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Way-Too-Early Preview: Irish look to defeat Georgia Tech for second consecutive season

| Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Last season, Notre Dame faced Georgia Tech in probably one of the more overlooked games of their undefeated regular season campaign. The relatively pedestrian 31-13 victory for the Irish preceded their double-overtime victory over No. 1 Clemson that defined their season. However, in 2021, Notre Dame will take on the Yellow Jackets for their Senior Day battle in the penultimate game of the regular season, the stakes of which will be determined by some higher profile games earlier in the Irish schedule. Let’s get into the way-too-early preview. 

Opponent: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Date: Saturday, Nov. 20

Location: Notre Dame Stadium

Kickoff: 2:30 p.m.

History of the matchup

Georgia Tech is another ACC opponent that Notre Dame has historically dominated. Notre Dame has run up a 29-6-1 record against the Yellow Jackets, giving up under 11 points per game in those 36 contests. The Irish are currently on a two-game winning streak in the series, winning games in 2015 and 2020, with Georgia Tech’s last victory coming in 2007. All-time, the Yellow Jackets are just 3-16 in true road games versus the Irish. The two teams have met just six times in the modern era, with Notre Dame going 4-2 (4-1 in the regular season and 2-1 at home). The most recent matchup was all Notre Dame, who was hitting their midseason stride when they faced Georgia Tech on the road on Halloween, systematically dismantling the Yellow Jackets by 18 points. Ian Book threw for 199 yards and a touchdown, while Kyren Williams found the end zone twice in the contest. 

2020 performance

Georgia Tech flashed potential during their 2020 season, during which they accumulated a 3-7 record. The Yellow Jackets opened up with a sloppy yet stunning 16-13 victory over Florida State, and they also notched blowout victories versus Louisville and Duke. First-year quarterback Jeff Sims had moments of brilliance, but he also looked very much like a first-year on occasion, as he matched his 13 touchdowns with 13 interceptions, completing passes at a 55% rate. Sims also led a paltry rushing attack for the Yellow Jackets with 492 rushing yards and six scores on the ground. Four other players notched at least 220 rushing yards. Jalen Camp was Sims’ top target through the air, averaging 15.4 yards per reception on 27 catches. Malachi Carter had 20 catches for 290 yards and three touchdowns, while running back Jahmyr Gibbs demonstrated his versatility with 460 rushing yards and 303 receiving yards. 

Defensive back Juanyeh Thomas paced the defense, forcing three fumbles and intercepting a pass. Linebacker Quez Jackson and defensive back Zamari Walton each had two interceptions as well, while defensive lineman Jordan Domineck notched four sacks, 8.5 tackles for loss and a pair of forced fumbles. Linebacker David Curry led the team with nine tackles for loss. 

2021 outlook

The ACC figures to be Clemson’s to lose, with Miami and UNC as the Tigers’ top challengers. With games against all three opponents, plus the reinstatement of their rivalry with Georgia, a national title contender, the Yellow Jackets face an uphill battle to reach a bowl game. Winning 5-6 teams would be a solid goal for Sims and Co. The Yellow Jackets do return Sims, who will look to take his next step forward as a quarterback, but with Camp gone, he needs to find a new favorite receiver. Carter figures to be that guy, but Gibbs is another dangerous option out of the backfield. Look for redshirt junior Adonicas Sanders or redshirt sophomore Peje’ Harris to step up as the WR #2 in the offense.

Defensively, Thomas returns as a disruptive playmaker for the Yellow Jackets, and Old Dominion transfer Keion White could help as an edge rusher. Georgia Tech does lose Curry to graduation, but Domineck returns to anchor the defensive line, while Jackson and Walton continue to lead the linebacker room. The defense struggled at times in 2020, but with a lot of returning production, and a more standard preseason than in 2020, the Yellow Jackets have hope for significant improvement on that side of the ball. 

(Way-Too-Early) Predictions

Aidan Thomas — Sports Writer

Notre Dame is the far superior team in this matchup, regardless of how things shake out in their quarterback battle and various other positions of uncertainty. Combine that with their stellar record at home, and three straight Senior Day blowouts… This one is not going to be close. Irish should flirt with 40+ points and have little issue defensively with a Georgia Tech offense that was very turnover-prone last season. Irish roll, start to finish.

Notre Dame 37, Georgia Tech 14

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