None of Georgia's running backs has more than 585 yards this season, but the Bulldogs are third in the SEC and 39th in the nation in rushing this season (167.8 yards per game as a group). Thomas Brown (65 yards per game) remains the starter, but Kregg Lumpkin is beginning to regain his form and could get more carries today. Lumpkin, who missed all of 2004 due to a knee injury, moved to No. 2 in the rotation ahead of Danny Ware last week. The Yellow Jackets will be bolstered by the return of P. J. Daniels, who had back-to-back 100-yard rushing games before leaving the Virginia game and missing the Miami game due to a bruised sternum. Tech backup Tashard Choice proved plenty able in Daniels' absence, rushing for 84 yards against the nation's No. 1 defense last week. Both teams also have quarterbacks that factor into the run game, with Tech's Reggie Ball getting the advantage in that area because he can run between the tackles more effectively than D.J. Shockley. Edge: Georgia Tech
Where Ball has a slight edge over Shockley in the run game, Shockley is vastly superior as a quarterback. Georgia's senior is having an All-SEC type season and has complete control of his team's no-huddle offense. Only two quarterbacks in the nation — UCLA's Drew Olson and Texas' Vince Young — have more touchdowns and fewer interceptions than Shockley's 18 and 4. Only five of the top 100 quarterbacks have fewer than five interceptions. Shockley's completion percentage, a respectable 57.1, would be much higher if his receivers were more sure-handed. Georgia is second in the SEC in passing (239 ypg). Ball, for his part, has grown tremendously from the last time he played the Bulldogs in Atlanta and was involved in a scuffle with a Georgia trainer on the sideline. Georgia coach Mark Richt and defensive tackle Kedric Golston both have mentioned this week how much he and his game have matured. His game is still a little rough, though. He has nine touchdowns versus eight interceptions, and the Yellow Jackets are ninth in the ACC in passing offense (193 ypg).
Eric Henderson proclaimed Tech's defense the best in the country after Saturday's win over Miami. The fact that it's only the fourth-best in the ACC (299.4 yards allowed per game) may not matter this week because the Jackets are playing with that kind of confidence. Jon Tenuta's all-out blitzing scheme lends itself to hit-and-miss games. Georgia Tech hit against Miami, giving up just 237 yards, but missed against Virginia, surrendering 366 in a loss. Tech's defense has gotten better and better against the Bulldogs in each of the last three years. Georgia's defense is ranked one spot below Tech's in the NCAA rankings (12th and 13th) and appears to have rebounded from the shaky effort against Auburn. Linebacker depth will be an issue for the Bulldogs today with Tony Taylor out due to a knee injury. The key for Georgia will be getting pressure on Ball. Tech has given up the fewest sacks in the ACC (7), while the Bulldogs have recorded 26 sacks this year. Junior end Quentin Moses had three sacks against Tech last year and is better this year.
Neither team has a special teams unit that jumps out and scares an opponent. Both teams are paced by the punters. Georgia's Gordon Ely-Kelso is second in the SEC and 20th in the nation with an average of 42.9 yards per kick. As a team, Georgia is ninth in the country, averaging 38.2 net yards per kick. Georgia Tech's Ben Arndt is eighth in the ACC with a 40.3 yard-per-kick average, but he's coming off a clutch game against Miami. The Jackets are second in the ACC in punting, averaging 37.1 net yards per kick. The most intriguing matchup on special teams could come when Georgia Tech kicks off, matching bad against bad. The Jackets' kickoff coverage team is 111th in the nation, allowing opponent's 24.9 yards per return. Georgia's kick return team has recently surged out of the 100s to 58th nationally but just lost return specialist Tyson Browning. Bulldog punt returner Thomas Flowers could be the difference. He's 17th in the country, averaging 13 yards per return, and he has one touchdown this year.
No. 13 Georgia at No. 20 Georgia Tech
Kickoff: 8 p.m. (TV: ABC, Radio: Check local listings)
Stadium: Bobby Dodd (55,000)
Tickets: Sold out.
Kickoff weather: Mostly cloudy, High 40s.
Records: Georgia 8-2; Georgia Tech 7-3.
Series: According to Georgia, Georgia leads 56-35-5. According to Tech, Georgia leads 56-37-5.
Last meeting: Georgia won 19-13 in 2004.
Odds: Georgia by 3 1/2
Injuries: Georgia Tech — DT Darryl Richard (knee) and RT Brad Honeycutt (knee) are out; RB Rashaun Grant (undisclosed) and S Joe Gaston (undisclosed) are doubtful; RB P.J. Daniels (sternum) will play, but won't start. Georgia — LB Tony Taylor (knee), RB Tyson Browning (leg), DE Jeremy Lomax (ankle), TE Tripp Chandler (ankle), TE Trahern Holden (ankle) and S Antonio Sims (suspension) are out; DE Charles Johnson (bicep) and S Tra Battle (concussion) are probable.
Up next: Georgia vs. LSU in the SEC Championship Game, Sat., Dec. 3, 6 p.m. (CBS); Georgia Tech in bowl game.
One to watch
Calvin Johnson. Last week, ESPN analysts Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit joined the growing chorus in calling the Georgia Tech sophomore the nation's best receiver. He'll be the most dynamic player in the game. The 6-foot-4 Johnson had five catches for 44 yards last season, but also drew three pass interference or holding penalties. In 22 career games, Johnson has drawn 15 such penalties. Johnson, who leads Tech with 50 receptions and 855 yards, is vital to the Yellow Jackets' offense not just because of those catches, but because of the attention he attracts, which opens the way for Tech's other receivers and its running game. Senior cornerback DeMario Minter will likely draw the task of stopping Johnson, but safeties Greg Blue, Tra Battle and Kelin Johnson will, no doubt, have an eye in Johnson's direction.
Both teams are ranked for this meeting for the first time since 2001. The Yellow Jackets, ranked 20th, have been up to the challenge in meetings with Auburn and Miami, but fell flat in a game against Virginia Tech. Georgia, ranked 13th, hasn't had much luck in its biggest games of the season, falling to Auburn and Florida. With so much at stake — bowl games, bragging rights, a higher national ranking — emotions will be running high. Add in the national stage and the 8 p.m. start time and it won't be surprising to see lots of hard hits and fiery emotions. Who handles that better could go a long way toward deciding this one — just ask Reggie Ball. The Georgia Tech quarterback famously threw the ball away on fourth down at the end of last year's game. It should be a defensive battle with one or two mistakes proving the difference. Expect a tight one with the Yellow Jackets hoping to keep it low-scoring and win it with their defense and the Bulldogs hoping to score early and force the Tech offense to make plays to win the game.