|Georgia Tech stands in way of Georgia's playoff push|
ATLANTA -- There's one big obstacle between Georgia and its opportunity to play in the College Football Playoffs -- rival Georgia Tech.
The No. 7 Bulldogs (10-1) must stay focused and beat Georgia Tech (5-5), which needs a victory to become bowl eligible. Kickoff for the 112th version of "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate" will be at noon ET at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
"Our focus and concentration is on playing the best football game," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. "Our job is to go over there and get ready to play at noon, get after it and have the best possible plan we can put together to allow our players to be successful."
A win by Georgia would be its 11th of the season, something that has happened only twice in the program's history. The last time came in 2012, when the Bulldogs won the SEC East and lost to Alabama in the conference championship game. They will play the Crimson Tide in this season's SEC title game.
Georgia Tech won last year's rivalry game 28-27 in Athens. The Yellow Jackets have won the last two meetings in Athens, but haven't beaten the Bulldogs at Bobby Dodd Stadium since 1999. Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson is 3-6 against Georgia, but all three wins have come in Athens.
"I think our kids are at home (in Atlanta), a lot of kids are from that area," Smart said. "Usually has something to do with the Xs and Ox and the players involved in the game."
Georgia's offense is led by running backs Nick Chubb (1,045 yards) and Sony Michel (818 yards), two of the top three senior running backs in the country, according to NFLDraftScout.com. Michel ran for 170 yards and Chubb ran for 88 against the Yellow Jackets last year.
"(Chubb) is physical and a big back," Johnson said. "They have several good running backs. I think Sony Michel is one of the best players in the country. He's kind of a jack-of-all-trades guy. But both those guys are good and they've got good receivers and tight ends. They've got a good football team."
Georgia has thrived behind its big offensive line, one of seven semifinalists for the Joe Moore Award, given to the country's most outstanding line unit. Georgia's running game got back on the right track after the loss to Auburn, rushing for almost 400 yards last week against Kentucky, which pushed the Bulldogs' per-game average back up to 267.4 yards per game.
True freshman quarterback Jake Fromm has thrown for 1,766 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Georgia Tech has two players who have topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark -- quarterback TaQuon Marshall (1,074 yards, 17 touchdowns) and B-back KirVonte Benson (1,009 yards, six touchdowns). The Yellow Jackets, known for their run-oriented offense, are even more one-sided than in the past. They have thrown for only 889 yards this season.
Georgia ranks second in the SEC allowing 105.6 rushing yards per game, but this triple-option attack is something different. The Bulldogs' defense is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, a finalist for the Nagurski and Bednarik awards as the nation's best defender.
He's not only one of the fastest linebackers in the SEC, but he gives Georgia physical presence at the position that it has lacked in the past two or three years.
Georgia defensive tackle John Atkins said last season's loss to the Yellow Jackets still stings.
"That's what a lot of guys came back for, losing to Tech last year. You don't want to lose to Tech our last year here," Atkins said. "We're not thinking about the SEC game. Tech's the next game."
In the nine years that Johnson has been at Georgia Tech, only two games have been decided by more than eight points. Last year's game was decided in the final minutes and the games in 2013 and 2014 went into overtime.
"Other than one year here, when they were really good, the games have been pretty close," Johnson said. "That's kind of indicative of a rivalry game. Both teams want to play and it's a big deal."
Georgia Tech has an overall eight-game home winning streak heading into the game. A win would make the Jackets bowl eligible for the 20th time in the past 21 seasons.