a. Georgia Tech CB Kenny Scott vs.
Notre Dame WR Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight – Scott is the most
experienced corner on the Tech sideline and that means he probably is
going to see plenty of #83 Samardzija. The Shark’s ability to get free
from Scott in bump/press coverage is pertinent for Notre Dame QB Brady
Quinn getting the ball off on time and in rhythm. If Scott can prove
that he can lock down Samardzija or slow his progress off of the line of
scrimmage consistently, then Georgia Tech DC Jon Tenuta can open up his
defensive playbook to harass Quinn more often than not.
b. Notre Dame RB Darius Walker vs. Georgia Tech
linebackers – Walker has to be a 100+ yard per game rusher this year
to help the Irish offense avoid a plethora of nickel and dime coverage
throughout the season. His slashing style is conducive to finding small
seams and bursting up to the second level where he’ll meet the Georgia
Tech linebackers – KaMichael Hall, Philip Wheeler and Gary Guyton.
Hall, in particular, can fly and his ability to close quickly on Walker
means that the Irish back has to make definitive cuts and get his
shoulders square and downfield to be effective.
c. Georgia Tech OT Mansfield Wrotto and Andrew
Gardner vs. Notre Dame DE Victor Abiamiri – Abiamiri hasn’t gotten
tons of acclaim but might be the one major pressure player on defense
for the Irish. He’s not blazing fast off the edge, but he’s quick
enough to force the Tech offense staff to consider putting RB Tashard
Choice to that side to account for him on the pass rush. Wrotto and
Gardner cannot get beat on the high side by Abiamiri. If they can get
him to step back inside, it can at least give Georgia Tech QB Reggie
Ball the opportunity to escape out of the pocket, instead of having to
step up in the pocket. It’s all about buying Ball more time with the
ball in his hands.
d. Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson vs. Notre
Dame corners Ambrose Wooden and Mike Richardson – No question, the
most pressure packed matchup for the Irish on either side of the ball.
If there’s any knock on Johnson, it’s that he’s not going to run by
defenders like Ted Ginn, who torched ND in last year’s Fiesta Bowl. As
such, the one thing the Irish corners want to avoid is getting physical
with Johnson. This Irish duo can’t get in a shoving match at any point
– at the line of scrimmage, out of Johnson’s cut or on a ball deep
downfield. They’re better served to play off and break on the ball, as
opposed to slowing down Johnson at the line of scrimmage, where he can
swat them away with his strength and size.
e. Notre Dame DT Derek
Landri vs. Georgia Tech’s Interior OL – Similar to Abiamiri, Landri
has gotten very hype and deserves to be recognized. Well, recognition
should come in the form of double teams throughout Saturday night’s game
from the interior of the Georgia Tech line. The Irish DT is wonderfully
quick and beats blockers with his feet off the ball. His quickness off
the snap is impressive and QB Ball will have to change his snap count to
catch him anticipating. But, most importantly, the Georgia Tech guards
must win the leverage battle and keep him from pushing them into the
backfield on running downs. If they can’t win the one-on-one battle,
then they’ll have to double team the DeLaSalle product throughout the
game, freeing up the Irish LBs to have a big night.