For younger college football fans, Georgia Tech probably seems like a gimmicky school in the middle of a large conference, running their triple-option and occasionally having success, but sort of fitting in right in the middle of the pack. They’d never know that this school was once the juggernaut of the entire south early in College Football’s history, that their 222-0 win over Cumberland still lingers in all the history books, and their coach during an incredible run in the early 20th century: John Heisman. Yes, that Heisman. This is a program with a proud tradition who used to own this part of the country.
Paul Johnson has done well here in trying to keep that tradition alive, entering his 11th season sporting a 76-54 record. The road has been little bumpy the past few years though, with the team winning 3 games in 2015, and 5 last year. 2016’s team was only 5-4 before finishing strong to get to a bowl game. With a lot returning on offense, and Johnson calling the plays, this team will be able to score. But with a switch to a new defensive scheme and a new staff on that side of the ball, can they get enough stops to be truly successful this season?
|10/5 (F)||@ Louisville||+4|
|10/25 (Th)||Virginia Tech||+2|
|11/3||@ North Carolina||+0.5|
TaQuon Marshall was excellent as their quarterback last year, thrust into the national spotlight in the primetime opener against Tennessee and never looking back really. There are a ton of weapons at both runningback and on the offensive line returning, so I look for this option attack to be particularly potent this season. At receiver, they are weak, or at a minimum unproven, but that is not necessarily a precursor to failure in this scheme.
This is where all the question marks are. New DC Nate Woody, who comes over from Appalachian State, wants to instill an aggressive 3-4 scheme, different than the 4-2-5 that previous DC Ted Roof installed (he is now an assistant at NC State). Woody’s teams have had success turning the opposition over (17th last year in turnovers generated), but keep in mind that none of these players were recruited to fit this scheme, so there may be some growing pains. The spring game was a lot of experimenting with roles, and a couple players shined, most notably Brant Mitchell who they will need a lot from at inside linebacker. I really don’t know what to expect here, but with the offense poised to sustain long drives and have success, that can only help here.
When one of your rivals gets much much better, that’s never going to help a lot with the schedule. Now with Georgia a perennial contender for the National Championship, the final week of the season becomes a predicted loss. The Jackets also draw Clemson and Louisville from the Atlantic, another negative. The Louisville game is also on the road, where the Cardinals are 40-7 under Bobby Petrino. Yikes.
But hey, if you throw all that aside, the rest of it doesn’t look that bad! No back-to-back travel spots, and home games vs Alcorn State and Bowling Green, as well as a trip to Pitt, should be wins a lot of the time. USF is a team I’m way down on after their successful run last year, so that’s another plus (if you think like me, which is dangerous and sometimes unhealthy). It will really come down to the other “average” ACC games – vs Duke, vs Virginia Tech, vs Virginia, at UNC – and Georgia Tech needs to do VERY well in those games to make a bowl, because there are obstacles everywhere else.
Win/Total pick: Over 5.5 -120 (BOL)
Very low confidence in this selection, because the schedule is just that much of a grind. This is a team I had targeted late last year as a team I wanted to examine closely and potentially bet the over on, but there’s so much uncertainty still with the defensive switches. If I get wins from Alcorn State, Pitt, Bowling Green and Virginia, that’s pretty reasonable and expected, and I need 2 more. At USF is absolutely possible, as is home vs Duke and Virginia Tech, or even at UNC. Need to win 2 of those. It’s enough of a logical path and this team has so many positive indicators on offense that I’ll lean over.
-END OF 2018 PREVIEW-
Paul Johnson wasn’t going to be held down for long. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets made a bowl game in each of the first seven seasons that Johnson was at the helm. Running that triple-option style offense in Atlanta, Johnson ran into his first true bump in the road in 2015 when the Yellow Jackets went just 3-9. Variance had as much to do with it as anything, as Georgia Tech outgained and outscored opponents on the season, but five losses by seven or fewer points turned a bowl streak into a historical footnote.
The Yellow Jackets won nine games last season. They scored fewer points per game than they had the previous season with a 3-9 record. It was more of what we’ve come to expect from teams led by Paul Johnson. This season, though, Justin Thomas, who was masterful at handling the option, is gone, which means a new processor in the triple-option machine. Sixteen starters do return, so Johnson has a lot of upperclassmen at his disposal.
As expected, the season win total line for Georgia Tech falls somewhere between the unlucky 2015 and the very lucky 2016. 5Dimes Sportsbook is showing 6.5 as the line with -125 on the under. Keep in mind that the number does not include conference championships or bowl games. It only applies to the regular season.
|Date||Opponent||Projected Line||Expected Wins|
|9/4 (M)||Tennessee (Semi-N – Atlanta)||-1||0.51|
|10/12 (T)||@ Miami FL||+9.5||0.25|
Total Expected Wins: 7.25
Opposing defenses know exactly what Georgia Tech is going to do, yet they can’t seem to stop it. The Yellow Jackets have rushed for at least 5.3 yards per carry in each of the last seven seasons. The passing game is hit or miss, literally, as the team generally hovers somewhere around 50 percent, but it’s all about the triple-option for this program. Defending the triple-option is hard. It requires perfect discipline from the defense to fill all of the gaps and it’s also painful and demanding on defensive linemen because of the number of cut blocks. Matthew Jordan hasn’t had a whole lot of game reps, but the 6-foot-2 junior has been in the program for two years waiting his turn behind Justin Thomas. Jordan did have 65 rushing attempts last season, but only threw the ball nine times.
True sophomore running back Dedrick Mills is the top returning rusher with 781 yards on 152 carries. He led all Tech ball carriers with 12 touchdowns. There’s a lot of experience with the backs and receivers, which puts the emphasis on Jordan to make the right decisions. Those other guys know what to do with the ball when they get it. The Georgia Tech offensive line will have a new center, which is a concern because that position is the most critical on the line with this scheme and they are very inexperienced at that position.
Georgia Tech’s defensive numbers can be a bit misleading because of the ball control style of the offense. The Yellow Jackets defense regularly finishes in the top 10 in least amount of time spent on the field, so you have to factor that in when looking at the per game metrics. The Tech defense has been consistent, allowing anywhere from 22.8 to 26.1 points per game over the last seven seasons. That makes it a little bit tricky to project Georgia Tech over the course of the season because there are a lot of close games decided by single digits.
As mentioned Georgia Tech lost five games by a touchdown or less in 2015. Last season, they were 3-1 in games decided by three points or less. There were actually a few more lopsided games than expected each way. A lot of returning starters are back, especially in the back seven, so it seems poignant to point out how the team fared in those close games where experience means a little bit more.
Tech is dangerous in a lot of spots because of how tough it is to defend the option, but this schedule is very challenging. It’s one of the hardest schedules in the country and the Yellow Jackets don’t even run into Florida State or Louisville. One thing that could hurt Tech this season is that their kicker Harrison Butker and their punter Ryan Rodwell both finished out their eligibility. In close games, field position is enormous. The special teams could take a big hit for Georgia Tech this year.
Win Total Pick: Under 6.5
My numbers have this as a play, but I’m concerned that I have underrated Duke and North Carolina. Others I have spoken to do have those teams rated higher. Those are two games that Georgia Tech absolutely needs in order to get over this line. I also appear to be lower on Tennessee (or too high on GT), since that line at new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Week 1 is actually Tennessee -3.5. If the difference between 6-6 or 7-5 is Georgia on November 25, I’d rather be sitting on the under. My guess is that I do adjust Georgia Tech next month and an adjusted power rating will be closer to the line.