Rivalry weekend has lost a little bit of its luster. I think this is due to a number of reasons that are mostly an after effect of conference expansion and the playoff. Conference expansion moved teams from conference to conference and killed off some great rivalries, such as Texas vs. Texas A&M and West Virginia vs. Pitt. Those were Thanksgiving weekend staples when I was a kid. The playoff somewhat messed this weekend up too. The “Bedlam” rivalry between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State got moved up a few weeks because the Big 12 was pressured into adding a title game in an effort to help their teams have better resumes for potential playoff berths. The conference didn’t want those two teams to play back-to-back weeks, so they moved the game. There are still a lot of good rivalry games on Thanksgiving weekend, but it has definitely taken a hit. Luckily, for Georgia fans, Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate still takes place on the last weekend of the regular season. The Dawgs’ revenge tour continued against Tech this past Saturday, and here’s what I saw from the game:
1. Bringing Back the Cup: It really is great to have the Governor’s Cup back where it belongs, isn’t it? After the Dawgs lost to Tech last year in Athens, the Yellow Jacket players definitely disrespected Sanford Stadium and the Georgia tradition of the hedges. Coach Smart has done such a good job of finding ways to keep his team motivated, but I doubt he had to do much leading up to this game other than remind the team of last season. There’s a lot of talk throughout the fan base about who Georgia’s biggest rival is. Some say Florida, some say Auburn, some say Tech, and some say Tennessee. One thing is for sure: while beating Tech might not seem like much some times, you DEFINITELY don’t want to lose to them.
2. Nick and Sony’s Retribution: Nick Chubb and Sony Michel did not come back to Georgia for their senior seasons to lose to Tech, and they made sure that didn’t happen. Although neither back got over 100 yards against The Enemy, both got into the end zone and both had some big time runs. Georgia’s offense was really paced by Jake Fromm in this game, but UGA’s two lead backs did great work when called upon. This game got chippy at times, but one thing you never saw was either of these two getting involved. They always seem to keep their head down, give the ball back to the referee, and get back in the huddle. It says a lot about their leadership and character, especially in a big rivalry game, that they kept their cool the whole time.
3. Fromm on the Flats: Jake Fromm had one of his most complete games of the season against the Yellow Jackets. His TD pass to Wims was on a rope and right where it needed to be. He even had a little bit of luck on his side. In the 3rd quarter, the play before Sony Michel’s rushing touchdown, Fromm had Isaac Nauta streaking WIDE OPEN on the left and instead, he threw to a covered Mecole Hardman. Hardman was able to come down with the ball, but missing a wide open receiver for a touchdown usually comes back to bite you. Fromm also had a great read option play where he pulled the ball away from Nick Chubb and took it for a 15-yard gain. He hasn’t done it a lot, but it seems like Fromm always pulls the ball and takes it himself at the right time. He also had a beautiful throw to Ahkil Crumpton that went for a long TD after Crumpton shook his defender. It can’t be said enough how important Fromm has been to this Georgia team this season, but he’ll need to step his game up even more this weekend.
4. Best Defender in the Country: I really do believe that Roquan Smith is the best defensive player in America. He was insane against Tech. He had nine total tackles, eight solo tackles, a sack, and three tackles for loss. Oh, I almost forgot, those three tackles for loss were all in the first half. He might be the perfect linebacker to defend the option due to his lateral speed. He can get sideline to sideline about as quickly as I’ve ever seen, and this season for him will go down as one of the best for a linebacker in Georgia history. He’s up for a load of postseason awards, and I would be shocked if he doesn’t walk away with a few. It’s very likely that he won’t be back next season, as he looks like a top ten draft pick, so Georgia will have some big shoes to fill. Luckily, the season isn’t over yet, and let’s hope that he’s got three more games in the red and black.
5. He Didn’t Do it Alone: As good as Roquan was against Tech, the rest of UGA’s defense deserves a lot of praise as well. D’Andre Walker had himself quite the game, with six solo tackles and two tackles for loss. He’s a great player as long as he can keep his head. Deandre Baker had a nice interception as well for Georgia. The Savages held Tech to 188 yards rushing, well below their season average. There was a huge gap in team speed that was apparent right off the bat, and Georgia definitely took advantage of that.
6. UGA’s Revenge Tour: The craziest thing about Georgia’s season in 2017? The Dawgs DESTROYED every team that beat them in 2016 (other than Ole Miss, who wasn’t on the schedule). There was talk of that revenge tour all season long, and it definitely came to fruition. In the four rematches against teams that beat them last season (Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida, and Georgia Tech), Georgia outscored those opponents 166-28. It wasn’t just that UGA was getting revenge; it was that they were getting revenge and annihilating those opponents. Some thought the revenge tour ended after Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate, but that might not be the case.
7. A Rematch at the Benz: In college football, it’s not often that a team gets a chance to avenge a loss from earlier in the season, but Georgia has just that opportunity this Saturday in Atlanta. The first ever SEC Championship game at the Mercedes Benz Stadium will be a rematch from less than a month ago. The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry has never been played twice in the same season, but that will change when the Dawgs face Auburn on Saturday. Georgia was definitely not at their best on November 4th at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but this game will be a lot different. First of all, there won’t be the home field advantage for the Tigers. That played a big role in Auburn’s win over Georgia, but that will be evened out at the Benz. Georgia also has the advantage of wanting to get revenge verses the possible Auburn mentality of having nothing to prove due to already beating Georgia. All that being said, I think the Dawgs will continue the revenge tour on Saturday, win their first SEC Championship since 2005, and become the first SEC team not named Alabama to advance to the College Football Playoff.