Hyosub Shin/AJC
Georgia tailback Nick Chubb runs the ball against Georgia Tech in 2016.

Georgia football: 4 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to watch vs. UGA

Cy Brown

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4 Techies to watch

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably still groggy from dangerous levels of turkey consumption and don’t want to read a lot of preamble. You just want Black Friday to be over so you can get back to a Georgia Thanksgiving weekend tradition: beating Georgia Tech. So here are four Yellow Jackets the Bulldogs will need to contain to get the win in Atlanta.

Step Durham, CB — Tech ranks 34th nationally in pass defense so the secondary has been solid this season. And that unit is led by the senior Durham, who is first on the team in interceptions (2) and passes defended (5). But Durham can also lend a hand against the run — which Georgia is more likely to rely upon Saturday — with 24 solo tackles out of 29, a good indication of his tackling skills in the open field.

Antonio Simmons, DE — The Jackets have struggled to get behind the line of scrimmage this season, ranking second-to-last in the ACC in sacks and last in tackles for loss. The lone Tech rusher you really need to keep an eye on is Simmons, who has 5 1/2 sacks and 8 tackles for loss to go along with 2 forced fumbles this season.

TaQuon Marshall, QB — Justin Thomas’ unusually competent passing skills for a Tech quarterback spoiled Jackets fans the last few years. Marshall is more of a return to form. He’s passed for 889 yards with a dreadful 38.0 completion percentage and a 9-4 TD-INT ratio. But he’s also a return to form on the ground. Whereas Thomas didn’t rush for more than 605 yards in either of his final two seasons in Atlanta, Marshall already has 1,074 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns.

KirVonte Bell, RB — Last season, coach Paul Johnson spread the carries between a lot of backs, with seven players getting 25 or more carries but none getting more than 152. The carries have been more focused this season. Marshall has the bulk (230) and Bell (192) isn’t far behind. The sophomore from Marietta has 1,009 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns so far this season.

Planning for the opponent

Here’s one reason you should be confident about Georgia’s chances against the Jackets: If you can run on them, you can beat them bad. From Chip Towers of DawgNation:

But as Duke showed last week that sometimes the best path to victory is to try to beat Georgia Tech at its own game. The Blue Devils rushed for 319 yards against the Yellow Jackets last week, and they rode that strategy to a 43-20 win.

Last time we checked, Georgia’s running backs are of a better pedigree than those who play for Duke. The Bulldogs are led by Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. The senior tailbacks are looking to become the first two tailbacks in UGA history to rush for more 1,000 yards in the same season. Chubb already has 1,045 yards, and Michel needs 182 to run down that mark.

Georgia is second in the SEC in rushing offense with an average of 267.5 yards per game. If the Bulldogs can match that against the Yellow Jackets, not only will they be successfully moving the ball on offense, but they’ll also be keeping Georgia Tech’s confounding option offense sidelined in the process.

Go here for the rest of Towers’ Georgia Tech preview post for more about special teams, the secondary keeping its head on a swivel and the chances of the coaches allowing Jake Fromm to let it rip.

Mail call

As the end of the season nears, it’s time to start wondering what happens to the Bulldogs with the potential to play on Sundays. Last season, that speculation surrounded four players — Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy. This season, it’ll be centered around one guy. Will Roquan Smith stay, or will he jump to the NFL? Seth Emerson of DawgNation gave his guess in the Thursday mailbag.

Smith is this team’s most important player, on either side of the ball. Right now my guess is 50-50: Smith isn’t the type of kid who would automatically leave, but if he’s projected safely to go in the first round it would be hard to pass up.

Keep in mind, one reason the current group of seniors returned is that nobody was expected to go very high in the draft. Lorenzo Carter probably had the best shot, but even he wasn’t projected in anybody’s first round. I’ve seen different projections on Smith, who some may see as too small to be drafted high as an inside linebacker, but if you can play as well as Smith some teams don’t care.

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Good dog

More like “Come As A Dog,” amirite?

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