ATHENS, Ga. — It is one of the most heated rivalries in college football, but for Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall and Georgia linebacker Tae Crowder, there aren’t a lot of hard feelings.
The two are best friends.
Marshall and Crowder, former teammates at Harris County High, should see a lot of each other on the field when the No. 5 Bulldogs (10-1) and the Yellow Jackets (7-4) meet for the 111th time Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
“We actually talked (Monday),” Marshall said. “I just wanted to know if he wanted to come over for Thanksgiving, to get away from Athens for a little bit. We didn’t even talk football. We’re just really good friends.”
Of course, when it comes to the outcome of the game, both will have different agendas.
For Georgia Tech, it’s an opportunity to ruin Georgia’s changes at a possible second straight trip to the College Football Playoff and beat the Bulldogs for the third straight time at Sanford Stadium.
Flip the script and you’ll have Georgia’s reasons for winning.
“We know that we have to finish our schedule strong this weekend and the following weekend in order to do what we want to accomplish. We just have to go out and do what we have been doing, especially what we have been doing the second half of the year,” Bulldogs tight end Isaac Nauta said.
“I feel like we have really been clicking and playing well. We just have to continue going and get a big win this weekend. The good news is we can still get better. We see that every week on tape, ways that we can get better and I think we’ve gotten better each week. That is our main focus, grow regardless of who we play.”
The focus of Georgia coach Kirby Smart — as it always is — is finding a way to slow down the triple-option attack of Georgia Tech, which is averaging an FBS-best 353.7 yards per game. Getting ready for what the Bulldogs will see is a season-long chore.
“We certainly had off-week, preseason camp, and we worked on Mondays the same amount we did last year but the difference is more who you’re doing it with and last year we were doing it with guys who had a lot more carryover,” Smart said. “This year it’s been new for a lot of guys. And that’s the biggest difference.”
Georgia Tech’s defense will face a challenge of its own stopping a Bulldogs’ offense that is averaging 483.9 yards and 39.6 points per game.
“I think that we realize we’ll have to play close to perfect,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “We’ve just got to go up there, get a plan and wing it, see what we can do.”
Georgia faces a tall task in order to move up in the CFB standings. It will likely have to win Saturday and hope No. 10 Ohio State defeats No. 4 Michigan. If the Wolverines win, the Bulldogs will probably have to defeat No. 1 Alabama in the SEC title game Dec. 1 in Atlanta to climb into the top four — barring a major upset involving No. 2 Clemson or No. 3 Notre Dame.
Quarterback Jake Fromm continues to perform at a high level for the Bulldogs, having completed 68.2 percent of his passes for 2,061 yards and 20 touchdowns with only five interceptions. The sophomore is 22-3 as a starter, including 8-3 versus Top 25 teams.
Georgia received an impressive performance last week from Justin Fields, who earned Co-SEC Freshman of the Week honors by accounting for 221 total yards on 5-of-8 passing for 121 yards and two touchdowns while rushing seven times for 100 and a score.