Commentary

Yellow Jackets a difficult matchup

Georgia Tech's triple-option offense will be a formidable test for USC

Updated: December 11, 2012, 10:14 PM ET
By Johnny Curren | WeAreSC.com

LOS ANGELES -- The Trojans' defense figures to be tested mightily by the Georgia Tech's vaunted ground attack when the two teams meet on Dec. 31.

USC (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) will take on Georgia Tech (6-7, 5-3 ACC) in El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 31 in the 79th Hyundai Sun Bowl. Participating in their first bowl game since 2009, the Trojans entered the 2012 campaign with national title hopes, but wound up facing more struggles than anyone could have anticipated -- particularly down the stretch, where they dropped four of their last five contests. The Yellow Jackets, meanwhile, are heading back to the Sun Bowl for the second straight season after winning the ACC Coastal Division title before losing to Florida State 21-15 in the conference championship game.

Offense
Scoring: 34.5 points per game (No. 4 ACC, No. 35 overall)

Rushing: 312.5 yards per game (No. 1 ACC, No. 4 overall)

Passing: 134.1 yards per game (No. 12 ACC, No. 115 overall)

Total: 446.6 yards per game (No. 4 ACC, No. 32 overall)

[+] EnlargeWashington
Josh D. Weiss/US PresswireTevin Washington doesn't pass much, but he can throw the ball when called upon.
Quarterback: No. 13 Tevin Washington (6-feet, 205 pounds, Sr.), No. 2 Vad Lee (6-2, 213, Fr.)
Directing a run-oriented, spread-option offense that averages 312.5 yards per game on the ground -- the No. 4 mark nationally -- Washington has rushed for 638 yards and 19 touchdowns while also passing for more than 1,100 yards. Lee, another fleet-footed athlete, will also see time here.

Running Back (A-Back and B-Back): No. 17 Orwin Smith (6-0, 205, Sr.), No. 25 Robert Godhigh (5-7, 188, Jr.), No. 7 B.J. Bostic (5-11, 170, So.), No. 20 David Sims (6-0, 222, Jr.), No. 37 Zach Laskey (6-1, 208, So.)
Smith, who lines up as a wing back -- called an A-Back in Tech's offensive system -- is the team's leading rusher with 673 yards, and averages an eye-popping nine yards per carry. He has missed the last two games with an ankle injury but is expected back in time to face the Trojans. B-Back -- the Yellow Jackets' version of the fullback position -- is manned by Sims and Laskey, who have combined to run for 1,150 yards.

Wide Receiver: No. 88 Darren Waller (6-5, 228, So.), No. 83 Jeremy Moore (6-3, 183, Jr.), No. 81 Jeff Greene (6-4, 210, So.)
With the Yellow Jackets' offensive game-plan focused on the run, the receivers don't usually see a lot of passes come their way. In fact, Greene leads the group with just 18 grabs, and the wide receiver unit as a whole has just three touchdowns in 2012.

Offensive Line: LT No. 64 Ray Beno (6-2, 292, Jr.), LG No. 70 Shaquille Mason (6-3, 305, So.), C No. 50 Jay Finch (6-3, 285, Jr.), RG No. 77 Omoregie Uzzi (6-3, 307, Sr.), RT No. 72 Morgan Bailey (6-4, 295, So.)
A deep group filled with experience, the offensive line has paved the way for what has been a prolific Yellow Jackets' rushing attack, but they have had minor dips in production along the way. Uzzi -- a 2012 All-ACC first team selection -- is the star of the unit. Defense
Scoring: 29.9 points per game (No. 9 ACC, No. 77 overall)

Rushing: 147.8 yards per game (No. 6 ACC, No. 47 overall)

Passing: 239.2 yards per game (No. 5 ACC, No. 67 overall)

Total: 387 yards per game (No. 5 ACC, No. 54 overall)

Defensive Line: No. 93 Emmanuel Dieke (6-6, 270, Jr.), No. 90 T.J. Barnes (6-7, 345, Sr.), No. 94 Izaan Cross (6-4, 300, Sr.)
The play of the Georgia Tech defensive line has been inconsistent, mirroring the play of the defense as a whole. It has shown improvement under Charles Kelly, who took over defensive coordinator duties in place of Al Groh in early October. Barnes is a big body with athleticism who can challenge the Trojans in the middle.

[+] EnlargeJeremiah Attaochu
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesJeremiah Attaochu led Georgia Tech with 10 sacks this season.
Linebacker: No. 45 Jeremiah Attaochu (6-3, 240, Jr.), No. 54 Quayshawn Nealy (6-1, 232, So.), No. 32 Jabari Hunt-Days (6-3, 252, Fr.), No. 11 Brandon Watts (6-2, 238, Jr.)
Active and athletic, Attaochu is an extremely talented pass-rusher, leading the team with 12 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. Hunt-Days and Nealy are tied for third on the team in tackles with 74 apiece.

Cornerback: No. 6 Rod Sweeting (6-0, 187, Sr.), No. 8 Louis Young (6-1, 196, Jr.)
Sweeting is a stable veteran with 26 starts under his belt, while Young has shown strong cover skills, but both have underwhelmed at times when facing teams with potent passing attacks, such as Miami (Fla), Clemson and North Carolina.

Safety: No. 1 Isaiah Johnson (6-2, 208, Jr.), No. 14 Jemea Thomas (5-10, 195, Jr.)
Thomas has shined this season, both in coverage and against the run, and he currently leads the team with four interceptions. Johnson, meanwhile, paces the team in tackles with 87.

Special Teams
Kicker: No. 17 Chris Tanner (6-0, 175, Sr.), No. 44 David Scully (6-2, 202, Jr.)
Scully has booted 19 of his 63 kickoffs for touchbacks, but neither he nor Tanner have been particularly reliable on field goals, where the Yellow Jackets are just 11 of 18 as a team.

Punter: No. 82 Sean Poole (6-1, 160, Jr.)
Poole averages 40.4 yards per punt.

Kick/Punt Returner: No. 4 Jamal Golden (6-0, 188, So.), No. 17 Orwin Smith (6-0, 205, Sr.)
Golden is a big-play threat, especially on kickoffs, where he has taken two back for touchdowns in 2012 and averages 29 yards per return -- the No. 9 mark in the FBS.

Johnny Curren

WeAreSC, Reporter