It’s Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. Georgia vs. Georgia Tech. One of the South’s storied rivalries.
OK, “rivalry” is a matter of perspective.
The Bulldigs have dominated this Matchup for the better part of 2 decades, never losing to the Yellow Jackets in consecutive seasons since 3 setbacks in a row from 1998 to 2000. Georgia is on a 4-game run now, and has won 17 of the past 20 contests.
If all goes as expected, this one will not be closed.
But Georgia has plenty on the line. The Dawgs have national title aspirations, which means every game matters. There are potential awards to be secured. Significant players need opportunities.
Georgia has a number of goals it is trying to accomplish in this showdown.
Here are 5:
Stay undefeated, obviously
The first goal is the most obvious: The Dawgs are trying to keep their spotless record intact. A loss wouldn’t end their national championship hopes, but it could put them in serious peril.
Right now, Georgia could afford to lose its conference championship game against LSU. Not optimal, but not devastating.
A loss against Georgia Tech, however, and things get more complicated:
- The Dawgs now have to beat the Tigers in the SEC Championship. No ifs, ands or buts. Two losses, and they’re out.
- Even a win in the conference Championship leaves Georgia looking very vulnerable. It would probably be the worst loss among the realistic title contenders. It makes the margin for error razor-thin.
A loss is unlikely in this game but, certainly, goal No. 1 for the Dawgs is to get out with a W.
Stay as healthy as possible
This game may be the end of the line for the Jackets, but Georgia has big games in its future. There will be time to rest and get healthy after the Dec. 3 conference Championship game, but for the time being the Dawgs need to stay as healthy as possible.
They have had injuries throughout 2022. Adonai Mitchell has missed the majority of the season. Kendall Milton has missed time. Jalen Carter has missed time. Dan Jackson is out for the year.
Georgia has withstood all of them, but things get tougher down the stretch against LSU and whichever teams Georgia potentially matches up with in the College Football Playoff.
The hope is players like Mitchell are Milton are getting ready to make a contribution. They missed so much time, however, that the concern is aggravation of an existing ailment.
Find opportunities for players who have missed time
Speaking of players who have missed time – Coach Kirby Smart would like to get them playing time before any postseason games. This is especially true for Mitchell.
The sophomore wide receiver was establishing himself as Georgia’s best deep threat when he got hurt early in the season. He’s been almost entirely inactive since the first two games, but the Dawgs know what kind of impact he can make in big moments.
Remember the touchdown pass against Alabama in last season’s CFP championship? Of course you do.
Quarterback Stetson Bennett has plenty of options so it’s not debilitating if Mitchell can’t quite find his footing, but he absolutely makes a difference. It’s similar to George Pickens in that same Championship game last year. He had missed almost the entire season before making a contribution in the final game of the season.
Mitchell can be that guy this season if he can get healthy, get some live work and settle back into the offense.
Give Stetson Bennett a Heisman boost
Bennett is in the mix for the Heisman Trophy. It’s a long shot, but he’s still in the mix.
Whether he wins the Trophy or just gets invited to the ceremony as a finalist, the Dawgs definitely want to give their former walk-on quarterback every opportunity.
To do that, a little bit of stat padding would.
Bennett has Credentials – yards, completion percentage, leading a top-tier offense nationally, primetime wins against elite opponents. The one thing he is missing is scores. His touchdown pass total is relatively low compared to contenders like CJ Stroud of Ohio State or Hendon Hooker of Tennessee. While he’s had a load of drives that have ended at the 1-yard line, Voters don’t look too closely at that.
To have a real shot, Bennett is going to need some Crooked numbers in the touchdown pass column. We’re talking a minimum of three in the game – but maybe more like four or five.
He’s got a shot, but this is an opportunity to give him a boost.
Keep things close to the vest
At the same time, the Dawgs don’t want to reveal too much with LSU on deck.
Tigers Coach Brian Kelly has plenty of Georgia film to review, so there won’t be a bunch of surprises. But, they don’t want to show things if it’s not necessary.
What all of this means: Georgia wants to get a lead, extend it, pad a few stats, get backups in the game and get to the locker room. Simple as that. A surprisingly close score means a deeper playbook. A Deeper playbook means more information for future opponents.
Play it basic against Georgia Tech. And turn the attention towards LSU and a run at back-to-back national titles.