Georgia Tech got off to a good start last week offensively but how do they matchup against the UCF Golden Knights?
Coming off a big conference road win that made a huge statement to kick off year two under Geoff Collins, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets return to their home turf on Saturday to host a very talented University of Central Florida team in a much-anticipated non-conference contest starting at 3:30 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Golden Knights are nationally-ranked and the pick by many to win the American Athletic Conference.
Here’s a look at the position-group breakdown and which team has the edge going into Saturday On The Flats:
Georgia Tech got an impressive performance in their opener from true freshman Jeff Sims (24-of-35, 277 yards, 1 TD, 2 Int.) that has many of the Jackets’ faithful buzzing about the future and the present. But UCF returns a quarterback that had a huge freshman season of his own last year in Dillon Gabriel.
Gabriel stepped into the starting role last season after the horrific injury to previous starter McKenzie Milton the previous year, and Gabriel performed quite well in the role. He took the QB1 reps in 12 of the Knights’ 13 games, throwing for 3,653 yards and 29 touchdowns while setting freshman school records.
It’s hard for Tech fans to not to be excited after what Sims did for the Jackets in Tallahassee, and Gabriel and the Knights are making their 2020 debut rather than having a game under their belt already. But experience tilts the scales in this category in favor of the visiting team.
Georgia Tech showed why many around the country and the ACC, in particular, have high hopes for their running back group as Jordan Mason, Jamious Griffin, and Dontae Smith all made key plays in the season-opening win over Florida State, and that was all without much-hyped freshman Jahmyr Gibbs on the field last week.
While the Jackets use a committee approach in the backfield, UCF will do the same with several players taking their share of reps. That group will be led by Otis Anderson, who can make some big plays, whether that means carrying the ball, catching the ball or in the return game. The senior Anderson led the Knights in rushing yards last season with 726 yards to go with five rushing touchdowns and three receiving touchdowns.
Both backfields have some talented players, but it’s the Jackets with the deeper, more well-rounded and overall more talented stable of backs.
Edge: Georgia Tech
Wide Receiver/Tight End
The Georgia Tech receiving corps showed balance last Saturday in Tallahassee as Sims spread the ball out to an impressive 10 different players who recorded catches. There has been a lot of talk about the improvement of the group from top to bottom coming into the season, and they showed that as they were led by Malachi Carter with six catches for 66 yards and a touchdown and Jalen Camp with five catches for 57 yards.
Central Florida returns a proven commodity at receiver in Tre Nixon, who had more than 800 yards receiving and seven touchdowns in 2019, but behind him there are a lot of new names being asked to step up without much quality experience. A few names to remember that could be counted on are Marlon Williams and Jacob Harris.
This is a close one with both teams having a lot of potential in their receiving groups but not a whole lot of production (yet). Just going off their Week 1 performance as a unit and UCF playing for the first time in 2020, the Jackets get a slight bump ahead.
Edge: Georgia Tech
One of the biggest differences Georgia Tech showed from last year in their Week 1 win was along the offensive line. The Jackets’ looked physically different with a lot more size up front, and they also looked different as far as performance, winning many of the battles on the line of scrimmage in the running game and the passing game. Freshman Jordan Williams had a solid debut to go along with experienced guys, including Jack DeFoor and Zach Quinney, who also performed well.
Central Florida has three starters back on the offensive line from last year’s team with guards Cole Schneider and Samuel Jackson leading the group. The unit was a big part of the Knights’ impressive offensive year in 2019 and look to pick up where they left off following last season. Depth could be an issue with multiple offensive linemen opting out for UCF prior to the season.
A little coincidence in the matchup is that both teams have a transfer from Tennessee that will likely start with Georgia Tech guard Ryan Johnson and UCF tackle Marcus Tatum expected to be on the field on Saturday.
Despite their solid debut as a group last week, Georgia Tech’s offensive line is still looking for consistency while UCF’s unit is a little further along. It’s close, but the Knights have a slight advantage.
It’s really a tough call to make on which offense will be better on Saturday as there seems to be more proven worth in Central Florida, but Georgia Tech also showed that they could be capable of big things last week against Florida State. It should be fun to watch as the task will be difficult for both defenses to slow their opponent down.
It will be interesting to see Gabriel look to take the next step in his maturation in his second year starting while the freshman Sims looks to build off a strong Week-1 performance and eliminate the mental mistakes he made vs. Florida State.
There will be some points scored on Saturday. Don’t expect another total in the low teens like Georgia Tech’s 16-13 win over the Seminoles.