Georgia has clinched its first SEC East title in six years -- barely -- but now is not the time for anyone to be slapping backs or relaxing on laurels, the four-day Thanksgiving weekend notwithstanding. The Dawgs' big in-state rivalry game is on deck to close out the regular season, and while Georgia Tech may not be the team Georgia fans most look foward to beating, they're far and away the team Bulldog Nation most despises losing to. So instead of going on a suicide mission into the heart of darkness that is Black Friday shopping, let's roust Manic Doug and Depressive Doug out of their tryptophan comas for a preview of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.
Depressive Doug: C'mon, man, up and at 'em. I know it's early, but we got travel plans, and there's a game to preview.
Manic Doug: Oh, dude, seriously, don't poke me like that. Don't even touch me. I can't promise you I won't explode.
DD: Yeah, looks like someone attacked the turkey pretty hard last night.
MD: And the mashed potatoes. And the stuffing. And the bourbon apple cider . . .
DD: Don't forget the pie.
MD: I think you mean pies, plural. Why do we have so many different kinds of pie? I mean, I've just eaten my own body weight in Thanksgiving dinner, why on earth would you put me balls-deep in pie?
DD: You put yourself there, chubs. And now it looks like I'm gonna have to do the Georgia Tech preview all by myself, because it your only plans for the day appear to involve mailing it in while you try to nap off yesterday's feast. Should I assume that you're basically taking a lay-up Georgia win for granted once again?
MD: You may assume nothing, jagweed -- I may have gained 25 pounds in the last 12 hours, but even emergency lap-band surgery couldn't keep me from getting my hate on against the Techies.
DD: Well, that's a relief.
MD: We are going to beat their asses lopsided, though.
DD: And there it is -- another cherished holiday tradition: you jinxing us by predicting an easy win.
MD: Oh, yeah, huge jinx. We've only beaten them nine times out of the last 10 and 25 times in the 33 years we've been alive. Oh, the terrible price we've had to pay for my overconfidence.
DD: You know what, go back to sleep. You were more tolerable when you were passed out on the couch with the turkey sweats.
MD: Look, I'll even concede you that the Tech game isn't a gimme anymore like it was during the Gailey years, but there's one thing you can count on literally nine times out of 10 with the Jackets: Their supposedly superior engineer brains are going to seize up at some point in the game and roll out the red carpet for us to stroll to victory. Maybe it's early in the game, maybe it's late, but it almost always happens.
DD: So that's what you're counting on? The Screw-Up Fairy magically showing up at Bobby Dodd to sprinkle her Derp Dust on the Jackets?
MD: No, Professor Sarcasm, I'm counting on our defense to show up and put the fear of God into 'em. And I know what you're going to say -- Georgia Tech's offense is diabolical, they've got a true passing threat for the first time since Paul Johnson got there, they're top-20 in the nation in total offense, blah blah blah.
DD: Not in so many words, but yeah, I probably was going to touch on some of that stuff.
MD: Well, here's the problem if you're a Jackets fan, though I don't know why anyone would be: Their stats have been inflated all season by the fact that they played MTSU, Kansas, and Western Carolina for their first three games. Middle Tennessee has Division I-A's 103rd-ranked defense; Kansas' is ranked dead last; and Western Carolina's is ranked next-to-last in I-AA, which seriously has to be like one step up from fielding 11 high-school JVs. Against those three teams, Tech averaged 675 yards per game, but against their conference schedule -- and this is the ACC, so we're not even talking about juggernauts here, either -- they were down to 392. Their passing yards have been cut in half; their game against Duke last week was the first time they'd cracked triple-digits in passing yards since early October.
DD: Umm . . . not that I'm unimpressed here, but when did you have the time to do all that research?
MD: You know, I'm actually not sure. I remember getting a sugar high after my fourth piece of pie yesterday, though -- you know, kind of like your body will have that one last burst of energy in a marathon before it totally gives out -- so maybe it was then. Or else I did it in my sleep, because I'm pretty sure I blacked out after that.
DD: Great. Well, as impressed as I am with your number-crunching, 392 yards a game isn't nothing. And they're still ranked No. 2 in the nation in rushing, so how sure can you be that we're going to be able to stop that?
MD: With Todd Grantham's defense ranked fourth in the nation and allowing fewer than 90 rushing yards a game? Pretty sure, bro.
DD: OK, look, I'm as impressed as anyone with the improvements Grantham's made, but even you have to admit we weren't exactly facing a murderer's row of offenses this year. There's a big difference between corralling Kentucky's rushing attack and Georgia Tech's, especially when we've allowed Tech an average of 340-something rushing yards the three times we've had to go up against their triple-option.
MD: Tech's going to get their yards, dude. That's just how their offense operates. The key is to force turnovers and keep 'em off the field, and that's something we've been really good at this season. We're 16th in the nation in turnover margin, and seventh in time of possession. We're running more plays per game than Oregon at the moment. If we can keep our offensive production up and put together some long, sustained drives, we'll keep their offense off the field and wear out their defense -- which, for the record, is mediocre at best.
DD: Yeah, but can we do that? You saw what happened last week when Isaiah Crowell and Carlton Thomas weren't available. All due respect to Brandon Harton, I don't want to end up having to put this game on his back again.
MD: Well, stop worrying, because both Crowell and Thomas will be on the field Saturday.
DD: For how long, though. Some of the things I've been hearing about Crowell's health have left me less than optimistic.
MD: You're always less than optimistic. About everything.
DD: But this time it's kind of warranted, because I think we're gonna need as many points as we can get. Whatever struggles they've had in big games, this is still the most balanced offense Tech has fielded since Paul Johnson got there. We've done a better job of handling running QBs this season than in years past, but it's been months since we faced an offense as potent as Tech's, and our defense has given up some big rushing yards to teams that managed to get the ball outside -- Marcus Lattimore in the SEC opener, Zac Stacy in that near-debacle against Vanderbilt last month. I'd love to believe Todd Grantham has our defensive issues completely figured out, but I can't, not yet.
MD: So, what, you think the Jackets are just gonna run all over us like they did last year and in '08?
DD: Not quite that bad, but like you said, they're gonna get their yards -- and I'll be honest, I don't know if our offense is gonna be able to keep up. I've already expressed my concerns with the running game, but the passing game looked decrepit last week, too -- there have been times this season when Aaron Murray and his receivers, for whatever reason, just haven't looked like they're on the same page. Tech's pass defense is good enough to exploit that if Aaron's not on his game.
MD: Oh my God. Here I am, feeling warm and full of thanks, reveling in the start of the holiday season, and I can already tell you're about to ruin it by predicting that Georgia's going to lose.
DD: I just think we're going to end up in a hole early -- we gave up early scores to Florida, Auburn and Kentucky, and while our defense was able to clamp down on them for the rest of the game, Georgia Tech's ability to consistently pound the ball and move the chains is gonna make that more difficult. I hate to say it, but I think we're gonna be playing catch-up all afternoon long, and we're gonna end up losing 28-23.
MD: Pitiful. I mean, it's one thing to be nervous about a Tech game, another thing entirely to go out and predict a Georgia loss to the nerds. You know you're only encouraging them when you do that, right?
DD: Dude, I have just as much contempt for Tech fans as you do, but that's my prediction. How about instead of complaining about it, you make yours.
MD: No problem. Georgia comes out with their hair on fire, pounding the ball against a mediocre Tech run defense, and then we take advantage of our opportunities to launch it downfield, now that we've got Malcolm Mitchell back. I think we'll keep Tech's offense off the field for some long drives, grind down their defense, and then a late turnover by the Bees in desperation mode ices a third straight win for the Dawgs. Final score, Georgia 34, Tech 19.
DD: Well, that would be nice. As it stands, our predictions average out to Georgia 29, Georgia Tech 24. Not a blowout, but can you live with it anyway?
MD: 'Course. As long as I don't have to listen to any thimbledick Techies getting up in my grill for the next 364 days, I'll take it. That entire fanbase is like the stereotypical pipsqueak little brother -- you can beat his ass lopsided nine times in a row, but if you let one slip by, he'll never let you forget about it. I mean, look at the way they still toss the score of the 2008 game out there, as if the last two years didn't happen.
DD: No, I'm with you, it's unbelievably irritating. But just for the sake of my high blood pressure, could you maybe, you know, not talk about a Georgia win quite so much like it's our birthright or something?
MD: If you're that concerned that I'm jinxing us, fine.
DD: Good. I appreciate it.
MD: Even though, I mean, it pretty much is.
DD: Oh, man, really? --
MD: No, think about it: We've got the bigger school, the prettier campus, a better (and more profitable) athletic department, a more iconic mascot, more girls, hotter girls, and better social lives. Even our school colors are vastly superior, and the only thing Tech might've had on us at one time -- higher academic rankings -- is basically dead even at this point.
DD: I don't think you're gonna find many Tech fans who'll concede that last one.
MD: Who cares what they think, because my point is this: You look at all the ways in which Georgia is vastly superior to Tech, and you can only come to one conclusion -- UGA and Tech were put on this earth so that one school could be the flagship and the other one would be No. 2. It's Georgia's destiny to be better. So if we don't have a better football team, something's wrong with the universe, and we can't have that.
DD: Lord. Go back to sleep and burn off that tryptophan before God decides to punish your hubris by hurling a meteor at our team buses.
MD: Fine, you neurotic pansy. But in your heart, you know I'm right. As do the Techies, and that's what's killing them.
DD: Seriously. Enough. Go to sleep. I'll wake you up when it's time to leave.
MD: OK. (pause) By the way, if you wanted to bring me another piece of pie when you do that, that'd be all right.