ATHENS, Ga. — Though it's a week early to compare Georgia and Alabama, the Bulldogs scored 42 first-half points this past Saturday against UMass while the Crimson Tide tallied just 10 against The Citadel.
The difference was The Citadel's triple-option offense, which moved the ball enough and consumed enough clock to leave Alabama's high-octane attack with just four possessions in the first 30 minutes. Georgia, by comparison, had the potential for seven first-half possessions, fumbling one away on a punt return but scoring touchdowns with the other six.
Georgia is well aware of what Alabama experienced, having ended its last 10 regular seasons against Paul Johnson's triple-option offense at Georgia Tech, which is most effective when grinding out first downs and opposing offenses are getting antsy on the sideline.
"As an offensive player, it's frustrating," Bulldogs senior receiver Terry Godwin said Monday. "You want to get out there so bad and make a play for your team to help your defense out and keep them off the field. It's so time-consuming. You know they're going to hold the ball, and if they don't get a first down, they might go for it.
"When they hold the ball, it's tough on you."
Georgia Tech will enter Saturday's showdown in Sanford Stadium with a 7-4 record and the nation's top rushing offense, averaging 353.7 yards a game. The Yellow Jackets also rank among the top five in time of possession, maintaining the ball for 34 minutes and 12 seconds per game.
The Bulldogs led Georgia Tech 27-14 entering the fourth quarter of their 2016 meeting but lost 28-27. In those final 15 minutes, the Yellow Jackets ran 24 plays for 166 yards and consumed nine minutes and 34 seconds, leaving Georgia essentially a third of the final quarter to produce just 15 plays for 29 yards.
"With the offense they run, they hold the ball and chew up clock," Georgia junior tight end Isaac Nauta said. "That's what they want to do, because it takes away possessions from us. Offensively, when we get the ball we've got to go score, because our possessions will be limited based off what they do.
"Our defense will have to stop them or take the ball from them to give us the ball back, so that aspect of the game is definitely a challenge, and it's different from what we see every other week."
The Citadel flustered Alabama early with a 12-play, 35-yard drive that reached the Crimson Tide 40-yard line and peeled off the opening seven minutes and eight seconds of the game. The Tide scored a touchdown on their first possession but then had a three-and-out and lost a fumble on their next two, which allowed the Southern Conference's Bulldogs to stay close.
Georgia has a top-10 rushing offense nationally that averages 257.5 yards a game, and Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart believes that could be just as advantageous as a stout performance by his defense.
"I think our number of opportunities or series or drives may be less in this game," Smart said, "but we probably have less than most people because we've been a ball-controlled, time-of-possession offense. Maybe not to the extent that Tech is, but we understand these kind of games. Every offensive possession is critical, but when is it not? It's always that way.
"I don't think you ever panic. You take advantage of your opportunities. You just may have less opportunities."
Rice likely out
The Bulldogs are expected to face Georgia Tech's triple-option offense without sophomore inside linebacker Monty Rice, who injured his foot during pregame warmups Saturday and did not play in the 66-27 rout of the Minutemen. Rice had started the previous four contests, and his 59 tackles before Saturday led the team.
"Monty is probably not going to be available this week," Smart said. "He's doubtful to be able to play. We think that he'll get better quickly. We hope to get him back, but I don't know when and don't know if it will be this week."
Georgia also could be without offensive linemen Ben Cleveland (ankle), Cade Mays (shoulder) and Kendall Baker (knee).
Odds and ends
Georgia is seeking its 11th 11-win season in program history. The Bulldogs are 17-6 against the Yellow Jackets since the establishment of the Governor's Cup Trophy in 1995. Georgia freshman quarterback Justin Fields is 25-of-35 passing this year (71.4 percent) for 341 yards and four touchdowns, and he has rushed 36 times for 250 yards (6.9 per carry) and four scores.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.