Rivalry Week Preview: (9) Georgia vs. (16) Georgia Tech

No. 8 Georgia (9-2, 6-2 SEC) hosts No. 16 Georgia Tech (9-2, 6-2 ACC) for the 107th meeting between the in-state rivals.

The “clean, old-fashioned hate,” a term that was coined to describe the rivalry, is set to be more competitive than ever with both teams in the Top-25, and making late season pushes to win their conferences.  In last year’s meeting in Atlanta, the Yellow Jackets scored fast, going up 20-0 early in the game.  Despite the lead, the Bulldogs rallied back to win the game in 41-34 double overtime.

”It’s a huge game,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. ”Clearly, there are a lot of the fan bases that don’t like each other. For us, it kind of adds a little bit, too, being ACC vs. SEC. We sit right here in the middle of the SEC. That’s all we hear all the time.”

The Yellow Jackets are coming off an exciting bye week.  They clinched the ACC Coastal title last Saturday with Duke’s loss to UNC. They had won four straight games prior to the bye week, outscoring conference opponents 175-67, having the ACC’s best scoring offense. Tech’s triple-option offense is rushing for 327.9 yards per game, with quarterback Justin Thomas rushing an average of 75.2 yards per game, making him the leading rusher on the team. Thomas has 2,223 yards of total offense this season with 20 touchdowns, five rushing and 15 passing. Thomas’ favorite target is wide receiver DeAndre Smelter, who leads the team in receptions (32), yards (671) and touchdowns (7).

“They’re a very hot team right now, and they are the ACC Coastal Division champions,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “They’re a championship team this year and we need to play our best to have a chance.”

Georgia also has the top scoring offense in their conference, leading the SEC with 476 points scored total.  Although Hutson Mason is a first-year starter for the Bulldogs, his first career start came against Tech in the double overtime victory last year, with 299 passing yards and two touchdowns.

Mason’s passing game has improved furthermore since then with the help of a veteran squad of receivers, and an offensive line that has only allowed 13 sacks this season.  As for the running game, true freshman Nick Chubb has been shouldering the load for Georgia.  Although he’s only started in six games, he ranks in the top-25 in rushing yards and second in the SEC.  With all six of his starts, Chubb has managed to reel in five SEC Freshman of the Week awards, and one SEC Player of the Week award.

If the Yellow Jackets can perform on defense as well as they did against Clemson, holding them to just 190 yards of total offense, the Bulldogs will have to work hard to score.  Sophomore linebacker P.J. Davis, who leads the team in tackles (90, 64 solo, 26 assisted), sacks (4), and tackles for loss (8), serves to be a big threat for offenses.  Tech’s defense has given up, on average, 24.1 points and 388.8 yards per game. It will be strength against strength matchup against a Georgia offense that averages 43.4 points and 461 yards per game.

This is the last regular season game for both teams.  Georgia Tech’s season will continue and the Yellow Jackets will play Florida State in Charlotte for the ACC title.  As for Georgia, the post season is in the hands of the Missouri Tigers. With a Mizzou win against Arkansas on Friday, the Tigers will win out in the SEC East.  If they lose, Georgia will take the SEC East title and play for the SEC Championship in Atlanta.

Georgia leads the all-time series 64-37-5, and the Bulldogs are 12-1 in the Mark Richt Era against Georgia Tech.  Kick off is set for 12:01pm ET on November 29.  The SEC Network will broadcast Saturday’s game from Athens, GA.

*Section Photo credit to Mike Zarrilli, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Dale Zanine, USA Today Sports.