If there is one absolute about this week’s Georgia-Georgia Tech game, it’s that the Bulldogs are perceived as a better teams. Georgia is a 12½-point favorite on the Glantz-Culver line. The Dogs rank higher in both the college football playoff poll (Georgia 10th, Georgia Tech 18th) and the AP poll (Georgia eighth, Georgia Tech 16th).
But a case could be made that Georgia Tech has had the better season, certainly against the backdrop of expectations.
Breaking it down:
• Records: Both teams are 9-2 overall and 6-2 in their respective conferences. They have only one common opponent: Clemson (both won). The Jackets already have clinched the ACC Coastal and a spot in the conference championship game against Florida State. The Bulldogs need Missouri to lose its final game at home against Arkansas to win the SEC East and play in the Georgia Dome in two weeks (against Alabama or Mississippi State).
• Preseason predictions: Most picked South Carolina to win the SEC East. Most expected Georgia to finish second but some projected them as East champions (present company included). Conversely, Georgia Tech wasn’t expected to finish anywhere near the top of the ACC Coastal. The ACC preseason media poll had the Jackets placing fourth behind Miami, Virginia Tech and North Carolina. (I had Tech finishing 8-4, 5-3 in the ACC).
• Big wins: Georgia opened the season impressively with a 45-21 win over then No. 16 Clemson, won 34-0 at No. 23 Missouri in the first game without then suspended running back Todd Gurley and two weeks ago slammed No. 9 Auburn 34-7. Georgia Tech, after looking wobbly in early non-conference play, opened ACC play with a big 27-24 win at Virginia Tech and followed that up with an even bigger 28-17 win over Miami. Their last game was their best performance of the year: a 28-6 win over No. 19 Clemson.
• One bad loss: The Dogs lost a winnable game at South Carolina 38-35. Tech had raised expectations with the wins over Virginia Tech and Miami but then lost at home to an underdog Duke team, falling behind 31-12 and losing 31-25.
• One really bad loss: Georgia went to Jacksonville to face Florida, which had lost three out of four, and appeared on the verge of firing coach Will Muschamp, only to allow 418 yards rushing and lose to the Gators 38-20. Tech followed its loss to Duke by going to North Carolina, which was reeling with a four-game losing streak and off-field issues, and lost a score-fest to the Tar Heels 48-43.
• Big picture: The Jackets will play for a conference championship and any question about Paul Johnson’s job security under a relatively new athletic director (Mike Bobinski) should have dissipated. Consecutive upsets over No. 10 Georgia and No. 3 Florida State probably wouldn’t be enough to elevate the Jackets into a playoff berth but their fans would be euphoric. The Bulldogs need help to get to the SEC title game. If they get there, play Alabama and win but miss the playoffs, most fans will be happy but still be upset about the Florida game.
It’s close. But given expectations, Tech has had the better season. Agree or disagree? The cyber-floor is yours.