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Head to Head: Notre Dame vs. Georgia Tech

| Friday, November 19, 2021

Notre Dame Passing

After giving up 124.3 passing yards per game in their first three contests, Georgia Tech has struggled mightily against opposing quarterbacks. Every signal-caller since Week 3 has notched at least 250 yards, with all but two surpassing 300. They’ve given up 22 touchdown passes while securing just three interceptions. That was previously an 11:3 ratio, but in their last four contests, Georgia Tech has allowed 337.25 passing yards per game and 11 total touchdowns through the air – with zero picks. Meanwhile, since Jack Coan returned as the full-time starter for the Irish, he’s completed passes at a 73% clip with six touchdowns and just two interceptions. His efficiency is the perfect complement to a dynamic ground game, and he should be able to have his way against the Yellow Jackets’ leaky secondary. 

EDGE: Notre Dame

Notre Dame Rushing

Georgia Tech’s run defense is more of a strength than its pass defense, but they’ve still given up more than 150 yards on the ground in each of their past six contests. The Irish rushing attack has finally hit its stride thanks to a revamped offensive line, averaging 215 yards per game since their bye week. Kyren Williams is finally looking like his old self. Adding Logan Diggs to the mix has kept Williams fresh and provided a change of pace for opposing defenses, and the freshman has played like a veteran so far. The Irish are definitely the best rushing attack Georgia Tech has faced all season, and they will struggle to control the line of scrimmage. I sure don’t envy the Yellow Jackets attempting to stop the Irish in South Bend and then facing top ranked Georgia the following week.        

EDGE: Notre Dame

Notre Dame Offensive Coaching

Tommy Rees has been putting on a clinic recently. Yes it helps to have improved performance from the offensive line, but Rees has seamlessly adjusted to an entirely new offensive style, integrated a third running back into the rushing attack with little to no issue, and, if the first test was any indication, absorbed the loss of one of his top receivers in Avery Davis. Rees got three productive performances from Kyren Williams, Logan Diggs, and Chris Tyree last week, while mixing in some creative reverse calls for Lorenzo Styles and Braden Lenzy. The tempo offense has been the key behind Coan’s success, who thrives under quick drop backs. Rees has flown slightly under the radar but has improved greatly in his second year. 

He opposes Andrew Thacker, another young coach at age 36. Thacker spent one year as the defensive coordinator at Temple, leading a mediocre Owls’ unit. He’s followed it up with leading Georgia Tech defenses ranked 104th and 110th in his first two seasons. He gets a little bit of an extension due to Georgia Tech’s program overhaul, but he hasn’t shown much so far in the ways of coaching prowess at the higher levels. 

EDGE: Notre Dame 

Notre Dame Offensive Special Teams

Jonathan Doerer has made his past five field goal attempts, and the graduate student kicker continues to be extremely impressive from distance. Despite a 3-5 statline on field goal attempts between 30 and 39 yards, Doerer is 5-7 on efforts from 40+. In the kick return game, the Irish have the always-dangerous Chris Tyree, and they’ve got starting running back Kyren Williams returning punts. Both are capable of big plays, and both have broken off impressive returns – including Tyree’s touchdown against Wisconsin. Special teams continues to be an Irish strength in 2021. 

EDGE: Notre Dame

Georgia Tech Passing

It remains to be seen who will start at quarterback for the Yellow Jackets. So far this season, Jordan Yates has started four games and Jeff Sims has started six, but Yates got the nod last week with Sims being banged up after the Miami game. Regardless of who starts at quarterback for the Yellow Jackets, the passing game is not their strong suit, as they have under 2000 passing yards on the season, and they don’t possess a reliable wide receiver to throw to. The Irish secondary has been improving since losing safety Kyle Hamilton to injury, and they should be able to match up well against a sub-par Yellow Jackets passing attack. The Yellow Jackets have a banged-up offensive line as well, so the Irish should be able to get pressure on the quarterback to disrupt the Yellow Jackets’ rhythm in the passing game.

EDGE: Notre Dame

Georgia Tech Rushing

Despite its struggles in the passing game, the running game has been the Yellow Jackets’ bread and butter all season. Running back Jahmyr Gibbs has put together a special season with 687 rushing yards off of 129 attempts for four touchdowns. If Jeff Sims is given the nod at quarterback this week, he will prove to be difficult in the run game as well, as he has 70 carries for 372 yards and four touchdowns. The Yellow Jackets also have two other running backs behind Gibbs that have averaged over five yards per carry on the season. The Irish run defense will look to build off of one of its most impressive performances of the season where they held the Cavaliers to 82 rushing yards. The Irish run defense has looked much improved as of late, but they will face a stiff test against a Georgia Tech run game that has big play potential nearly every play.

EDGE: Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech Offensive Coaching

In his third season with the Yellow Jackets, Dave Patenaude is hitting a bit of a slump after such a big jump in 2020. The Yellow Jackets averaged 389.9 yards of total offense and 23.9 points per game, an increase of 103.6 yards and 7.2 points per game from the previous season. This change came with help from three then true freshmen, now sophomores: Williams, Gibbs and Sims. Freeman is in his first season with the Irish, which was more obvious at the start of the season. He has since settled in with the team who can’t say enough about him and his methods. Respect like that from your players creates an environment capable of breaking down any offense, especially one that’s had a rocky year as it is.

EDGE: Notre Dame

Georgia Tech Offensive Special Teams

The mere presence of Jahmyr Gibbs makes this a dangerous unit for the Yellow Jackets. Returning kicks at 26 yards per effort and with a house call already, Gibbs is an electric presence. The punt returns are nothing to write home about, and the kicking game is limited. Brent Cimaglia is locked in from 37 yards (his season-long) and in. He’s 11-11 from that range, but he’s 0-5 from anything further out. That long-range weakness becomes a major problem for the Yellow Jackets, who face an Irish defense that’s been exceptional in and around the red zone. Because the Irish have been solid in kick coverage, and they may force longer field goal tries from Georgia Tech, this advantage is a slight one for Notre Dame.

EDGE: Notre Dame

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