Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-6, 5-6-1 ATS) vs. Air Force Falcons (8-4, 4-7-1 ATS), Monday December 27th, 5:00PM Eastern Independence Stadium Shreveport, L.A.
By Jay Horne, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Ga Tech +3/AF -3
Over/Under Total: 56
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A year ago at this time the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets had just won their first ACC Championship in over a decade and were preparing for a BCS Bowl appearance in the Orange Bowl. The Yellow Jackets program appeared to have peaked and Coach Paul Johnson knew there would be some rebuilding to do in 2010. Still, most figured the Yellow Jackets would still have a strong year on the gridiron. However the Yellow Jackets closed out the regular season losing 4 of their last 5 games to finish a disappointing 6-6 on the year. As a result, the Yellow Jackets will play in a less prestigious postseason game this season when they battle the Air Force Falcons in the Independence Bowl. While the results are disappointing, the Yellow Jackets still have a chance to end a 5 year losing streak in the bowl games when they battle the Falcons at Independence Stadium.
Air Force has had a solid 2010 campaign at 8-4 on the season. The Falcons also won their first Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy since 2002 as they took down both Navy and Army earlier this year. This will be the Falcons first trip to the Independence Bowl since appearing in back to back years in 1983 and 1984. Air Force won both of those games to give them a 2-0 mark in Independence Bowl history. The Falcons have previously played in the Armed Forces Bowl each of the last 3 years while winning just one of those postseason games against Houston 47-20 just last year. Air Force runs a very similar style of offense compared to Georgia Tech. The Falcons heavily favor the run through an option style offense and rarely resort to their passing game. While the Yellow Jackets lead the nation in rushing, Air Force is very close behind ranking 2nd in the country averaging 317 yards per game.
The Falcons are loaded with veteran rushers in their backfield. Junior tailback Asher Clark leads the team with 1001 yards while averaging 5.8 yards per carry. QB Tim Jefferson is 2nd on the team in rushing with 769 yards and leads the team with 15 rushing touchdowns. Jefferson has completed just 52% passing for 1,342 yards, 10 scores, and 6 picks on the season. However, Jefferson is a quarterback that will normally only throw the football when the Falcons are playing from behind. If all goes well with the running attack, expect to see little passing out of the Air Force offense. Put it this way, Jefferson has not attempted over 12 passes in any of the Falcons’ wins this season so getting the ground game moving will be priority number 1. Another interesting thing to note is that the Falcons will be without their 3rd leading rusher in senior running back Jared Tew who was lost to a leg injury. Instead senior tailback Nathan Walker will get a few touches. Walker has tallied 496 yards while averaging 4.6 yards per carry in limited action this season. Keep an eye on Walker as he could give the Falcons a boost when fresh legs are needed.
Luckily for the Falcons, Georgia Tech has had tons of troubles stopping the run this season. The Yellow Jackets have given 170 yards per game on the ground this year and that is not necessarily against great rushing teams either. On the flip side, the Falcons defense has been even worse giving up 195 yards per game on the ground which plays into the strength of the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech as previously stated leads the nation in rushing averaging 327 yards per game on the ground. However the big story line heading into the Independence Bowl surrounding the Yellow Jackets is the uncertain status of QB Josh Nesbitt. Nesbitt is the most important factor to the Yellow Jackets offense rushing for just less than 3,000 yards in his career and an experienced veteran in Paul Johnson’s option offense. Nesbitt suffered a broken arm in the Virginia Tech game and the offense severely struggled through the final 3 weeks of the season in his absence.
Nesbitt’s status is uncertain and likely doubtful for the Independence Bowl. Sophomore QB Tevan Washington posted over 300 yards in his last 4 games in replacement for Nesbitt. Washington is a solid runner averaging 4.4 yards per carry, but Nesbitt still gives the offense the best chance to win. Luckily, the Yellow Jackets will have running back Anthony Allen at 100% to lead the ground game. Allen posted 1,225 yards on the season with 6 rushing touchdowns. Allen is a game changer that can make big plays. As stated before the Air Force has struggled against the run this season, therefore it will be interesting to see if the Yellow Jackets ground game came come up with some big plays to set the tone for the offense. While the Yellow Jackets love to keep the ball on the ground, Coach Paul Johnson is not afraid to throw the deep ball down the field in hopes of a big play. WR Stephen Hill has been the favored target in those situations so keep an eye on the sophomore wide out in those situations if Air Force gets caught playing in on the run.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This game will feature two offenses that are tough to defend on the ground. To make matters worse, both defenses have struggled a lot this season. I expect to see a lot of offense and turnovers could play a big factor. The Falcons enter this game as 3 point favorites despite Georgia Tech getting nearly 60% of the early public betting action. I believe that may only be becuuse of the Yellow Jackets reputation and not their actual performance on the field. Georgia Tech closed out the year really struggling on both sides of the football. The Yellow Jackets played decent against Georgia but it was in a rivalry game and the Bulldogs are having a down year as well.
On the other hand, the Falcons closed out the season winning their last 3 games and barely missed on an upset to Utah before that. Not to mention the Falcons defense played well during that 3 game stretch keeping a similar Army rushing attack under control back in early November. Georgia Tech on the other hand just has too many problems as their young team continues to progress. I do not see those problems being resolved in just a few short weeks since the regular season concluded. Air Force continues to play well and Georgia Tech’s postseason problems continue. Take the Falcons -3.