Christmas Day is a day when many questions are asked. So while you’re pondering unanswerable questions about the presents you received, it’s time for Georgia Tech fans to think about football for a few minutes.
Here are five questions that fans can focus on with the program’s biggest bowl game since 2009 approaching:
Will Mississippi State be able to slow down the Georgia Tech running game?
So far the opposition has had little success stopping the Yellow Jackets once they get the rushing attack going. Now it’s Mississippi State’s turn.
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Mississippi State has had a couple of extra weeks to get ready for the Georgia Tech option. In the past, opposing teams have used the additional time to their advantage when preparing for a bowl game. Georgia Tech has averaged 33.2 points and 436.3 total yards during the regular season under head coach Paul Johnson but only 14.8 points and 317.3 yards in six bowl games.
“It’s a different, tricky offense to go prepare for,” Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said. “You don’t see it very often. There’s not a lot of carryover with other offenses you play. Our defense has to learn how to fit against that offense.”
Can Georgia Tech slow the Mississippi State running game?
There’s only a sliver of difference between the running game of Georgia and that of Mississippi State. Georgia averaged 255 yards rushing per game and Mississippi State averaged 239.8.
Georgia Tech held Georgia to only 194 yards in its victory but then allowed Florida State’s pass-oriented attack to run for 179 yards in the ACC championship game. That led to 488 total yards by the Seminoles.
“It all starts with that running game,” Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof said.
Mississippi State was held below 165 yards rushing only three times, two of them losses. These Bulldogs will definitely be a challenge.
Who will win the quarterback battle?
This could very likely determine the pace of the game. Each side has an exciting, game-changing quarterback -- Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas. If both bring their “A” games, it could be a real shootout.
Prescott has rushed for 939 yards and 13 touchdowns and thrown for 2,996 yards and 24 touchdowns. Thomas has rushed for 965 yards and nine touchdowns and thrown for 1,594 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Who will get most of the carries at A-back?
That likely will depend on who has the hot hand, a strategy that has been adopted since Broderick Snoddy suffered a broken leg in the Clemson game. The options shrunk even more when Tony Zenon went down with a season-ending knee in the ACC championship game.
Georgia Tech still has choices, and they are good choices. Against FSU the bulk of carries went to senior Charles Perkins, who is considered the best blocker among the group. Perkins had six carries for 64 yards against the Seminoles. He is the top-rushing A-back on the team with 384 yards.
Deon Hill ran for 56 tough yards against Georgia and speedy Dennis Andrews seems on the verge of a big run each time he touches in. Andrews averages 10.5 yards per carry. The forgotten man has been B.J. Bostic, who has just three carries in his past three games.
What about the ACC vs. SEC breakdown?
That aspect of the contest is probably overblown by fans and the media. Each team is simply looking for a way to beat a quality opponent on a big stage. It has been 75 years since Mississippi State has played in the Orange Bowl, so the Bulldogs don’t really care who they play.
The ACC held its own against the SEC in the final week of the regular season, which has been a point of pride. Georgia Tech beat Georgia, Clemson beat South Carolina, Louisville beat Kentucky and Florida State beat Florida.
Georgia Tech is probably most worried about beating anyone in a bowl game. The Yellow Jackets have been to a bowl game for 18 straight year but have only one bowl victory in their past nine tries.