Ga. Southern's run game better than Ga. Tech's? Maybe, and good news for Georgia
Nobody was exactly thrilled with Georgia’s less-than-impressive win over Georgia Southern last week, but a frustrated Bulldogs Nation can take some small consolation in the fact the Eagles likely presented more of a physical challenge to the Dawgs than Georgia Tech will Saturday.
Coach Mark Richt’s team survived an ugly 23-17 overtime scare against Georgia Southern and hits the road for another dose of the triple option in Saturday’s regular season finale against their rivals in Atlanta.
That’s not to say the UGA won’t be without challenges in trying to slow down a Georgia Tech rushing attack that leads the ACC and ranks sixth nationally 261.8 yards per game.
But doing so just might not be as physically demanding.
The Yellow Jackets are nowhere near as experienced or as physically imposing up front as the Eagles were. Georgia Southern boasted a much more experienced front line that saw all five members weighing at least 300 pounds.
Georgia Tech’s average weight is nearly equal, but that’s only because behemoth right guard Shamire Devine tips the scales at a robust 6-foot-7, 366 pounds. Just two Yellow Jackets starters along the line weight at least 300 pounds and only center Freddie Burden lists more than nine career starts.
That’s hardly surprising, given that the cut-blocking scheme preferred by Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson is predicated on smaller, quicker offensive linemen who can quickly get off the ball and cut defenders at the legs.
A rash of injuries along the line and in the backfield, however, have severely limited the depth-starved Jackets this season.
Georgia Southern, which entered last week’s game leading the nation in rushing, employs a more throw-back approach and physically beat Georgia up front for most of the evening, although the Dawgs came up with several timely stops, including the decisive one in overtime.
The Eagles’ triple-option attack chewed up 233 yards rushing, but that was still well below the 379 they averaged coming into the contest.
Moreover, Georgia Southern’s stable of talented running backs is more experienced and accomplished than those carrying the ball on The Flats in Atlanta. That’s in part due to a slew of injuries, including one to quarterback Justin Thomas, who suffered an upper-body injury during last week’s 38-21 loss at Miami that dropped his team to 3-8.
If Thomas is not available Saturday, the Yellow Jackets likely will be forced to again turn to freshman Matthew Jordan, who managed just 60 yards rushing on 28 carries last week.
Georgia should also benefit immensely from having seen the triple option just last weekend. It’s difficult to accurately simulate that look in practice, so having gone against the Eagles should be of considerable help to the Dawgs this week.
The Bulldogs will still need to play good, assignment football and remain disciplined in their defensive responsibilities to prevent small plays from turning into big ones.
Georgia ranks 8th in the SEC and 46th nationally in rushing defense at 148.09 yards per game.