Early Football Preview and Predictions: Georgia Tech Yellowjackets
Observer Sports Staff | Friday, April 24, 2020
After hosting the Clemson Tigers at home, Notre Dame will travel to the state of Georgia for the second season in a row. This time, however, they will be traveling about 72 miles west of Athens to take on Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
Opponent: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Date: Nov. 14
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA
History of the Matchup:
The Irish and Yellow Jackets have more of a history than most fans are likely to be aware of, and their series has been a sporadic one. Notre Dame owns the all-time series lead at 28-6-1.
The two teams first faced off in 1922 as the Knute Rockne-led Irish won 13-3. They continued to face one another in each of the next seven seasons with Georgia Tech winning once.
Their rivalry went on hiatus until 1938 when they met for eight more seasons, with the Yellow Jackets again winning just once. The teams played each other 11 times from 1967 to 1981 and have played five time since.
The most recent contest went the way of Notre Dame in a 30-22 decision in 2015. The largest margin of victory for Georgia Tech came in a 33-3 victory in South Bend in 2007, while the Irish won 69-14 in their 1977 national championship season.
2019 Performance and Outlook:
Georgia Tech posted a 3-9 record last season, with wins coming 14-10 over South Florida, 28-21 over Miami (Fl.) and 28-26 over N.C. State. Their losses included a 45-0 drubbing by Virginia Tech, a 27-24 loss to The Citadel and a rarely seen 24-2 loss to Temple.
The Yellow Jackets rushed for 1,829 yards on the season, led by rising redshirt junior running back Jordan Mason. Mason recorded 899 yards on 172 attempts (5.2 yards per carry) and seven scores on the ground. The next two leading rushers were both quarterbacks, rising redshirt sophomore James Graham and rising redshirt junior Tobias Oliver with 290 and 279, respectively.
Graham took over starting quarterback duties in the fifth game last season after Oliver and then-redshirt junior quarterback Lucas Johnson split starts in the first four contests. An injury against The Citadel sidelined Johnson, who elected to take his talents elsewhere as a grad transfer this offseason.
Graham went 87-193 passing (45.1 percent completion) on the year with 1164 yards and 12 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Oliver only contributed 11-26 passing with two interceptions, but still appeared in all 12 games as he shifted to a slot receiver role. He caught 11 passes for 106 yards and one score.
Speaking of receiving, the two leading receivers for Georgia Tech in 2019, rising sophomore Ahmarean Brown and rising redshirt junior Adonicas Sanders, both return for the 2020 season. However, while Brown recorded 396 yards and seven scores on 21 receptions, Sanders had only 249 yards and no touchdowns. Not a single other player eclipsed 150 yards receiving on the year besides rising junior Malachi Carter who put up 240 yards and two touchdowns.
The Yellow Jackets are hoping that more stability under center and another year in second-year head coach Geoff Collins’s offense will help them return to a bowl game after missing out in 2019 with the 113th best record out of 130.
Hayden Adams — Sports Editor
It’s one thing to play a triple-option team, but one still in transition to a whole new offense? The only thing that concerns me is the fact that Notre Dame is coming off of a matchup with Clemson and they have to go down to Atlanta. However, win or lose against the Tigers, I don’t see the Irish dropping this one.
Against the Tigers I think the Irish will either battle and lose a competitive game or narrowly eke out a win. If the former happens then, like their response to the 2017 loss to Georgia, they will probably be more steamed than depressed over it. Should the Irish win, I doubt it will be in domineering fashion, so I’d like to think they wouldn’t be too cocky heading to Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Either way, let’s be real — it’s Georgia Tech. They’re going to have to junk it up and pray Notre Dame folds, but I don’t think Geoff Collins is going to turn a 3-9 team into one that has a legitimate shot at taking down the Irish, especially without a whole offseason to keep working on their “offense.”
FINAL: Notre Dame 30, Georgia Tech 13
Jimmy Ward — Associate Sports Editor
The Yellow Jackets were pretty underwhelming last season. And they only faced off against two ranked teams. Win or lose against Clemson, the Irish will probably still be ranked heading to Atlanta.
James Graham is still a young quarterback but he certainly has some potential, taking the reigns of a program and only throwing seven picks as a freshman is really quite impressive. Not to mention he can get it done on the ground just as easily. But I don’t think the Yellow Jackets will have enough to get a win over the Irish. They’ll have faced off against some of the top ACC competition over the course of the season when they meet the Irish, but I don’t see such a massive turnaround possible for the Yellow Jackets.
This game shouldn’t be a trap game even though it’s being hosted in one of the most impressive stages in all of football at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but it also won’t be a walk in the park, as the Irish will have — a week prior — been kicking off in South Bend against Clemson. But the Irish should still get it done easily in Georgia.
FINAL: Notre Dame 45, Georgia Tech 24