ATLANTA — Georgia Tech offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude had a surprising answer Tuesday when asked for his historical perspective on the Georgia Bulldogs' defensive front, led by mammoth tackle Jordan Davis.
"Maybe like the Rams, the Steelers," Patenaude said.
To be sure, no Georgia coach has used NFL measuring sticks for Georgia Tech's talent this week as the teams prepare for Saturday's game for Peach State bragging rights.
With Georgia head coach Kirby Smart chasing a national championship in his sixth season leading his alma mater and Yellow Jackets head coach Geoff Collins finishing with another losing record in his third year, the gap between the programs seems wider than ever.
Georgia (11-0) is the unanimous No. 1 team in The AP Top 25 poll for the seventh consecutive week. The Bulldogs, also No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night, will take a 15-game winning streak — the Football Bowl Subdivision's longest active run — into Saturday's game against Tech in Atlanta.
Georgia has won three in a row and nine of the past 11 in the rivalry known as Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. The teams didn't face one another last year, when the Bulldogs played an all-league schedule along with the rest of the Southeastern Conference.
After last week's ugly 55-0 loss at No. 6 Notre Dame, the Jackets (3-8) take a five-game losing streak into their season finale. They have been listed as 35 1/2 point underdogs by FanDuel Sportsbook, and they'll need to spring a major upset to avoid their third consecutive three-win season under Collins.
Tech was 3-3 after a 31-27 Atlantic Coast Conference win at Duke on Oct. 9 before starting its losing streak. The lopsided loss to Notre Dame disrupted Collins' ability to point to other close defeats as evidence of progress, something he'd done multiple times this year.
Collins opened his weekly news conference this week by acknowledging "possible fan frustration, donors, boosters, all those things."
"I get it," Collins said. "I understand it. I'm frustrated. I'm as big of a competitor as there is in the game, and so I'm frustrated. Even though we've made progress, it still hasn't shown up in the win column, where we want it to be, where we need it to be and where it will be."
A season-ending win over Georgia would be Collins' best proof of progress.
Even in a state rivalry game, Georgia's biggest danger Saturday might be looking ahead to its SEC championship game against Alabama on Dec. 4 in Atlanta. Thus far, Georgia has avoided any missteps when heavily favored, including in last week's 56-7 rout of Football Championship Subdivision foe Charleston Southern.
"That doesn't concern me," Smart said. "Our guys are very mature and handle things very well. It was awesome at the game the other day to come out and approach this thing with a will not be denied attitude. We're going out to play our best game. That's out goal: Play our best game of the season."
Davis, the 6-foot-6, 340-pound defensive tackle, ran for a touchdown out of the Bulldogs' jumbo formation against Charleston Southern. He is one of many standouts for Georgia's defense, which leads the FBS with only 7.5 points allowed per game. Tech has allowed 32.5 per game to rank 106th.
For the Jackets, this weekend will be important even after the game is over. Collins said Sunday will be an important day to "evaluate everything and what steps do we need to take to make sure we're progressing."
Asked about his evaluation of his coordinators — Patenaude on offense and Andrew Thacker on defense — Collins said it's a "conversation that we'll continue to have."