Teams heading in opposite directions will meet on Saturday when top-ranked Georgia brings the nation’s longest current winning streak to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech, which has lost five straight games, including the last one by 55 points.
Georgia (11-0), which has won 15 straight games dating to last season, opened as a 35-point favorite against the Yellow Jackets (3-8), who haven’t defeated the Bulldogs in Atlanta this century.
The Bulldogs have turned Bobby Dodd Stadium into their personal playground during their 10-game winning streak on Georgia Tech’s campus dating to 1999, winning by an average of 16.1 points.
Georgia has won 16 of the past 19 meetings overall and the past three in a row by an average of 33.3 points.
“When I got here, there’s an ingrained, built-in belief that you had to beat your in-state rival,” Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said. “We also had conference rivals, so it became you play on something so many times that it falls on deaf ears, if you say, ‘That’s our rival, that’s our rival, that’s our rival.’ We don’t get into that, because it loses its effectiveness if you use it all the time. Who’s not our rival?”
While Georgia was amassing 488 yards of total offense in a 56-7 win against Charleston Southern last week, Georgia Tech was shut out 55-0 on national television at No. 8 Notre Dame. The Yellow Jackets mustered just 224 yards, gave up six sacks, had an interception and fumble returned for scores and gave up 45 points in the first 30 minutes.
If the Yellow Jackets struggled mightily to move the ball against the Fighting Irish’s 40th-ranked defense, how will they fare against Georgia’s top-ranked unit?
The Bulldogs lead the country in total defense (236 yards per game), yards allowed (2,596), offensive touchdowns allowed (seven), opponent touchdowns overall (nine). Georgia is also second in first downs allowed (151) and rushing defense (77.3), and third in passing defense (158.7).
Georgia Tech’s best offensive player is running back Jahmyr Gibbs, who is ranked No. 1 nationally in all-purpose yardage at 163.8 yards per game, 2.3 yards per game more than Central Michigan’s Lew Nichols and 3.3 yards per game ahead of Utah State receiver Deven Thompkins.
Georgia has ascended under Smart, who has led the Bulldogs to four SEC East Division titles, an SEC championship and an appearance in the national title game so far in his six seasons.
But Georgia Tech has clearly regressed under third-year coach Geoff Collins.
The Yellow Jackets finished with a losing record just three times in 11 seasons under Paul Johnson, but they are guaranteed their third in as many seasons under Collins, who enters Saturday with a record of 9-24 on the Georgia Tech sideline.
While Georgia is all but guaranteed a College Football Playoff spot with a win on Saturday, Georgia Tech won’t be playing in a bowl game for the third straight season, which hasn’t happened since the early-to-mid 1990s. Prior to Collins’ arrival, the Yellow Jackets had played in a bowl game in 20 of the previous 22 seasons dating to 1997.
“I get it,” Collins told reporters when asked about frustrations of Yellow Jackets’ fans. “I understand it. I’m frustrated. I’m as big of a competitor as there is in the game and so I’m frustrated. Even though we’ve made progress, it still hasn’t shown up in the win column, where we want it to be, where we need it to be and where it will be.”