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SEC vs ACC: Georgia and Georgia Tech Battle for Peach State Supremacy

Posted: Feb 12, 2009

With recruiting classes signed and spring practices approaching, it’s a good time to look at states in the Swampland Footprint that share SEC and ACC teams. 

We’re going to start in the Peach State, where a long time rivalry was renewed last November with Georgia Tech’s thrilling 45-42 win over Georgia, their first over the Bulldogs since 2000.

Paul Johnson had a stellar debut season at Tech, leading the Jackets to 9-3 regular season mark and giving the Ramblin’ Wreck fan base hope for the future. Georgia also went 9-3 in the regular season, but after starting the year ranked at the top of many polls, the Dawgs (and the Black and Red fans) did not see 2008 as the same success story as their counterparts in Atlanta.

For the 2009 season, UGA faces the issue of having to replace all-conference runner Knowshon Moreno and quarterback Matthew Stafford. Both stars left early for the NFL so finding the next playmaker(s) on offense will be paramount. Senior Joe Cox will get the first chance to be the signal caller, with Logan Gray and freshman Aaron Murray competing as well. The Bulldogs have recruited well at running back (Caleb King and Richard Samuel are next), plus they return their offensive line and last season’s freshman wide receiver sensation, A.J. Green.

Perhaps the bigger area of concern for Mark Richt is on defense, where UGA finished a surprising 59th in the country in scoring defense. The Dawgs gave up 38 or more points five times last season, despite winning two of those. With an inexperienced quarterback, Georgia might not have the offensive punch next season to overcome such poor defensive play.

Many questioned if Paul Johnson’s running attack would work in the ACC, but Georgia Tech finished 4th in the nation in rushing. Where Rich Rodriguez struggled to fit a new system with personnel he did not recruit, Johnson had no such issues in making his vaunted option attack work at the BCS level. Of course, it helps when you have a superstar like running back Jonathan Dwyer (likely a pre-season All-American) and elusive quarterback Josh Nesbitt. Both of them return in ’09, and Tech should put up a ton of yards and points with only one loss (All-ACC lineman Andrew Gardner) on that side of the ball. The Jackets do lose a lot on the defensive line, but other than that key spot, they will look a lot like the 2008 team. Johnson’s second team should be a Top 10-15 caliber squad that can compete for the ACC Title.

Georgia won’t have to deal with the expectations of last season and should be helped out by a ton of experienced players and the ninth-rated recruiting class in the country. The Yellow Jackets had an amazing season but were humbled in their hometown Chick-fil-A Bowl, a 38-3 blowout loss to LSU. The momentum of the 9-3 regular season also did not seem to carry over to recruiting where Tech finished 49th. Of course, Johnson (who has made a career out of doing more with less) said the class fit their needs, but he must recruit well to keep up with Florida State, Miami, and Virginia Tech, and North Carolina in the ACC.

2009 looks be to an up year in the state of Georgia. Both teams should be ranked in the Top 20 for most of the year as the Bulldogs chase Florida (along with the rest of the nation) in the SEC East and the Jackets compete for the ACC Coastal crown.

If the ACC wants to gain ground on the SEC, the State of Georgia is a great place to start.  Tech used to be a member of the SEC decades ago before voluntarily leaving, and they consider their program as a peer to Georgia even if Bulldog fans scoff at that notion. 

Make sure to circle November 28th on your calendar when Georgia heads to Bobby Dodd Stadium to try and exact some revenge on Georgia Tech.

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