One of the grand old rivalries of college football took a 16 year (or so) hiatus until being renewed in 2003. The return trip of the series is this weekend on the Plains.
Why UGA Fans Should Watch:
This is a win for Dawg fans either way. If Auburn loses, we don't have to hear anything else about this annoying winning streak. If GT loses, there's little chance that Gailey will put together the sort of big year that gets him a contract extension.
How do the teams matchup?
Where is Tech's advantage?
Skill Position advantage. Shockingly, Georgia Tech has the overall edge in offensive skill players. Both in terms of talent and experience for this early season matchup.
Reggie Ball can play as bad as any QB in America when he's off, but the kid has 23+ starts under his belt. When PJ Daniels is healthy, Ball's record is actually quite good (See AU vs. GT 2003). Will he hold up on the road in a hostile crowd? Who knows. But it's always a safer bet to take the veteran QB who has proven that he "can" play well vs. the rookie making his first start. Edge = GT (slightly)
[Photo: I'm not saying Ball is Joe Montana. Just saying he's better than a Game 1 Rookie if you're picking today.]
Daniels has proven that he's a very, very good college back when healthy. And he is healthy this week. As a true freshman, he rushed for 1,500 yards in the ACC. Tre Smith rushed for 100+ versus a good Bama defense in 2002. Otherwise, he's been injured or a non-factor. He's also coming off appendix surgery. Kenny Irons couldn't beat out Daccus Thurman at SC to sniff playing time. Edge = GT (huge, huge edge)
[Photo: Kenny Irons gets mauled by Florida. He also got clobbered by East Idaho Teacher's College, but I couldn't find pictures of that.]
Aromashodu (Sr.), Obomanu (Sr.) and Courtney Taylor (Jr.) are solid, proven and veteran SEC WRs. None of them are as talented as Calvin Johnson. Auburn also has no one who can cover Calvin if Reggie gets him the ball. But Calvin is one man. Damarius Bilbo is known to channel Ron Garvin at times. He has emmense physical talents, but he flat out can't catch. Pat Clark is an unknown. Edge = Auburn (It's easier to scheme against 1 great WR than it is 3 very good ones.)
[Photo: Hands of Stone Ron Garvin was Bilbo's hero and role model]
What is Auburn's advantage?
Beef! The lines of scrimmage.
GT's Offensive Line vs. Auburn's Front 7
Tech loses 3 starters and several backups from an offensive line that wasn't very good in 2004. Wrotto was looking to be a player on OL, but defensive injuries moved him back to DT where he can return to his play makingless ways (more on that later). True, Auburn is replacing 3 starters on the DL, but two of the replacements are seniors and all played meaningful minutes last year. And all are very talented. Auburn also returns all 3 starters from an outstanding LB corp. Massive Overwhelming Edge = Auburn
Auburn returns all world OT Marcus McNeil along with very solid performers in Reddick and Grubbs. With the exception of 2003, Auburn almost always fields a solid OL. This group is more talented and physical than a typical AU OL. So I expect big things.
[Photo: McNeil vs any GT lineman not named Eric is bad times for GT]
[Photo: Wrotto wasn't considered for this ESPN show, and it wasn't because he doesn't live a reckless, lawless life. He just doesn't make plays.]
Tech has solid linebackers. This is an area where Gailey has recruited well. However, one of his best playmakers last year was Chris Reis. As a Safety 2 years ago his lack of DB speed got him beat regularly. As a LB last year, his speed was above average for the position, and he was a consistent playmaker. So, Gailey moves him back to Safety. With the loss of Richard and Houston, I don't think this is near the Defense that GT people were giddy about back in late January.
The matchups along the lines don't favor GT in the least. However, Tenuta is every bit as good a defensive coordinator as Borges is with the offense. If Auburn had a proven RB, I'd predict them to win by 10+ points. But in Game 1 with a rookie QB and no proven RBs, I'm expecting a close battle. The team that turns it over the least wins. I think that team will be Auburn in a 16 to 13 type affair. Ugly and low scoring.