Georgia football: What's at stake in finale vs. rival Georgia Tech
In a rivalry that has lost a considerable amount of luster in recent years, Georgia’s game this week against Georgia Tech will be a sort of preseason tuneup for the more heavyweight games coming up against Alabama, and the likes of Ohio State in the College Football Playoff.
At Kirby Smart’s Monday press conference, he will be asked about the rivalry, and he will likely deflect to the standard response of internal improvement. He has already spoken about the need to peak at the end of the season, and polish aspects of the program that have catapulted it to the No. 1 team in the country.
The Yellow Jackets don’t show any signs of putting up much more of a fight than Charleston Southern did, and Bobby Dodd Field has long been Sanford Stadium West full of splotches of red on the week of Thanksgiving.
The Yellow Jackets’ season has been torpedoed by a 5-game skid including successive losses of 41-30 to Boston College, and a 55-0 drubbing to Notre Dame.
If Georgia fans want to feel even better about Smart’s position as head coach, consider that Geoff Collins has produced records of 3-9, 3-7, and the Yellow Jackets are 3-8 this season. It’s difficult to imagine a Tech team coming into the Georgia game in a worse position. Consider that in the loss to Notre Dame, Tech’s first 10 drives ended with 7 punts, a missed field-goal attempt and 2 defensive touchdowns.
What Georgia fans can look forward to this week is more appearances from the likes of Dominick Blaylock, possibly Jordan Davis on offense, and dare we say, George Pickens?
From Darnell Washington to JT Daniels, Smart and the Georgia program have long taken their time with bringing back injured players into the lineup.
The crowd on Saturday noticed, and supported, Blaylock’s first appearance since an ACL injury when he went for a second-half punt return. The crowd reacted when he was announced as the returner. Then a louder ovation when he made his first catch in 2 years and ultimately finished with 2 catches for 11 yards.
With loads of equity and options, Georgia is trying to set up Blaylock with some confidence in this overmatched game, and perhaps he can pay dividends in the SEC Championship Game, or later.
Then there’s Pickens, who has seen increasing scout-team snaps in recent weeks, and was dressed Saturday.
To beat Alabama, and other Playoff contenders, Georgia needs to add as many ingredients and wrinkles for opponents to prepare for as it can. Against the Crimson Tide in particular, Georgia has to flex its defensive muscle against Heisman Trophy hopeful Bryce Young, Jameson Williams and the big-play threat. Given Tech’s deficiencies, Georgia can afford to make preparations for the more important games later as the season now shifts to a 6-week calendar building to Lucas Oil Stadium.
Smart understands what this time of year is like and how to manage it given that the Early Signing Period is well established. He also knows how to take care of Collins and Tech since that’s an established partnership as well.
Now it’s about solidifying what made Georgia the No. 1 team in the country, and one that staked a gaping hole between it and the rest of the Playoff contenders.