The Southeastern Conference concludes its 12-game regular season this week, and among the matchups are four against Atlantic Coast Conference foes — Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Kentucky-Louisville and South Carolina-Clemson.
Preparing for Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, Clemson's Deshaun Watson and Florida State's Deandre Francois will be challenging for those on the SEC side this week in practice, but Georgia defenders may have it the worst of all. The Bulldogs again are preparing for Tech's triple-option offense, and all those cut blocks that come with it.
"I'm definitely not excited about playing against cut-blocking," Bulldogs junior outside linebacker Davin Bellamy said after Saturday's 35-21 victory against Louisiana-Lafayette. "Playing this offense is going to take a lot of discipline."
The Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets are both 7-4 this season, with Georgia having won three straight games and Georgia Tech two.
Before their game two years ago in Athens, then-Bulldogs defensive lineman Ray Drew said he liked cut-blocking "as much as a cat likes a tub of water," and he really didn't like it when the Yellow Jackets rushed for 399 yards in their 30-24 overtime victory. Georgia Tech had just 28 rushing yards in the first quarter of the 2014 matchup but couldn't be slowed in the second half or overtime.
Georgia was much better a year ago, holding the Jackets to 194 rushing yards in its 13-7 win in Atlanta, which gave former Bulldogs coach Mark Richt a 13-2 record against the in-state rival. Richt was fired within 24 hours of last year's win over Tech, and now it's Kirby Smart's first turn against Paul Johnson's triple-option.
Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Anthony Jennings had 16 carries for 98 yards and three touchdowns Saturday, but Smart was quick to shake his head afterward when asked if there were aspects of the Ragin' Cajuns offense that could carry over this week.
"There is nothing applicable to what we're going to see against Georgia Tech, unfortunately," Smart said. "We have a hard time simulating it, and I don't know if Coach Johnson will watch one game of who we've played. If he does, I'll be shocked.
"You have to play a distinctively different style of football, and he knows that."
Cut-blocking is blocking below the waist permitted by the NCAA for offensive players who are not in motion at the snap of the ball. It is not legal to cut-block a defender who is engaged with another blocker, and it can be used only for straight-ahead blocks.
The Bulldogs worked on defending the triple-option some in preseason camp and again during the off week that followed their 17-16 loss to Vanderbilt on Oct. 15.
"I would love to be able to do more of that in the future, but you're taking time away from somebody else," Smart said. "It's very hard to get ready for in one week."
Georgia hosted Georgia Southern last season, escaping the option-oriented Eagles 23-17 in overtime the week before traveling to Atlanta to face Tech. There was no such prequel this year, so the Bulldogs will have to draw from last season and be honed in this week during practice.
"This is going to be my first full game against Georgia Tech, because I got hurt last year," sophomore defensive tackle Trent Thompson said. "I'm going to be ready. I've just got to go into practice making sure I use my hands and stay low."
Said Bellamy: "We have a big task ahead of us. Georgia Tech takes all of your instincts out of the game."