC. The Engineers’ opponents are punting a league-low 3.9 times per game, and the Golden Tornado has permitted an average of 41.8 yards per punt, which is the second-highest in their conference. The field position battle should favor the Bulldogs.
Last year, Georgia beat Georgia Tech for the 62nd time. In seasons following their 62nd series victory over a longstanding rival, the Bulldogs historically have . . . actually, they’ve done absolutely nothing, because the Yellow Jackets are the only opponent the Red and Black have beaten more than 54 times.
Five of Georgia’s last eight losses to Georgia Tech have come in Athens. (All right, I admit it, that’s weak, but it’s the best I have. What do you want from me? Sunday Morning Quarterback, a knowledgeable neutral observer who covers college football without passion or prejudice, believes the gap between the Bulldogs and the Yellow Jackets “appear[s] wider than it's been at any point in the last decade, at least – a decade dominated by Georgia already,” and a Ramblin’ Wreck partisan, when venting about SEC supremacy, vel non, recently offered a frank admission through a glaring omission when he wrote: “Yes, [G]eorgia, South Carolina, and Florida have games against in-state ACC opponents this week, meaning it'll get a bit tougher than their schedules to date have been (USC and Florida may well lose those games, too).”)
Prior to this season, the Bulldogs had won twelve SEC championships (in 1942, 1946, 1948, 1959, 1966, 1968, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1982, 2002, and 2005) and finished no worse than tied for first place in the SEC East six times (in 1992, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2011). In those 16 seasons, the Red and Black were 16-0 against Georgia Tech.
In 1927, Georgia’s “Dream and Wonder Team” went into Atlanta with a 9-0 record and a shot at a national championship and a Rose Bowl berth. The Engineers upset the Bulldogs in the mud, 12-0, and the loss so incensed the University’s faculty athletics chairman, Steadman Vincent Sanford, that he promptly began the fundraising drive that, two years later, produced the stadium that bears his name.
In 1942, the Yellow Jackets were ranked No. 2 in the nation, the Bulldogs were ranked No. 5, and the Rose Bowl made it clear that the winner would be invited to spend New Year’s Day in Pasadena. The Red and Black walloped the Engineers, 34-0, and went on to claim their first consensus national championship.
At the risk of sounding like Winnie the Pooh, I’m feeling a little more 1942ish than I am 1927ish today.
My Prediction: Georgia Bulldogs 42, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 21.