It’s that time again – college football week 1 is upon us. As I tried last year, I try to predict every game. Last year … let’s just say I was a bit off. I predicted a 10-2 record, going to the Gator or CFA bowl. Whoops.
The defense looks to be much improved over last year’s awful squad – although that’s not really saying much. Further, the B-back and A-back spots are overflowing with talent, and it should be the strength of the team. I think we’ll see Johnson find ways to creatively get all of those young speedy A-backs in space this year as we’re still waiting for consistent WR play. The O-line is deep and young, and should grow into a really solid unit.
The defense still doesn’t show that it can create sacks or turnovers, and a 3-4 defense is predicated on pressure from various angles. If Tech can’t get pressure with 3 or 4 defenders, it could be another long season. The QB play hasn’t been inspiring yet, with Washington being good but not great.
Western Carolina Western Carolina is coming off of an awful 2010 campaign, and the entire team is in disarray. The Catamounts, who are Paul Johnson’s alma mater, are installing a new spread/pistol style offense in the vein of Oklahoma, Oregon and others. Further, they’ve been asking teams for tips on how to defend the Flexbone of Georgia Tech. None of this will matter though, as the only team that can beat Tech on opening night will be Tech. Tech wins by 4 touchdowns.
@ Middle Tennessee Last year, MTSU came to Atlanta with one of their best players in school history, Dwight Dasher. This athletic quarterback was making waves for his playmaking ability, great decision making, and a lot of folks thought they could come in and steal one from Tech. They nearly did, but on the back of a 4 turnover effort by the GT defense, Tech ran away in the second half with a fairly comfortable win. This year, Middle Tennessee is without Dasher or a capable replacement. Tech’s D should be improved, and I expect this to be another game where the backups get some playing time in anticipation for the big boys. Tech wins by 3 touchdowns.
Kansas Ah, Kansas. This game was, for most Tech fans last year, the moment where we realized things were not going to be like 2009. The defense couldn’t get off of the field and the offense couldn’t hold onto the ball. To add insult to the road loss, Kansas is and was the worst team in the Big 12 – the week before beating Tech last year, they lost to a FCS school, not even producing a touchdown. This year returns nearly all of the players from last year’s game, with a fairly accurate QB who can scramble, a grinder at running back, and an opportunistic but overall unspectacular defense. If Johnson can’t coach the team up for this game, at home, I’m not sure there’s much hope for this year either. Tech wins by 7 or less.
North Carolina Two teams have been able to figure out Tech’s offense to some degree in recent years – UNC and Miami. UNC’s defense is absolutely loaded in the front 7 this year with tons of future 1st and 2nd rounders, so I think running the ball might be a tall order. Hopefully the work we’ve seen over the summer with Tevin Washington working on the short passing game to the A-backs, Tech might be able to put pressure on a young secondary. While Washington doesn’t have a strong arm at all, but he is pretty accurate when throwing – kind of the exact opposite of Nesbitt in that regard. Defensively, Tech will be tested by a young but talented QB named Bryn Renner. This highly touted QB hasn’t really done any damage yet, but people expect him to be a quality starter. If GT can get pressure on the young QB early and control the tempo offensively, Tech could win this game. I’d say it’s a toss up, leaning towards UNC though. UNC wins by 3.
@ NC State Last year’s NC State game broke the back of most Tech fans who were expecting any sort of decent season at all. This year’s game will probably be the ACC game that tells you if GT will be an average/above average team or if we’re on our way to another 6-7 sort of campaign. If Tech can beat some of these average teams, they can afford to lose to the more elite squads and still have a good season in what is a transitional year in Atlanta. Gone is Russell Wilson, and in comes Mike Glennon. He’s a talent, but he’s the sort of guy that Tech usually can handle – more of a traditional drop-back style of passer. Tech should be able to run the ball with ease against a pretty soft defense, but the question mark will be Tech’s ability to get off of the field on defense. If they can control the tempo and get some key stops, I think GT could win this game. With it being on the road, I’ll say it’s a toss up with a lean towards GT. NCST wins by 3.
Maryland Maryland is one year away from being one of the better teams in the ACC. Danny O’Brien is widely thought to be one of the top 3 ACC QBs (not a huge honor but still…), and the skill players are all solid. Defensively, they have a lot of talent and while new coach Randy Edsall isn’t a flashy hire, he’s the sort of guy who will get the most of his team and focus on fundamentals. These teams won’t beat themselves, and the pressure will definitely be on Tech’s defense to put pressure on O’Brien early before he can get into a rhythm. Being at home, I’ll give Tech the nod. Tech by 10.
@ Virginia Virginia is still in a transitionary period, much like Tech switching defenses and installing a new offense. There’s a ton of talent in Virginia and it’s only a matter of time before UVA is another team to worry about in ACC play. This probably won’t be that year, though. Being on the road, there’s a change Tech drops this one, but I think the grinding running game will be too much for a talented but thin defense. Tech wins by less than 7.
@ Miami Before the huge scandal dropped in Miami, this wouldn’t be a contest. Miami has talent and even a depleted squad handled GT handily last year in Atlanta. As of right now, Miami is missing it’s starting QB, SS, FS, DE, LB, and WR. Tons of depth will be tested all season long, and while they have the talent to step up, there’s no margin for error or injury for the ‘Canes. These sorts of events usually go one of two ways for teams in turmoil – they either band together and scrape together a solid season, or they completely implode. I’d like to think they’ll fold like a cheap chair, but I think there is still a ton of talent in South Beach to deal with on both sides of the ball. By this time of the season, they’ll know who will be and won’t be playing, so I expect a good effort but depth is an issue. Tech grinds one out and wins a low scoring battle. Tech wins by less than 7.
Clemson Always close. It’ll be interesting to see if Tech’s D can stop the new up-tempo Chad Morris offense. Clemson is young but very talented, especially at the skill positions. I think GT finds a way to run the ball against Clemson and gets enough big plays to hold on. Tech wins by 7.
Virginia Tech My favorite game of the year – it’s always close, and the winner always goes on to win the ACC Coastal. This year should be no exception, as UNC and Miami will be having issues so my feeling is that it’s a 2 team race. Unfortunately, VT is way more talented than GT is this year, with a senior-laden offense and a young, talented defense. The past 4 years the VT defense has gotten gradually worse each season, but even ‘worse’ for VT is a top 25 squad. Most folks expect them to improve this year and be more physical with teams. Tech has always been able to run the ball with some success against the Hokies, and I’m sure this year is no exception. Even on the road last year, Tech was in control of the game before Nesbitt broke his arm. In fact, the game was tied late before that fateful kickoff return for a TD essentially won the game for the Hokies. Gone is Tyrod Taylor, VT’s amazingly talented QB, and in comes Logan Thomas, a huge mountain of a man who is expected to bring a more ‘Cam Newton/Tim Tebow’ style of play to the table. This compliments the speedy David Wilson well, and I expect the running game to be the strength of the offense all year. This one could go either way, but it seems that lately the home team gets the W here. I’ll call it a toss up, lean VT. VT by less than 3.
@ Duke Body bag. Duke is improving and they have some talent on offense, but their defense is laughably bad. Even at Duke, Tech should roll. Tech wins by 17+.
Georgia I think UGA will finish the year near double digit wins, saving Richt’s job in Athens. Doesn’t mean GT can’t run the ball all over UGA like they have in recent years, and as long as they can limit turnovers on offense and play sound defense, I think Tech finally puts it all together and gets another win against their rivals. These games are always close when GT wins, and blowouts when UGA wins. I think GT wins a close one at home. Tech by less than 7.
That puts tech at 8 wins and 4 losses going into bowl season. Tech hasn’t proven yet they can beat a prepared bowl team, but I think this year they have a shot as they’d be playing a middle-tier school that they should be able to beat up on. God willing, they could get to 9 wins this year, which would be a big turnaround. Even if I miss a few of these games, which is about 100% likely, the feeling I get is that we’ll see an improvement over last year no matter what. Tech has a lot of young talent and this year will be a transition between the last of the old guard of the Chan Gailey era and all of the young folks Johnson has been bringing in. No excuses anymore. Tech isn’t now nor will it be a consistent top 15 team, but they can put together good teams and make 2-3 year runs every decade or so where they are flirting with the top 10 and an ACC title. I think this season is laying the foundation for a young but talented team to get ready for just such a run in the coming few years.