Georgia Tech - Tennessee Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game Season Opener Preview

By Don Stone - Georgia Tech Express
August 29, 2017

  This will be a very special season opener for Georgia Tech. And most of that has to do with where they are playing. It will be the opening weekend for college football in the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Alabama (#1) and Florida State (#3) kick things off on Saturday in what is being billed as the best opening day meeting in the history of the sport with projections indicating that this game may be a matchup of the two highest-ranked teams to ever play on opening weekend in 149 years of college football. "Our staff has nicknamed it GOAT for the Greatest Opener of All Time," said Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl CEO/President Gary Stokan. ESPN's Game Day crew will be there for a live broadcast.
  Two days later, Georgia Tech and Tennessee tee it off in front of a nationally televised audience on ESPN. But, both teams in that matchup are coming in a bit weakened. Volunteer fans are apprehensive about this season. The Vols enter 2017 ranked 25th facing a Yellow Jackets team on a three game SEC win streak. Head coach Paul Johnson beat Kentucky, Georgia and Vanderbilt to finish last season.
  On paper, the Yellow Jackets would seem like a bad matchup for the Volunteers, who were terrible against the run last season, ranking 70th in rushing yards allowed per game. They were 94th in rushing touchdowns given up. The Vols gave up 1,055 yards and 12 rushing TDs in their final three SEC games against Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt. That's what Johnson's triple option offense does best. Tech was 9th in the nation in rushing yards per game and 10th in rushing per game TDs. They were also ranked third in the country in offensive explosiveness, striking for big plays numerous times while the opponent focused on stopping the run.
  Then, there are injuries, which seem to be an annual staple of Butch Jones coached teams. Star linebacker Darrin Kirkland, Jr. just suffered a miniscus injury. He had surgery Wednesday and won't play. He'll be tough to replace as will Chance Hall, who will undergo knee surgery and is out for the season. Also out for the year is senior wide receiver Jacquez Jones, gone with a knee injury.
  Jones also announced Wednesday that redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Drew Richmond will be suspended for the Georgia Tech game due to a violation of team rules.
   Both teams will be showcasing new quarterbacks. For Tennessee, they won't have the dynamic Josh Dobbs, now with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL. Jones hasn't announced whether Quintin Dormady or Jarrett Guarantano will be starting. How the untested QB performs on the big stage could be a key to who comes out on top. Whoever it is be working with John Kelly in the backfield with an aerial target of Jauan Jennings.
   Given all that, most experts are picking the Vols to win the game, listing them as a three point favorite. They have played in this game once before (2012) with this being the first for the home town team.
   A big reason is that quarterback question. Josh Thomas was probably the best player ever to run Johnson's offense at Tech. He's gone now and junior Matthew Jordan should start with redshirt junior TaQuon Marshall probably seeing some time as well.
  Many saw the Jackets' chances diminish two weeks ago when they released their star back from last season, Dedrick Mills, for a violating a team policy. Johnson has named KirVonte Benson as starting b-Back. But, third string true freshman Jerry Howard may flourish and take over that role as the season progresses. Qua Searcy should get some action when the ball is in the air.
  It all gets under way at 8:00pm Labor Day night.

About this year's matchup:

 

*  Tennessee and Georgia Tech have met 43 times, with the Volunteers holding a 24-17-2 series lead over the Yellow Jackets.
One-time SEC rivals, this year's meeting will mark the first between the programs in 30 years.
In the most recent 1987 matchup, Tennessee defeated Georgia Tech 29-15 in Knoxville.

*  It will be Tennessee's second appearance in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, the first a 2012 win over N.C. State.
Georgia Tech will be making its first appearance in the game.

* This year's clash between the storied rivals will be the second college game to be played in the new state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Stadium and will be the 10th ACC vs. SEC matchup in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. The SEC currently holds a 7-1 advantage over the ACC in those games.

* The Yellow Jackets carry a three-game winning streak against SEC opponents, including triumphs over Georgia and Kentucky to close the
'16 campaign. The ACC won 10 of the 14 games played between the two Power 5 conferences last season, including a 4-1 mark in the postseason.

* The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, with its Monday-night slot, marks the third time in the last four years that Tennessee will open the season on a non-Saturday. The Vols are 12-11-1 all-time on Monday night, last playing a regular season game on Monday when they opened the 2008 season at UCLA.

* The Tennessee-Georgia Tech game will pay tribute to legendary coach Bobby Dodd and The Dodd Trophy coach of the year award in his name.
Dodd played at Tennessee (1928-1930) and coached at Georgia Tech (1931-1966),
leading the Yellow Jackets to the program's 1952 National Championship.

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