2013 Preview: Legge's Look at Georgia Tech

ATHENS - Dean Legge's look at the 2013 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

Georgia Tech
November 30, 2013
Bobby Dodd Stadium
Overall Record: 63-37-5
Last 10 Meetings: 9-1
Richt vs. Georgia Tech: 11-1
It was quite pitiful actually. Not the outcome of Georgia's 2012 game against Georgia Tech, but the number of Yellow Jackets in the stands – less than 3,000. In fact, 3,000 may be a generous number.

The bloom is off Paul Johnson's rose. Losing to Georgia is one thing – that's been a difficult reality for the Jackets to get around the last two decades – but going backwards is the real problem on North Avenue.

Johnson started off with a bang – beating Georgia his first season en route to a pretty solid 2008. 2009 ended with an ACC crown, but was sandwiched between difficult-to-take losses to Georgia at home and Iowa in the Orange Bowl.

From that point it has been one step forward and two steps back for Georgia Tech. Bobby Dodd Paul Johnson isn't… that's pretty clear these days. But is Johnson really that bad for what Tech has been?

Have a look at Johnson's record five years in: 9-4, 10-3, 6-7, 8-5 and 7-7. That's 40-26. Chan Gailey was 7-6, 7-6, 7-5, 7-5 and 9-5 in his first five years or 37-27… not much difference.

Maybe Georgia Tech is just this – a whole lot of seven-win seasons with a ten-win sprinkled in every now and then. Maybe Paul Johnson really isn't that bad. Tech fans remember George O'Leary fondly, but he had only one 10-win season (1998) and wound up 53-30, which is better, but not that much better than those after him.

With all of that in perspective, one has to recognize that this is a critical year for Johnson in Atlanta. Tech fans have noticed that Georgia's hiccup has come and gone without Tech taking much advantage of it. They've also watched the ACC become larger – and possibly more difficult as a result. They knew that Florida State wasn't going to be bad forever. They know that Miami won't be bad forever, either.

Georgia Tech is in a difficult position – which makes Johnson's 2013 a very, very important one.

How does all of this affect Georgia? Right now it doesn't. The pressure felt by Richt after losing to Tech in 2008 was significant. He would tell you as much. But 2008 is a long way in the rearview mirror these days. Georgia hasn't totally figured out Tech's option, but it's not dumbfounded like it was that day, either.

The fact of the matter is that the last two games between the schools have not been competitive in the second half, which is just the way Georgia wants it.

The curious thing to see, and I don't think this will ever happen, is if the SEC goes to a nine-game schedule in conference play. Television may insist on it in the future, and schools in Florida, South Carolina and Georgia may be forced to adjust their in-state contests. Tech and Georgia will always play one another in football, but the time of year at which they play may be adjusted. Even that change would be a shame – not that television would care.

Tech player to watch:
Vad Lee
6-1, 213

Lee shared snaps with Tevin Washington during last year's tilt, but only churned out 107 all-purpose yards. But by the time the Bulldogs make their bi-annual trip to Bobby Dodd Stadium, they will have seen three quarterbacks with great running ability. That said – Georgia should be more than prepared for anything Lee might have up his sleeve.

Tech is excited about Lee's potential this season as a first-year starter. Like his predecessors, Washington and Josh Nesbitt, Lee has the physical tools and athleticism that Tech coach Paul Johnson drools over. And though Tech ran the ball 80 percent of the time last year, Johnson said that he'd consider throwing more with Lee at the helm.

"I could see possibly throwing the ball a little more with these guys," Johnson said of Lee and Justin Thomas to ESPN. "I think they're a little better at it than what we've been playing at, if we can get the protection and the guys can catch it."

Look for Lee to have a breakout year in 2013.

2013 Georgia Tech Schedule

Aug 31 Elon
Sep 14 at Duke
Sep 21 North Carolina
Sep 26 Virginia Tech
Oct 05 at Miami
Oct 12 at BYU
Oct 19 Syracuse
Oct 26 Virginia
Nov 02 Pitt
Nov 14 at Clemson
Nov 23 Alabama A&M
Nov 30 Georgia

What the Dawgs must do:
It doesn't change: Stop the fullback. If the dive works in Tech's offense you are in trouble. Georgia will use a slew of newcomers on defense, but the task remains the same. It is the most critical aspect of playing Georgia Tech – stopping the fullback up the middle. After that, the offense can be stopped. It's not easy, but it can be stopped. Vlad Lee will add a new component to the Tech offense, but stopping the fullback is job one.

Inside the numbers:

Mike Bobo has got to love seeing the Yellow Jackets coming. As the Bulldogs starting quarterback from 1995-1997, Bobo was 3-0 against his in-state rival. In the two years he was a graduate assistant and one year he was out of town at Jacksonville State, the Bulldogs were 0-3. Cue Bobo's return as a full-time member of the staff in 2001. Georgia is 11-1 since.

Recruiting Implications:
Moderate. It would be incorrect to say the recruiting implications of this game were more than moderate. The two teams have rarely, in the recent past, squared off for the same talent in state. That continues to be a problem for the Jackets – it seems. Paul Johnson, who appears to be only slightly interested in recruiting, has signed only six four-star players since he arrived in Atlanta – not good enough. It seems hard to believe, but the Jackets are still finding their way in the state as it relates to recruiting. The talent at Tech in 2009 and 2008 was from Georgia. You can't win if you don't get some of the better prospects from your state to your school… you just can't. Alabama is recruiting top talent in Georgia more effectively than Tech – that's a bad sign for the Jackets.

Last year's prediction:
It is the most critical aspect of playing Georgia Tech – stopping the fullback up the middle. After that, the offense can be stopped. It's not easy, but it can be stopped. It doesn't change: Stop the fullback. If the dive works in Tech's offense you are in trouble.

It was not a good day for Georgia Tech. Not at all. 12-Year History vs. Georgia Tech

2001Mark Richt leads Georgia past Tech with the help of Tim Wansley and Billy Bennett. The win over the Jackets was Georgia's first over their in-state rivals since 1997. Bennett kicked a slew of field goals, but Wansley sealed the deal – picking off George Godsey late in the game to give Georgia the win.

2002 – Georgia, on the way to its first appearance in the SEC Championship Game in school history, pounded Georgia Tech 51-7. The Dawgs' win was the most lopsided in decades over its rivals.

2003 – Georgia ground out a 34-17 victory over hapless Georgia Tech in Atlanta the week before the Bulldogs' second consecutive appearance in the SEC Championship Game. Georgia's defense dominated the Jackets, while center Nick Jones scored an unlikely touchdown on a fumble in the end zone.

2004 – Georgia's seniors needed all the help they could get from Brandon Coutu, who hit the game-clinching field goal in Georgia's 19-14 win over the Jackets. Coutu replaced Andy Bailey in the middle of the game. David Greene watched from the sideline as his career, and the career of three-time All-American David Pollack, ended in Athens with Tech signal caller Reggie Ball throwing the ball out of bounds on fourth down.

2005D.J. Shockley found Brian McClendon for the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter as Georgia topped Georgia Tech in Atlanta 14-7 the week before winning the 2005 SEC Championship. The game was a defensive fight, which ended when senior Tim Jennings picked off Reggie Ball to secure Georgia's fifth win in a row over Tech.

2006Matthew Stafford drove the Bulldogs down the field with time running out and found Mohammed Massaqoui for the game-winning touchdown in Georgia's 15-12 win. A true freshman, Stafford's heroics against Tech highlighted a three-game stretch that saw Georgia knock off Auburn, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech – all ranked foes.

2007 – Thomas Brown scored Georgia's last touchdown in a 31-17 win over the Yellow Jackets. The day started with the Bulldogs still alive in the 2007 SEC race. But after Kentucky failed to top Tennessee in overtime, the Bulldogs had to settle for a bid to the Sugar Bowl. The win over the Jackets was Georgia's seventh in a row. Tech coach Chan Gailey was fired the Monday after the loss.

2008 – Georgia Tech knocked off Georgia 45-42 thanks to first-year coach Paul Johnson's option attack and Georgia's slippery fingers. The Bulldogs turned the ball over numerous times in the second half, which helped to erase a 21-6 halftime lead. The loss capped a disappointing season for the Dawgs, who started the season #1 in the country.

2009 – Georgia Tech came into the game ranked in the top ten, and Georgia had just suffered a humbling loss at home to Kentucky. But the Dawgs ambushed the Jackets – powered by an oncoming rushing attack – and beat the Jackets 30-24. The game was rare in that neither team punted the entire night.

2010 – Perhaps the worst matchup between the Jackets and Dawgs since 1996, both teams entered the game with only 11 wins between them, but the 2010 game was another entertaining contest between the rivals. Justin Houston picked up a fumble and scored a touchdown to give Georgia what seemed like the definitive edge in the game. The Jackets rallied to within an extra point of tying the game – but Tech missed the extra point, and Georgia held on for a eight-point win, 42-34.

2011 – Georgia manhandled Georgia Tech 31-17 to win its tenth game in a row. Aaron Murray threw all four of Georgia's touchdowns, and Tech's offense was harmless most of the contest. The Bulldogs had won the SEC East championship the week before.

2012 – #3 Georgia blasted in-state rival Georgia Tech 42-10. The Bulldogs were led by their top offensive producers – Aaron Murray, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall – who all had two touchdowns.

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