The Deep South’s Oldest rivalry commences on Saturday and it couldn’t be any more important for the Georgia Bulldogs. But, before we think ahead we need to step back. Flash back to September 10th when the Bulldogs were handing the game to the South Carolina Gamecocks. After the 45-42 loss, Mark Richt’s Bulldogs were 0-2 and on the verge of melting down.
However, Richt’s crew has won seven straight, including five key wins in the SEC, with Auburn and Kentucky left on the docket…and both of those games are in Athens. The next two weeks couldn’t have set up any better for Georgia if the SEC schedule had been determined by Vince Dooley and Herschel Walker. No matter how close the outcomes have been in those SEC games, the Bulldogs are finding ways to win and it’s largely because the defense has been excellent.
Georgia LB Jarvis Joneshas been fantastic – first in the league in tackles for a loss and sacks. Against Florida, Jones was nearly unblockable. Now, against Florida, Jones and company were able to just pin their ears back and get after John Brantley and the Florida QBs. But, the Auburn offense will force Georgia to be more disciplined and responsible with the many misdirections, motions and shifts within the offense.
However, if the Dawgs slow down Auburn RB Michael Dyer, QB Clint Moseley can’t put the offense on his back and lead them to a win. He’ll make a few key plays, but not enough. Georgia QB Aaron Murray needs to put together his best day in quite a while to put away Auburn for good. With all of his running backs back in the stable, he should be able to do just that.
Teams in the ACC have had a bit better luck stopping the Georgia Tech spread option (that’s what Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson has called his offense for years) than teams did earlier this season. But, that success has come after a full week of preparation with a healthy defense on the field. Well, for Virginia Tech, one out of two isn’t so bad as they’ve been off for 11 days.
That said, I’d rather be healthy than have weeks to prepare for the Yellow Jacket offensive attack. And, healthy is something the Virginia Tech defense is not. The Hokies have lost every play-making linebacker that they had on campus at the beginning of the season and that could end up being the major issue for the Hokies on Thursday night. The Yellow Jackets have so many ways to put linebackers and safeties in peril stopping the option and without a bunch of experienced players, it could spell trouble for the Hokies.
What worries me most, though, with Bruce Taylor, J. Gouveia-Winslow et al. out is that the safeties will need to fill in the alley throughout the game to stop QB Tevin Washington or the pitch man. When they have to do that, the Yellow Jackets will run the option pass and go over the top to Stephen Hill, the Jackets star wide receiver. There have been so many times when Washington is throwing to a WIDE open Hill down the field. But, the underrated aspect of the Yellow Jackets squad this year is its defense, a unit that has been brilliant at times, especially so against Clemson. The Yellow Jackets held Tajh Boyd and company to less than 400 total yards.
Stopping Virginia Tech is about slowing down David Wilson, the Hokies do-everything running back. But, that’s easier said than done for the Yellow Jackets. However, they’ll slow him enough and the offense maintaining the ball will keep Wilson on the sideline. The Hokies typically own Thursday night, but in the ATL, the Yellow Jackets will take control and win a key ACC Coastal matchup.