Georgia Tech’s season riding on visit from No. 7 Georgia
ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Tech’s last hope of putting a positive cap on a disappointing 2017 season comes in Saturday’s state rivalry game against No. 7 Georgia.
The good news for the Yellow Jackets is the game will be played on their home field.
Coach Paul Johnson said Tuesday this has been a “screwy season” for Georgia Tech (5-5). Perhaps most baffling has been his team’s 0-5 record away from Bobby Dodd Stadium, including last week’s 43-20 loss at Duke , ending the Blue Devils’ six-game losing streak.
The Yellow Jackets are 5-0 at home, including a win over No. 24 Virginia Tech on Nov. 11. The home-field success provides hope in their underdog role against Georgia (10-1, No. 7 CFP).
State bragging rights provide ample motivation. Georgia Tech also will be playing to become bowl eligible and avoid its second losing season in three years. It also will be playing for its second straight win in the state rivalry with the Bulldogs and a chance to spoil Georgia’s hopes of landing in the College Football Playoff.
“This should be why you come to play college football, games like this,” Johnson said. “If somebody has to fire you up for this one then you probably ought to quit. You shouldn’t be playing.”
Senior offensive guard Shamire Devine said the rivalry is like “a very fun and scary rollercoaster.”
“Sometimes we hit the big play and then they hit the big play,” Devine said Monday. “It’s like going down a really, really steep thing and you say please don’t let the rollercoaster break.”
Georgia Tech players left last year’s 28-27 win at Georgia holding pieces of Sanford Stadium’s famous hedges. The teams played back-to-back overtime games in 2013 and 2014. Georgia won 13-7 in its last visit to Grant Field in 2015.
Johnson said this is a unique challenge because this may be Georgia’s most talented team since 2012, the last year the Bulldogs played in the SEC championship game. Georgia is headed to next week’s SEC championship game against Auburn or Alabama.
“If they’re not the best team they’ve had since I’ve been here in my 10 years, it’s probably one of the two best teams for sure,” he said.
Johnson had compliments for Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, who has thrown 17 touchdown passes with only five interceptions in an offense best known for its running attack led by tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
“Everybody talks about the guy who struggles and he’s the weak link, and when I watch the tape I see anything but,” Johnson said of Fromm. “I think the guy is really accurate. I think he runs their system well. Now he is blessed that he is surrounded by a bunch of really good players, but he carries his own weight. He performs at a very high level, I think.”
Georgia Tech’s first-year starter at quarterback, junior TaQuon Marshall, is the Yellow Jackets’ leading rusher. Marshall has more than 1,000 yards rushing with 17 touchdowns, but it hasn’t been enough to make up for the team’s problems on defense and special teams.
Johnson said the Yellow Jackets never fully gained their momentum after opening with a 42-41 loss to Tennessee at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Another oddity was having its scheduled game at Central Florida on Sept. 17 canceled by Hurricane Irma.
“I don’t think we ever really got going or had much momentum,” he said.
Saturday’s visit from the Bulldogs is the chance for a highlight to remember. Without a win over Georgia, the Yellow Jackets would need a waiver to land a bowl bid .
“If we could find a way to win on Saturday and maybe win a bowl game, we salvage a little bit of the season,” Johnson said. “Certainly when we started out our goal wasn’t to be 5-5 right now.”
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