USA Today/Dale Zanine

Four things to know about Georgia Tech as Kentucky Wildcats prep for TaxSlayer Bowl

In this edition of All Wildcats' "Four Downs," we take a closer look at four things Kentucky fans should know about Georgia Tech, the Wildcats' opponent in the TaxSlayer Bowl.

1. Rambling Wreck

Much like the SEC's Auburn Tigers with their alternate "War Eagle" tradition, the Yellow Jackets have also been known as the "Rambling Wreck" due to a gold 1930 Model A Ford Sport Coupe leading the team onto the field prior to a 1961 game against Rice. It's a fitting moniker for the way Georgia Tech has played under Paul Johnson, who has established a reputation for one of the best rushing attacks in an era of pass-happy offenses. The Jackets currently rank 10th in the nation in rushing yards (257.4) per game. On four occasions this season, they have rushed for more than 300 yards, including a high of 374 against North Carolina. It's a tough challenge for a UK defense that ranks 108th nationally (225.0) against the run. Unlike the Cats, however, who produced a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Boom Williams and Benny Snell Jr., Georgia Tech has a true "committee" approach to running the ball. Four different players, including quarterback Justin Thomas, ran for 392 or more yards this season. They averaged an impressive 5.5 yards per carry. The Jackets will be missing their top rusher, though, as Marcus Marshall (624 yards) announced he was transferring at the end of the regular season. 

2. Jackets Make Most of Infrequent Passes

Defensive backs aren't going to get many opportunities to do what they like doing best against Georgia Tech, which averages only 12 pass attempts a game. The Jackets rank 123rd out of 128 teams nationally at 131.2 passing yards per game, but when they do elect to throw it, senior quarterback Justin Thomas has been extremely efficient. Thanks in part to drawing defenses up near the line of scrimmage with the constant running threat, he is averaging 20.4 yards per pass completion. He has tossed eight touchdowns and only two interceptions this season. For his career, Thomas has 40 touchdown passes and only 18 interceptions. Running back Clinton Lynch (pictured above) is a dual-threat to keep an eye on. The 6-foot, 187-pound sophomore has rushed for 392 yards and two touchdowns, but also has 16 receptions for 490 yards and six scores. 

3. Third Down A Tough Spot for Tech D

While the Jackets have a potent offense, they are similar to some recent UK teams on the defensive side of the ball. In particular, third down is a tough spot. Opponents are averaging 50 percent on third-down conversions against Georgia Tech, which ranks 126th nationally. That belies its total defense figure (408.0 ypg) which ranks a not-woeful 63rd nationally and a scoring defense (25.0 ppg) that ranks 47th. Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson and receivers Garrett Johnson and Jeff Badet should have opportunities to throw against a defense geared to stop the run. Georgia Tech's pass rush has been almost non-existent this season, recording only 14 sacks in 12 games. One would figure the Jackets would have a heavy advantage in time of possession this season, with their great rushing attack, but due to the defensive issues they only control the ball for 30:06 per game.

4. Old-School SEC Rivals

Kentucky and Georgia Tech were charter members of the Southeastern Conference when it was established in 1932. The Wildcats and Yellow Jackets last met on the gridiron in 1960, a 23-13 win by Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Jerry Woolum led UK with a pair of touchdown passes on that day, but legendary coach Bobby Dodd's team was too strong for the Cats. Kentucky's last win against the Rambling Wreck came in 1958, a 13-0 win in Lexington for Blanton Collier's squad. Georgia Tech left the SEC in 1964. It was briefly a member of the Metro Conference in 1975 before joining the ACC in 1978. The Jackets lead the all-time series against the Cats 11-7-1. They still play against old SEC rivals on a regular basis. The two teams have common opponents this season in Vanderbilt and Georgia. Kentucky defeated the Commodores 20-13 in October and lost to the Bulldogs 27-24 on a last-second field goal in November. Georgia Tech rolled past the Commodores 38-7 in September and defeated the Bulldogs 28-27 in the regular-season finale. 


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