|College Football: Georgia at Georgia Tech Preview & Picks|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Wednesday, 21 November 2007 04:25|
Out of Their Hands
Georgia won't know whether it's going to play in the SEC championship game when it takes the field Saturday, and its own result won't have any effect on those chances.
With their destiny in the conference out of their control, the sixth-ranked Bulldogs (9-2, 6-2) try to focus on the task at hand as they visit Georgia Tech (7-4, 4-4) looking to defeat their area foe for the seventh straight year.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Georgia –3.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 96% of bets for this game have been placed on Georgia –3.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
With Georgia having completed its SEC schedule with a 6-2 record, the Bulldogs will be following the progress of No. 19 Tennessee's game at Kentucky throughout the day. Georgia and Georgia Tech begin play at 3:30 EST - two hours after the Vols and Wildcats get underway.
If Tennessee beats Kentucky - something it's done 22 straight times, the longest active NCAA win streak against an FBS team - the Vols clinch a trip to Atlanta and a matchup with top-ranked LSU on Dec. 1.
Georgia, which is a half-game ahead of the Vols but lost 35-14 to them on Oct. 6, appeared to be on its way to securing a berth in the title game last week, when it defeated Kentucky 24-13. Tennessee, though, rallied from a 24-9 fourth-quarter deficit against Vanderbilt to win 25-24 and keep its SEC East hopes alive.
Even if Tennessee wins Saturday, Georgia should be in good position for an at-large berth to a BCS game if it can beat the Yellow Jackets. So while they won't control their SEC destiny Saturday, the Bulldogs' BCS fate is largely in their own hands.
"Our guys understand that,'' Richt said. "They understand we'll be in a very good position to have a BCS opportunity if we win, regardless of what happens in the Kentucky-Tennessee game. And just playing Georgia Tech is plenty of motivation for our guys to get ready to play.''
The annual matchup with the Yellow Jackets has certainly been enough motivation for Georgia recently. They Bulldogs have won the past six in the series by an average of 15 points, though the last three games have each been decided by a touchdown or less. Prior to Georgia's six-game run, Georgia Tech won three in a row, but the Bulldogs ran off seven straight before that.
``We'll be pumped up either way because it's Tech,'' Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran, an Atlanta native, said of facing the Yellow Jackets while the Bulldogs' SEC fate is decided elsewhere. ``Wherever we end up, we'll be happy as long as we finish that last game strong.''
Richt and his team have reinvented themselves since the blowout loss to Tennessee. They've won five straight since, sparked by a planned end-zone celebration against Florida and by wearing black jerseys against Auburn.
Most significantly, they've turned to Knowshon Moreno.
The dynamic freshman tailback has started all five games since the Tennessee loss, and he's powered the Bulldogs, topping 100 yards each time and totaling 766 yards on 131 carries with nine touchdowns.
"I don't think I've slept since that Florida game. I've been so excited,'' Richt said. "This is year seven for me, and it's never been like this.''
The ground game lifted Georgia over Kentucky last week. Quarterback Matthew Stafford struggled, throwing for a season-worst 99 yards and two interceptions, but Moreno (22 carries, 124 yards) and Thomas Brown (22 carries, 73 yards) ensured that the worst the Bulldogs could do is tie Tennessee for the SEC East title.
The win made Richt only the eighth major-college coach to win 70 games in his first seven seasons.
Things aren't going nearly as well for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets started 2-0 with dominant wins over Notre Dame and Samford, and climbed to 15th in the Top 25. Three losses in their next four games, though, derailed their hopes of making a major bowl.
Chan Gailey's team has since won four of five, but the Georgia Tech coach may be feeling some heat. In his sixth year leading the Yellow Jackets, Gailey has compiled a 37-27 record and has yet to beat Georgia. Aside from last year's 9-5 finish, Georgia Tech has finished with exactly seven wins in each year of his tenure.
"Everybody puts a lot of weight on (rivalry games) and everyone takes a lot of pride in winning them, and it hurts when you lose them," Gailey said. "When you don't win, it makes you feel bad and everyone around you feels bad. You live with it for 365 days and you have to go try again the next year."
When Georgia Tech running back Tashard Choice has run well, the Yellow Jackets have mostly been winning. Choice, who leads the ACC with 1,176 yards rushing, was limited to 50 total yards in losses to Boston College and Virginia. After spraining his ankle early in a win over Army, Choice missed the game against Virginia Tech and the Yellow Jackets lost 27-3.
He's since returned to run for a combined 312 yards in victories over Duke and North Carolina. On Saturday, with the Tar Heels leading 25-24 late in the game, Choice's running helped move Georgia Tech into position for Travis Bell's 27-yard field goal and the Yellow Jackets beat North Carolina for the third straight year.
Choice ran for 146 yards and a touchdown in Tech's 15-12 loss to Georgia last season.
The Bulldogs lead the series 58-38-5.
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