#270 Georgia Institute of Technology Yellow Jacketsvs.#269 University of Kentucky Wildcats
Written by Benjamin Hayes
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-4 SU, 6-4-1 ATS, 6-4-1 O/U) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS, 7-5 O/U)
When and Where: Saturday, Dec. 31, TaxSlayer Bowl, EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla., 11amET
Line: Georgia Tech -3.5
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets come into the Tax Slayer Bowl having won three straight games over Virginia Tech (30-20), Virginia (31-17) and Georgia (28-27). Kentucky is coming off an upset win over Louisville on the road, 41-38 on Nov. 26. The Wildcats, who are going to their first bowl game since 2010, will try and slow the Georgia Tech option game down led by quarterback Justin Thomas. It’s the ACC against the SEC on Saturday morning from Jacksonville.
Georgia Tech had lost to Clemson (26-7), Miami (Fla.) by 14, and Pittsburgh by three before winning five of their last six games. This was a much-needed stretch for head coach Paul Johnson, whose squad went 3-9 last season. In their last game against Georgia on Nov. 26, Thomas led the way with 164 passing yards (6-of-10, 1 INT). The Yellow Jackets were down 27-14 going into the fourth quarter before scoring two touchdowns, including a Qua Searcy 6-yard run with 30 seconds left in the game to get the 28-27 win.
The Yellow Jackets have to replace leading rushing Marcus Marshall (624 yards),w ho is transferring down to FCS James Madison. Fortunately, Georgia Tech has depth led by freshman Dedrick Mills (602 yards, 11 TDs). Junior running back Clinton Lynch (392 yards on 35 carries, 8 TDs) is also a capable playmaker. Thomas is the key to the ground attack that ranked 10th in the nation with 257.4 yards per game on the ground. He also led the team in receiving yards with 490 with six TDs. Thomas completed 54.8 percent of his passes for 1,494 yards with eight TDs and two picks. He ran for 562 yards (4.4ypc) with four scores.
Defensively, the Yellow Jackets surrendered just 21.3 points per game in their last three games. Cornerback Lance Austin tied for the lead on the team in picks with three and pass breakups with 12.
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy, but not based on his performance against Kentucky. He was picked off three times in Kentucky’s 41-38 win on Nov. 26. Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson led the Wildcats with 338 yards passing, three TDs and one pick and added 83 yards on eight carries. This was a career game for Johnson, a Grambling transfer, who has completed just 54.5 percent of his passes for 1,862 yards with 12 TDs and six picks. The Kentucky passing game ranks just 102nd in the nation in passing offense with 187 yards per game.
The Kentucky passing game ranks just 102nd in the nation in passing offense with 187 yards per game. But they average 244.1 yards rushing per game to rank 15th. They are led by two 1,000-yard rushers in Stanley “Boom” Williams (1,135 yards) and freshman Benny Snell (1,079 yards). Williams averaged 7.1 yards per carry, while Snell set freshman records for rushing yards, touchdowns, and 100-yard games. On defense, Kentucky struggled this year, allowing 31.2 points per game. On the road, they averaged allowing 37.4 points per game. Linebacker Jordan Jones earned second-team All-SEC honors, recording 100 tackles, including 14 for loss.
College Football Trends:
Georgia Tech is:
I’d like to pick the dog here, but Kentucky is horrific against the run. They are allowing 227.8 yards per game on the ground (109th) and even a month of preparation is not going to help against a good option team.
This should be a fun game to watch. Kentucky should be full of confidence after beating Louisville as a 28.5 point underdog. Georgia Tech is a difficult team to defend because Justin Thomas is not your typical option quarterback. He’s is very nimble but also can throw the ball downfield. Kentucky is 15-5-1 Over last 21 non-conference games.
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Ben has been a sports writer for over 30 years, dabbling in college and pro basketball, college and pro football, baseball, college lacrosse, minor league baseball and even college gymnastics. He's also been involved in the gaming industry for over 25 years and has been looking to beat the books since he was 13!