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Post The best defense…

Tuesday November 25, 2008

Much, if not all, of the talk leading up to this weekend’s game will center around Georgia’s challenge in stopping Georgia Tech’s option offense. There’s plenty of reason for that: it’s a look we’re not used to, it’s effective, and it did a lot of damage in the game most of us used to scout the upcoming opponent. Defending the option will require exceptional preparation and execution. But don’t take for granted the size of the job on the other side of the ball. Keep this fact in mind:

Tech hasn’t scored more than 17 points on Georgia since 2000.

That might or might not change this year. Tech’s offense is different and improved this year, and past performance does not guarantee future results, etc., etc., etc. We’ve seen what the Tech offense can do against teams like Miami and Mississippi State, but they’ve also scored 21 or fewer points in over half of their games to this point thanks largely to turnovers.

Yet from 2004-2006, the games were way too close for comfort. In 2004, David Greene had to come off the bench and play injured just to get a field goal. Georgia scored 30+ in four of its last five games in 2005 but could only manage 14 against Tech. In 2006, Georgia couldn’t even break double-digits without help from the defense. In games where the Georgia offense has performed well, the result has been wins by double-digits.

Georgia in 2008, statistically speaking, has one of their best offenses in recent history. The quarterback, running back, and receivers are among the SEC leaders, and it’s all being done behind a young and depleted line. But those of us who have seen the offense in operation should know that statistics over the course of a season have a way of smoothing over what’s actually happened. Yes, this is the same Georgia offense that had its way with Arizona State, LSU, and Kentucky. It’s also the same offense that struggled for 14 points at South Carolina, skipped the first half against Alabama, shot itself in the foot against Florida, and couldn’t put Auburn away. If the Georgia offense had been performing consistently at a high level on the way to those nice averages, I wouldn’t be as concerned. But they haven’t.

Georgia Tech is currently #12 in scoring defense at 16.7 PPG – that’s the best unit on either team in this game in terms of scoring offense or defense. #12 puts them more or less between Auburn and Tennessee in that stat. They are strongest up front with Darryl Richard and Michael Johnson leading the way, but they have also been opportunistic with 17 interceptions (10th best in the nation).

The performance of Georgia’s offense will have a bigger impact on the game than just putting points on the board. With everyone fretting about stopping the option, what better way to affect an offense’s gameplan than to put it in a come-from-behind situation? Even in its losses Tech has done a good job this year of keeping the games close and within reach, and they’ve been able to stick to the offense. It wasn’t until North Carolina built a lead on them that Tech QB Josh Nesbitt attempted a season-high 22 passes.

It’s the last home game for Massaquoi, and it could be the swan song at Sanford for Stafford and Moreno as well. That trio, along with the rest of the offense, just might be Georgia’s best weapon to slow down Tech’s option attack. I go back to what I wrote back over the summer: if Tech is going to end the streak any time soon, (defensive coordinator) Dave Wommack will have as much or more to do with it than Paul Johnson. If Georgia’s stars on offense go out with a signature performance, it won’t matter what kind of offense Tech is running.

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