Georgia Tech Needs More Options

paul johnson

Paul Johnson may be a genius. Is he also his own worst enemy?

Growing up a Bulldog in Athens has made me develop a healthy dislike for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Even though Georgia has dominated the head-to-head meetings with the Jackets since 2001, “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate” is always a nerve racking week for Bulldog Nation. After all, the winner of the contest has bragging rights for an entire year, and the loser is left counting the days until the next chapter of the rivalry unfolds.

Despite my disdain for Georgia Tech, I want the Yellow Jackets to come into battle against the Bulldogs with as much buzz as possible. Crushing the momentum of a hated rival is much more satisfying than pouring salt into an open wound. After seemingly taking the Naval Academy as far as it is capable of going in today’s college football landscape, Paul Johnson was hired by Georgia Tech after the previous head coach (Chan Gailey) was fired following the 2007 season.

Paul Johnson brought his triple option offense with him to Atlanta in 2008. The Jackets were coming off of a seven win season the year before, and there was a lot of skepticism about whether Johnson’s offense could be successful in major college football. Georgia Tech doubters were silenced rather quickly, as the Yellow Jackets won 9 games in 2008, including hanging 45 points in defeating the Dawgs in Athens. The Jackets won the ACC title in 2010, and played in the Orange Bowl game in 2011.

Since reeling off 20 wins in his first two seasons as head coach in Atlanta, Paul Johnson has lost twelve games in the last two years, and he has yet to win a bowl game. Some of those aforementioned losses can be attributed to injuries, as well as occasional bad breaks. However, opponents of the Yellow Jackets seem to be smartening up to defending the option. Continue reading

Georgia Bulldogs-Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 2011

Week 13 of the 2011 college football season means “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate” for the state of Georgia. Before the Georgia Bulldogs challenge for the SEC title in a little under two weeks, a bitter rival awaits them in a pit stop in Atlanta before the Dawgs head to the Georgia Dome. Georgia must avoid looking ahead to December 3rd in order to secure another ten win season for Mark Richt. Overlooking the Yellow Jackets could mean a long afternoon for Bulldog Nation.

The big issue facing the Bulldogs this week is the tailback position. According to Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner Herald, Carlton Thomas returned to practice on Monday and Ken Malcome got reps with the first team As for Isaiah Crowell, Weiszer reports that he was walking without a limp. It is still unclear who will get the start against the Yellow Jackets.

There will not be many other mysteries to solve against Paul Johnson’s team. Georgia Tech runs the triple option, and when Johnson gets frustrated with his option game he has his quarterback throw the ball to try to catch the defense off guard. Yellow Jacket quarterback Tevin Washington has 60 completions this season, with more than half of them going to either Orwin Smith or Stephen Hill. Hill stands at 6’5″ and is the go-to receiver when Georgia tech decides to pass the football.

Throwing the football worked very well for the Georgia Bulldogs against Tech in 2010. Aaron Murray threw the ball just 19 times in the game, but he racked up 271 yards on 15 completions. Murray finished the game with 3 touchdown passes and no interceptions in Georgia’s 42-34 win a year ago.

What a difference a year has made for the Georgia Bulldog defense. Todd Grantham’s 3-4 struggled the first time around against Tech, as the Yellow Jackets stung the Dawgs for  411 yards on the ground last year on their way to putting up over 500 yards of offense in the game. This year the Bulldogs have been dominant on defense, especially during their ongoing nine game win streak. The Dawgs are ranked highly in every defensive statistical category and have been phenomenal against the run. Last week, Georgia held Kentucky to a mere 23 yards rushing on 21 attempts.

Saturday’s match-up promises to be more challenging for the Bulldog defense. The Georgia Tech rushing offense is ranked second in the nation. Georgia’s defense will need to play disciplined football again this week and set the edge to prevent the Jackets from having many big plays with their option attack. If Georgia can force a few quick 3 and outs to take the crowd out of it, the game could get ugly in a hurry if Aaron Murray is on his game. Georgia Tech’s defense is giving up 25 points per game so it will be important for the visiting Bulldogs to have a fast start at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Paul Johnson once said of playing the Georgia Bulldogs, “We’ve got bigger fish to fry.” The  statement rings true this year as well, but only from the Georgia Bulldog perspective. Georgia Tech is 8-3, and they are not a factor in the ACC title race this year. For all the bravado,  Johnson is just 1-2 against the Bulldogs and Georgia Tech has not beaten Georgia since 2008.

Meanwhile, Georgia Bulldog head coach Mark Richt is sporting a 9-1 career record against the Yellow Jackets. Georgia is now the team hoping to get a chance to fry the biggest fish in the college football sea. The latest chapter of this storied rivalry should be a good one for the Dawgs. The team is young and hungry, and the Bulldog defense is far too athletic to fall victim to Georgia Tech’s one dimensional offense. Thanksgiving will be a day to be thankful for a banner year between the hedges. Afterward, Georgia will have Yellow Jacket leftovers in Atlanta on Saturday.