This is one of those years — and there aren’t many such years — when the difference in talent between Georgia and Georgia Tech is the width of a pond, as opposed to a lake or a gulf. Given that the Bulldogs are working under a new coach and have suffered more than the usual palpitations, this year’s game offers the Yellow Jackets a better chance to win than they’ve had since 2009.
Right about here, you’re saying: Didn’t the Yellow Jackets lose to Georgia in 2009? Yes they did. But that was an upset. And Tech’s only two victories over Georgia since 2000 — the furious rally from a 16-point halftime deficit in 2008 and the overtime victory after the Bulldogs took the lead with 17 seconds remaining in regulation in 2014 — were likewise upsets.
The checkers are rarely equal in this series, and they’re not quite equal now. Georgia still has more good players. But the Jackets have a clear idea of what they’re doing, having done it for nine years. On offense, the Bulldogs do different stuff every week, and sometimes they don’t do much at all. When in doubt, which is often, Jim Chaney orders up a gadget play — sometimes on Kirby Smart’s say-so, we emphasize — and not many have proved availing.
Neither team has had the season it hoped. Each is 7-4. Both went 4-4 in tepid divisions. (Though the SEC East is worse than the ACC Coastal.) Georgia’s best out-of-conference win was over North Carolina, which beat Tech by 28 points. Tech’s best out-of-conference win was a 31-point demolition of Vandy, which beat Georgia in Athens.
Tech has the better offense, though it hasn’t been unfailingly irresistible. Georgia has the better defense, though it just yielded 276 yards rushing to Louisiana-Lafayette. (Fun fact: Both Tech and Georgia have had games in which the offense managed only eight first downs. Difference is, Tech won its game.)
Each notched its best victory at the same time on the same day: Tech upset No. 14 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg; Georgia took down No. 9 Auburn at Sanford Stadium. Of the two, Tech’s was the more impressive. Auburn’s Kamryn Pettway didn’t play and Sean White came in hurting and got hurt more. Georgia held the Tigers to zero second-half first downs but didn’t take a lasting lead until the fourth quarter. Working without Justin Thomas, Tech led the Hokies 20-nil at halftime.
As much as I hate flip-flopping on a pick — even though this pick wasmade many months ago — I have no hesitation here. Georgia has already proved it can lose to worse teams than Tech, whereas Tech hasn’t lost to anybody that hasn’t won seven games. And not all 7-4 seasons are created equal: The Jackets have outscored their opponents by 33 points; the Bulldogs haven’t outscored their opponents at all. Tech will outscore Georgia 24-20.