Georgia Tech’s triple option offense is far from the most attractive offensive scheme in college football.
It eats clock, lacks flashy passing attacks and is not seen often in the world of high-level college football. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t provide real challenges for the Georgia defense on Saturday in Athens.
The physicality that the Yellow Jacket offense deploys will force the Bulldogs to play as tough as they have all season in trying to stop the complex, layered rushing attack constructed by Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson.
“This is about physicality, toughness, get down in the dirt, backyard football,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “I went and watched my son play a 6-year-old tackle football championship and I saw the 6-year-old, 7-year-old, 8-year-old teams play and that's what they were playing. 11 people in a box, all of them hitting each other, tackling each other, tackling the man with the ball and it's like a scrum sometimes. That's what a lot of people don't do, they spread you out. Tech does a tremendous of making you defend all 53 yards and they do a tremendous job of playing physical ... If you don't like physical, you won't like this game."
Georgia’s run defense was once considered to be one of the team’s biggest question marks, but it is something that has gotten better since giving up 275 rushing yards in a loss to LSU on Oct. 13. The Bulldogs now rank fourth in the SEC in rushing yards allowed per game after being in the bottom half of the conference prior to Georgia’s win over Kentucky on Nov. 3.
But Smart and other Georgia players said that there’s not much that you can carry over from other games heading into the one against Georgia Tech, because the style of offense is so drastically different from other opponents.
"You've really got to switch your mind over from playing your base defense you've been going against all year and get ready to play an option-type team,” junior safety J.R. Reed said. “You've got to get different guys in to play. And you've just got to get your mindset ready to play cut blocks, something you haven't seen all year."
Cut blocking is often deployed by triple option offenses like Georgia Tech. The technique requires offensive lineman to block defenders by hitting them down by their knees, forcing them to hit the ground and taking them out of the play.
Reed described the technique as “frustrating,” to go against, but noted that it can be beaten with proper technique. But along with that technique, the Bulldogs hope to match the brute physicality that the Georgia Tech offense deploys to impose its running attack.
"It's an attitude,” Smart said. “It's, 'I want to hit, not be hit. I want to attack, not be attacked.' That's the approach we're taking with it. You've got to do a great job of selling it to your players and I think the teams that defend it well are the ones that enjoy playing against it."
The option offense is also one that aims to limit the total number of possessions in a game by eating up clock with long scoring drives. Army nearly upset Oklahoma on Sept. 22 with that strategy before the Sooners escaped with a 28-21 overtime win, the only game of the year in which Oklahoma scored fewer than 37 points.
With the possibility of possessions being limited, the option offense forces Georgia to be sharp in all areas and makes the margin of error smaller. And even though the Yellow Jackets are simply a middle-of-the-road, 7-4 ACC team on paper, their offensive scheme brings added urgency out of the Bulldogs.
“Obviously, that's what they're trying to do, possess the ball for as long as they can," senior linebacker Natrez Patrick said. "So, that's why everything becomes that much more important. Your keys, doing what you're supposed to do, your job, special teams, stealing the possessions, turnovers. Everything becomes that much bigger because of the type of offense that they have."