Georgia Tech hosts Louisville on Friday night at Bobby Dodd Stadium in a matchup of 1-2 teams looking to get back on track following two straight losses each. Here is a look at how the two ACC foes’ offenses match up.
It was a tough game at Syracuse for Georgia Tech freshman QB Jeff Sims as he added four more interceptions to his total which now stands at eight through three games. Not all of them have been his fault with pressure forcing quick throws or deflected balls off his hand, but better care of the ball definitely has to be a priority if he intends to be the long-term answer under center for the Jackets. He has shown promising signs at times as he has thrown for 695 yards and ran for an additional 187 yards.
For Louisville, redshirt-junior Malik Cunningham is in his second season as the full-time starter. (He started three games two seasons ago as he split time at signal-caller.) He threw for 2,065 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2019 and got off to a solid start this season with 757 and seven touchdowns, although he has also had a slight problem turning the ball over with five interceptions so far in 2020. His night was cut short a couple weeks ago against Pittsburgh as he was carted off the field with an apparent injury, but he is expected to play on Friday and be close to full health according to reports from Louisville practice this week.
Both quarterbacks in this game have the skills to cause problems for the opposing defenses with the ability to make an impact both throwing and running, but it is Cunningham that has done the job longer and more consistently than the true freshman Sims.
This is an area that could go either way based on what you consider a better way of distributing yards and carries. Louisville has a backfield with a clear No. 1 back in the form of redshirt-sophomore Javian Hawkins as he has run for 313 yards and three touchdowns with a yards-per-rush average of 5.3 through three games. Hassan Hall has also contributed with 107 yards on the ground.
On the Georgia Tech side, the depth is what shines most with multiple talented running backs that can do damage at any given time. Jahmyr Gibbs, Jamious Griffin and Dontae Smith all showed their talent against Syracuse and Central Florida over the past couple games, each stepping up at different times with big carries and catches out of the backfield. None of the three have eye-popping rushing stats with carries being distributed pretty evenly, but Smith leads the way with 8.5 yards-per-rush and Gibbs leads the trio in receiving yards with 86. The group will get even deeper when preseason All-ACC back Jordan Mason returns from injury. (Could he return this week? Who knows.)
Like I said above, this is a close one, but based on depth and a wider range of skillsets, Georgia Tech gets the narrow advantage.
Edge: Georgia Tech
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Louisville has displayed it’s impressive passing game over their first three contests with Cunningham airing it out to several talented receivers and tight ends. Four different players have reached the end zone via receiving touchdowns, led by junior wide out Tutu Atwell who has three receiving TDs to go along with a team-leading 229 yards receiving on 19 catches.
Dez Fitzpatrick is also a dependable target with 12 catches, 198 yards and one touchdown catch, and tight ends Ean Pfeiffer and Marshon Floyd are each capable of bringing down tough catches with Floyd already reaching the end zone twice in 2020.
The Georgia Tech receiving corps has shown improvement from 2019 with a more well-rounded attack. Malachi Carter is the leading receiver with 11 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown, and Jalen Camp is just behind with 10 catches for 111 yards. Marquez Ezzard and Ahmareon Brown have each displayed solid route-running and pass-catching skills as well while the tight end production has been held down by the absence of first and second-stringers Dylan Deveney and Dylan Leonard.
Georgia Tech has the potential to get to the level of Louisville’s receiving group eventually, but for now this one goes in the Cards’ favor.
Georgia Tech’s offensive line showed a lot of promise in the opener against Florida State as it looked like Coach Brent Key’s group had turned the corner following the struggles of 2019, but in the last two games the consistency has not been there for the Jackets. The pressure has been ramped up on Sims, contributing to multiple costly turnovers. The running game has continued to be a dependable aspect thanks to solid blocking by the OL, but that area could be improved as well. Key has gone with mostly the same guys and little substituting, but that could change as the season goes on, possibly as soon as Friday.
Louisville has had its share of struggles on the offensive line as well, allowing 11 sacks in three games, including seven in the loss to Pittsburgh. They are breaking in multiple new starters early in the season so those struggles were somewhat expected. They have shown flashes of what they could be in both the rushing and passing game, but more consistency is needed if they want to put up the kind of numbers Louisville fans have come to expect over the last several years.
Which offensive line has the better game could be the key to who wins the contest. That’s how important it is.
Both offenses have bright spots and not so bright spots. They have each shown the ability to move the ball, but turnovers have been a problem for both in stopping important drives.
Each should have matchups they can take advantage of against a pair of defenses still trying to find their identity and which players will step up and take the lead role in making impact plays. Louisville has the more identifiable track record with a more established quarterback and a wider array of offensive weapons with experience, but don’t sleep on the Jackets as they have been able to produce yards. Their problem has been lack of execution in the red zone.
Don’t be surprised if both offenses put up big nights under the lights at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Friday night.