It was my pleasure this week to once again speak with someone who knows the University of Georgia’s upcoming opponent far better than me. This time around it was Benjamin Tankersley of SB Nation’s own From the Rumble Seat. Benjamin is a great writer, a fantastic vibraphonist, and an above average falconry enthusiast. He’s also got some great insight into the current state of Yellow Jacket football.
MD: I've been a huge fan of Paul Johnson's offense since I was a kid watching Georgia Southern games. One thing I've always appreciated is the subtle evolution of it. How, if at all, has Johnson's attack changed this season versus 2016?
Ben: The biggest change year to year, I believe, is always the different focal point of the offense based on experience at certain position groups. This year has been a bit of an anomaly, though. Coming into this season, we had most of our experience coming back at A-back, with three key players back there. But it's actually been our two new starters, quarterback TaQuon Marshall and B-back KirVonte Benson, that have been the main keys to the offense this year.
In the last few games, we've seen Paul Johnson be a little bit more aggressive in his playcalling, much to some people's dismays. CPJ has been calling quite a few more passing plays, and while that is a good thing, it seems like those passes are always for 30 or more yards, instead of taking advantage of a short-to-intermediate pass game. To give an example of this, a couple weeks ago against Virginia Tech, Marshall completed two of his eight passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. It's nice to have those big explosive plays, but if those fail, it can also make it harder to keep a drive alive.
MD: The Jackets gave up some yardage on the ground and 43 points to Duke. What does Ted Roof's unit have to do to stop Georgia's rushing game?
Ben: Pray for a miracle.
Georgia Tech hasn't had much luck against running backs this season. Their best hope for stopping Georgia's running game this year is to play a little bit more aggressively on defense, maybe stack the box and try to do what Auburn was successful in doing and make Fromm beat us with his arm. Knowing Ted Roof, though, we may or may not see any aggressiveness from this defense. To quote Forrest Gump, Georgia Tech's defense "is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're going to get."
MD: Assume Georgia Tech is down by five with five seconds on the clock and the ball at the Georgia five yard line. Who gets the ball with the chance to win the game?
Ben: My ideal situation here would be putting the ball in the hands of TaQuon Marshall. I don't care if it's a run-pass option or QB keeper the whole way, Marshall has been the team's best playmaker all season and would give us the best chance to get a score right there.
MD: Who is the Georgia Tech player Bulldogs don't know about but should be worried over?
Ben: As weird as this is going to sound, I'm going to go with Jerry Howard, Tech's back-up at B-back. Howard hasn't had much playing time this season, but he's an incredibly talented runner. CPJ has talked in the last few weeks about wanting to get Howard more involved in the offense, but we haven't really seen a whole lot of that. Howard got the chance to show just how talented he is against Jacksonville State, when he broke off a 65-yard touchdown run. Now, he's not quite as impactful as Dedrick Mills was for us last season, but I would dare to say Howard might have more upside. If he gets the ball in some space, you better watch out.
MD: Because we must: your score prediction?
Ben: I'm not optimistic about this game at all. Tech has struggled with good defenses and running games all year long, and Georgia happens to have both of those. With this being a rivalry game, I see this going one of two ways. The first way is that Tech is going to get blown the [Foghat] out and lose something like 42-10. I could also see Tech somehow BS-ing their way to a super close, nailbiting victory 27-24. And there is no in-between for me.
Thanks to Benjamin for his thoughtful responses. I hope you learned as much as I did. Until later....