FSU isn’t great at coaching searches. This is their 4th coach in nearly 40 years! A lot of times after a coach is fired, their replacement is essentially the polar opposite of the person who was just let go. I think the administration did a good job of getting someone who had the best qualities that Taggart embodied while also correcting for his unorganized, players-coach style.

An intro press conference doesn’t tell you a lot other than how good of a salesman the new coach is, but he said all of the things you’d want him to say.

I’m really excited to see what sort of staff Norvell puts together and what the next few years look like. 2020 is gonna be rough, but after that I anticipate a turnaround.

Mike Norvell Introductory Press Conference

FSU isn’t great at coaching searches. This is their 4th coach in nearly 40 years! A lot of times after a coach is fired, their replacement is essentially the polar opposite of the person who was just let go. I think the administration did a good job of getting someone who had the best qualities that Taggart embodied while also correcting for his unorganized, players-coach style.

An intro press conference doesn’t tell you a lot other than how good of a salesman the new coach is, but he said all of the things you’d want him to say.

I’m really excited to see what sort of staff Norvell puts together and what the next few years look like. 2020 is gonna be rough, but after that I anticipate a turnaround.

I respect what UGA has been able to do defensively this year, but it’s an understatement to say the SEC has been down this year, and UGA has had the fortune of not having to play any of the good teams in the West.  So, how good is the UGA defense, really?  I went through their games and threw out the Coastal Carolina game.  I listed the yards the Bulldogs gave up vs the opponent’s yearly average.

  1. Boise 390yds / (475 avg) -85yds
  2. USCe 395yds / (361 avg) +34yds
  3. Coastal Carolina (FCS) 112yds / (305 avg)
  4. Ole Miss 183yds / (296 avg) -113yds
  5. Miss St 213yds / (372 avg) -159yds
  6. Tennessee 270yds / (342 avg) -72yds
  7. Vandy 349yds / (334 avg) +5yds
  8. Florida 226yds / (337 avg) -111yds
  9. New Mexico St 402yds / (424 avg) -20yds
  10. Auburn 195yds / (338 avg) -143yds
  11. Kentucky 165yds / (263 avg) -98yds

Total: 83 few yards per game on defense, which translates to roughly a 1.20 yard per play differential over the course of the season given the average number of plays being run by their opponents (more if you count Coastal Carolina, but I don’t think it’s relevant).

That’s a pretty impressive differential.  If UGA can keep Tech’s rushing average under 4.5 yards per rush (the Jackets currently average 5.85 yards per rush and 11 yards per pass attempt), they will be in position to force the Jackets into 3rd and medium situations that the Jackets do not excel at.  I think that if you’re Tech, you have to be mindful of how sound the UGA defense has been this year and focus on getting yards on first down – don’t get too cute early, build momentum and get into 3rd and short situations that are manageable.

More to come Wednesday regarding position battles.

How good is UGA’s defense?

I respect what UGA has been able to do defensively this year, but it’s an understatement to say the SEC has been down this year, and UGA has had the fortune of not having to play any of the good teams in the West.  So, how good is the UGA defense, really?  I went through […]

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The key to this game is going to be the interior run game of both teams.

Tech has a history of getting gashed (although, the past 2 games they have done a remarkable job against 2 teams that run the ball quite well), and David WIlson is one of the top backs in the ACC, if not the country.  If the Jackets can keep the Hokies less than 4.0 ypp on the ground, that means GT is in good shape.  This means that not only must Tech contain Wilson and force predictable 3rd down situations, they must also keep QB Logan Thomas in the pocket and not allow him to pick up yards on the ground.  He’s a big, physical guy who can move the chains if things break down and it’ll be up to the linemen to keep him in the pocket and make him throw the ball.

Offensively for Tech, a few bread and butter plays should help them exploit the (alleged) changes being made by VT for this game of putting in smaller, athletic linemen to counter Tech’s option game.  This is a rare game where the Jackets will have a size advantage up front and they should try to exploit it by running multiple variants of the inverted veer, midline option, and the QB draw.

This play has been used increasingly by Tech as the season has gone on, and I love the simplicity of it.  It does a few things well – it gives GT flexibility in passing situations to run or pass, it forces linebackers to respect the possibility of a run/pass as the A-backs streak towards them, and it tends to get the Jackets a fairly easy 5+ yards per play.  When run correctly, both A-backs run break up field on the snap as if it were a pass play, and the B-back stays in the block the backside.  Once the QB has dropped back to a 3 step drop to throw the ball, a Tackle peels off and blocks either the middle or outside linebacker (depends on if the defense is in an over or under look, assuming we’re talking a base 4-3).  The A-backs cut the other 2 linebackers and the QB runs upfield into the void created.  In the past month, this play has been used more and more by the Jackets and going against an aggressive and undersized VT defense will be a good opportunity to exploit this again in potential pass situations.

The other benefit is the tendency to have linebackers always thinking about the draw out of pass looks; this should allow an A-back to sneak behind one of the Hokie LBs for a big gain.  When used properly, it sets up Run & Shoot concepts like the switch and the go.

I certainly feel more confident about this game than I did 2 weeks ago, but I’m still not sure that the Jackets can do enough on offense to win this game.  It’s going to take another near flawless effort like they had against Clemson to pull this one out.  The numbers certainly appear to be one of those “something has to give” contests:

GT offensive ypp: 7.0, 5.89 on the ground

VT defense: 4.8ypp, 2.9 on the ground

Splitting the difference, that’s still in the 4ypp average for GT, which is enough to win.  If the Jackets can stay above that number and keep the Hokies below that number on the ground, I think it’ll be enough to win another huge contest.  A small note, since Attaochu returned, the run defense has been much better, averaging 3.4 ypp instead of roughly 5.6 ypp. It’ll be interesting to see if Tech can do enough to mix it up on offense and control the clock.

I think the Jackets win the battle of the Techs, 31-24.

Hokie Time

The key to this game is going to be the interior run game of both teams. Tech has a history of getting gashed (although, the past 2 games they have done a remarkable job against 2 teams that run the ball quite well), and David WIlson is one of the top backs in the ACC, […]

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If you read this blog, you surely know that Georgia Tech played their most complete game of the year, and in the process beat #5 Clemson 31-17 on Saturday night.  Nobody thought that Clemson was unbeatable, but most thought that the speed and playmaking ability that the Tigers possessed would simply be too much.  For Tech to come out on top, they’d have to execute well and not put themselves in a hole like they did the previous 2 weeks, starting out down 14 in both games.

The game plan against Clemson was fairly simple:

  1. Limit Clemson’s plays.  Clemson lead the nation is number of plays per game, and every time the ball is in their explosive playmakers’ hands, it spells possible trouble.  Eating the clock and forcing the Tigers to earn every yard was key.  This meant that offensively GT needed to control the clock and defensively they had to wrap up and tackle well.  They did both extremely well.  Clemson was held to 65 plays, nearly 14 plays less than their season average (78.25).
  2. Make the Tigers fairly one-dimensional by taking away the run game.  Most of Clemson’s offense is predicated on motion before the snap, causing confusion.  By shutting down the running options, GT was able to negate a lot of that misdirection and keep Boyd in situations he’s still not 100% comfortable in.  Tech held the Tigers to 95 yards, well off of their average for the season.
  3. Big plays.  Coming into this game, Tech was not making splash plays on either side of the ball.  Forcing 4 turnovers and breaking off huge runs and a few bombs certainly helped in that area.

Those were the 3 ‘keys’ to the game in my mind going into Saturday night’s contest.

Full disclosure: I haven’t watched the replay of the game yet so I haven’t really analyzed everything I’d like to, but from the stands a few things really stood out to me.

  • For the first time since early in the Maryland game, Tevin Washington looked confident in what he was doing.  He didn’t look afraid to make mistakes, he appeared to be decisive with his pitches (and obviously did a great job not pitching as well), and put the team in positions where they could convert manageable third downs.  This offense doesn’t require a QB to be superman, but it does require him to be competent and decisive.
  • Jemea Thomas is going to be a star for this team.  They have to find a way to get the young fella on the field more.
  • From what I could tell, Nick McRae did a fantastic job filling in at center.  I saw numerous plays where he absolutely dominated up front.  The line did a solid job in general, but I was really worried about how McRae would perform.
  • Sims and Lyons both had really solid games.  Combined, the B-Back position ran 24 times for 110 yards.  Nothing to get too excited about, but that commitment to the interior game opened up a lot of things on the outside down near the goal line and allowed Washington to sell the dive then pull/run for big gains.
  • One thing I noticed was that the Clemson DEs both had trouble committing when they were being optioned.  Instead of committing to either attacking the B-back or the Quarterback, they were content to play wait-and-see.  That didn’t work out.
  • I have no idea how the refs blew the potential game-changing offisides/forced fumble when Tech was poised to go up big.  Instead, Clemson recovers and marches down for a score.
  • It’s absolutely shameful how many Georgia Tech fans sold their tickets on StubHub and the like to Clemson fans.  My friends and I are in section 121 and it was 20% Clemson fans.  Some sections were better than others, but it was still awful.  Guess folks just figure they can buy the good seats and make money off of them?

I’m planning on re-watching the game and I’ll have more detailed insight in a few days.

The big win puts GT back into the top 25 and sets the stage for a big showdown against Virginia Tech in a little less than 2 weeks.  The Jackets can rest up and hopefully not read too many press clippings about their win before the Thursday night showdown.

Falling into place

If you read this blog, you surely know that Georgia Tech played their most complete game of the year, and in the process beat #5 Clemson 31-17 on Saturday night.  Nobody thought that Clemson was unbeatable, but most thought that the speed and playmaking ability that the Tigers possessed would simply be too much.  For […]

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As Tech enters the toughest stretch of the season, the team is at a bit of a crossroads.  A team that was steamrolling opponents and scoring nearly 50 points per game, completing over 60% of its passes and playing overall average defense has regressed into a team that has scored 21 points each of the past 2 weeks, have completed 30% of their passes, and are giving up huge running averages to opponents.  If the Jackets can’t get back to near where they were earlier this season, things could start to fall apart real quick.

Miami is always a challenge, and I fully expect the Canes to get their yards running the ball against the Jackets, but what Tech has to excel at today is keeping the pass game in check.  Jacory Harris is having a remarkable stretch right now and if GT lets Miami play balanced football, I fear this game could turn ugly.  Tech has been getting gashed week in and week out by ACC backs, giving up over 250 last week to Virginia.  Forcing Miami into predictable situations can help at least slow down the run game.

On Tech’s side, I hope to see more creativity on offense – Miami is not good against the run this year, and GT needs to use a lot of misdirection to break some big plays to take advantage of Miami’s overall ineptitude against the run & hopefully break a few big plays in the process.  While there is no excuse for a lot of the dropped passes that GT A-backs and WRs have had recently, Tevin Washington also needs to stop just chunking the ball up and allowing teams to pick the ball off.  Tech’s defense is average as it is and allowing teams extra possessions only makes matters worse.  If the Jackets can keep Miami off balance and control the clock, that should give their defense enough to hold on to win this one.

Most experts are picking this game to be close, but I get the feeling that one team is going to lay an egg this week.  Based on Paul Johnson’s statements this week, they’ve had some good practices and this team seems to play like it practices.  Tech should be able to milk the clock – that’s a given.  However, they’re also going to need to get back to their big-play ways, getting some quick game changing scores to put more pressure on Miami to get away from their running game.

I can see this being a back and forth affair until one team pulls away in the 3rd/4th quarter and wins by about 14-17 points.  This game means a lot of both teams but I think GT out coaches Miami and gets a huge win on the road, setting up a titanic showdown with Clemson next week.  Further, it means that Tech ‘simply’ needs to be VT and Duke and they’re in the ACC title game.

Tech wins, 38-24.

See you at the crossroads

As Tech enters the toughest stretch of the season, the team is at a bit of a crossroads.  A team that was steamrolling opponents and scoring nearly 50 points per game, completing over 60% of its passes and playing overall average defense has regressed into a team that has scored 21 points each of the […]

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I expected Tech to slowly lose potency leading up to the the Clemson game, but I was hoping that they’d be able to pull out big wins at UVA and Miami.  However, if you take a quick glance at the two charts below, you can get an idea of the statistical decline since the Kansas game.

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The Jackets have only had good success statistically against one team in that period, UNC.  Washington completed 71% of his passes for 184 yards and Tech rolled up nearly 500 yards against one of the better ACC defenses.  After that game, the drop has been dramatic, culminating in this week’s loss: 14 offensive points, 272 yards rushing and only 24 yards passing (at a 25% completion rate).

It’s really impossible to really figure out if the decline was self-inflicted or due to increased competition, but I have a feeling that it’s a bit of both.  Virginia has talent to be sure, and it’s hard to beat any team in their stadium – but let’s face it, GT has a better coaching staff and slightly better talent.  However, the only game that I’d say was even close to a ‘complete game’ so far this year was the MTSU game, and that’s not really all that hard to do.

If the Jackets want to take a strong start and finish with something special, they have to do 3 things, and this week:

  1. Get the passing yards back up in the 50% range.  I’ve been harping on this for weeks and it’s not getting any better, but at this rate last year’s passing stats are going to look downright impressive.  The receivers are starting to drop passes, and that’s inexcusable.  If the other team plays good coverage and breaks up a well-thrown ball, there’s no fault to be given there.  But if Tevin Washington throws a halfway catchable ball and it hits a player’s hands, that needs to be a catch.  Without a threat of a downfield passing game, it gets quite easy to overwhelm a one-dimensional offense, no matter the scheme.
  2. Clean up the run defense.  Logan Walls is just getting bullied, as is the rest of the Tech offensive line, which is allowing the other team’s line to get to the second level and open up huge lanes for backs.  If the Jackets can’t find a way to slow down the run this week, Jacory Harris is going to have a field day in the play action pass game.
  3. Stop making mental mistakes.  Again, this is a coachable thing that the Jackets can fix.  Huge penalties cost GT points in the second half and could have been the difference in the game.  Tech is rarely going to be able to just show up and beat up on a team – they have to play smarter, faster and better than the other guys.  Stupid penalties take away one of the only true advantages Tech has over any team.

In a lot of ways, this game was a perfect storm of things that could work against the Jackets and credit the team for fighting back to tie the Cavs in the second quarter.  However, they had no answer for the running game and I’m not sure they will for the rest of the season.

Nobody thought Tech was going to go undefeated – I predicted an 8-3 record going into the bowl season and I still think 8 or 9 wins is about right for a young team that still has some holes that will be exposed against better competition coming up.  However, there isn’t one game on the schedule that I say without a doubt Tech cannot win – but they have to get their act together and start playing smart, efficient football.

Stats are for losers

I expected Tech to slowly lose potency leading up to the the Clemson game, but I was hoping that they’d be able to pull out big wins at UVA and Miami.  However, if you take a quick glance at the two charts below, you can get an idea of the statistical decline since the Kansas […]

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Last year I predicted FSU would finish in the 11-3 range, and I was close. The big miss was Oklahoma, as I really thought they were ready. They were not. This year is different though. After a few great recruiting classes, the Noles seem poised to step back into the national spotlight. I said this about the team’s future prospects last summer:

So that brings us to 10-2, heading to the ACC title game. FSU should lose to VT in that game, and the Noles are a total Jekyll/Hyde sort of team in bowl games, so we could possibly see the season end on a 3 game losing streak. Still, 10-4 or 11-3 seems attainable to me in what is essentially the dawn of the next era of FSU football. I think that next year FSU re-enters the national picture again, but this year is just a bit of buildup for that. The offense is back, and once the defense gets back to the levels they’re capable of, FSU will be an ACC and national power again.

I stand by that, and feel like this is the year that national attention is given early and often to the rising stars in Tallahassee.

The good

Where to start? FSU is absolutely loaded with talent and depth at every position imaginable. For me, the real standouts are going to be the defensive line and secondary, two areas that were feast or famine last year. Returning are a boatload of blue chippers who have grown up mentally and especially physically and are ready to simply dominate teams. EJ Manuel is the rising Junior QB who is a dark horse Heisman contender, and is flanked by a super deep stable of running backs, wideouts and tight ends. The offensive linemen, especially both tackles, are All-American contenders.

Again, just simply stacked everywhere. Watch out for LaMarcus Joyner on D, and Nick O’Leary on offense.

The bad

The offensive line is having trouble staying healthy. Chris Thompson, last year’s leading rusher, has had some back issues. That’s about it.

September

Louisiana-Monroe Body bag game. ULM, a Sun Belt team that should have some young talent, won’t be any match for FSU. I just can’t imagine how ULM keeps this game very close. Not only are the Noles going to be bigger, faster and stronger than ULM, I fully expect the team to focus of jumping out fast to get some of the younger guys game experience. I’m not sure it’ll be like some of the early games from last year where the final score was nearly 60-3, but I’m going to say FSU rolls. Backups in the 3rd quarter.  FSU wins by 35+.

Charleston Southern Let’s face it, you could copy and paste what I wrote above to this section. The only difference is the game with Oklahoma looming. Maybe they take their eyes off of this game a bit. FSU wins by 24.

Oklahoma I’m still not sure how I feel about this game. Last year I said FSU would win a close one. I was dead wrong, and it was one of the only games I really considered turning off multiple times. Just a brutal showing in every phase of the game. I’m still not sure about this game, although I do feel like it’s going to be much closer than last time. Oklahoma tends to roll early in the season and then blow a night road game late in the year. This is not that game. OU has so many weapons and a fantastic quarterback in Landry Jones, who is a legit Heisman contender. Throw in one of the top WR units in the nation and the stacked FSU defense is going to be tested early and often, and I’m not sure they’ll be able to hang for the entire game.

The pressure will really be on FSU to control tempo early, get first downs, and get points. I feel like this game could go either way, but it’ll be interesting to see which defense does enough to win this game. I’m picking Oklahoma – but if FSU in fact wins this game, they’re going to the national title game. Mark it down.  Oklahoma by 3.

@ Clemson Let down alert! IF the Noles were to win the game the week before, it’ll be a huge test to go on the road to one of the tougher stadiums to play in. It’ll be a huge test regardless of course, but the ACC scheduling gods were frowning on the boys from Tallahassee when they put together this one-two punch. On to the Tigers, though. Ex-Tulsa coach Chad Morris heads up the Clemson offense, and Tulsa was absolutely insane to watch last year. The 2010 squad ranted in the top 10 scoring, and the top 5 in yards – and folks expect that to translate to Clemson’s offense this year. Tajh Boyd is the new starting quarterback, and he’s a dual threat guy who could give fits to less athletic teams. With that said, I’m pretty confident that FSU will be able to dominate in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and that should be the difference in the ball game. Despite the potential for a let down, I think the Noles will win fairly comfortably.  FSU wins by 13.

October

@ Wake Forest And now, cruise control. Wake Forest is coming off of their second consecutive losing season, and the cupboard is starting to look bare for the Deacons. This matchup will be a good opportunity to get into a rhythm for a few easy games before some key ACC games.  FSU wins by 21.

@ Duke Copy, paste.  FSU wins by 21+.

Maryland Big game here. Danny O’Brien is a talented QB and FSU could easily have lost the game to the Terps last year. Both teams have improved since last year, FSU with their talent maturing and Maryland with a new coaching staff who will demand sound fundamentals on every single play. I think this game will be a scary one, with FSU winning late – maybe a field goal deciding the contest.  FSU wins by 3.

NC State Revenge for a game FSU really should have won last year. Driving at the end of the contest, Ponder fumbled a play-action at the end of the game to blow it. NCSt has a lot of veteran starters and are well coached – I’ve always been a fan of Tom O’Brien teams. However, they’re not super talented on defense and their special teams appear to be a weakness. FSU will be too much.  FSU wins by 10.

November

@ Boston College Thursday night with no week off before the game … the ACC scheduling gods are back at it. It’ll come down to which team is ready to play. BC is no slouch but they just don’t have the talent to hang for 4 quarters.  FSU wins by 13.

Miami If UM still has a a team to field, this game would be less than a TD between the teams. Lots of senior talent on this team, and if they are all out there, it could be a lot closer than my prediction. However, I’m not counting on it.  FSU wins by 13.

Virginia This is the last home game of the year for what could be an undefeated FSU team. UVA is getting some great recruits and slowly rebuilding their team, but this isn’t the year for them. This is possibly the easiest home game of the year other than the first 2 patsies. FSU wins by 21.

@ Florida Yeah, Florida is down. Guess what, they still are absolutely loaded with blue chippers at every position. If this game were earlier in the year, I could see FSU winning by a few TDs – but this is both team’s final game of the regular season and I think they’ll have figured out the new offensive and defensive schemes that coaches Muschamp and Weis are adding. A lot will be on the line for this game, and FSU will have a ton to play for on the road against a very tough opponent. FSU in a squeaker.  FSU wins by less than 3.

Summary

The ACC schedule looks like a cakewalk, and I realistically can see FSU winning the ACC with 1 loss to a non conference opponent and going to a BCS bowl game. This team is for real, and they’re still very young everywhere except the offensive line. Expect great things this year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw the Noles in the national championship conversation this year, next year, and for years to come.

Florida State 2011 predictions

Last year I predicted FSU would finish in the 11-3 range, and I was close. The big miss was Oklahoma, as I really thought they were ready. They were not. This year is different though. After a few great recruiting classes, the Noles seem poised to step back into the national spotlight. I said this about the […]

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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 good

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 bad

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.

September

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.

October

@ 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.

November

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.

Summary

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.

Georgia Tech 2011 predictions

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 good The defense looks to be much improved […]

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What a debacle.  GT got embarrassed on a weekend where they really could have set themselves apart as the ONE good ACC team.  Almost everyone else lost, and obviously Tech did the same in a very disappointing effort in all phases of the game.  I’m going to quickly hit a few things that jumped out at me while watching the game:

Offense

2 things are really concerning on the offensive side of the ball, and they both are the reason why the Jackets haven’t been able to break any really big plays this year.

1) The passing game, specifically catching the ball.  I’m not here to defend Joshua Nesbitt – he didn’t look great throwing the ball at all, and he really hasn’t since the Clemson game last year.  The last 3 games have been pretty rough for the GT signal caller.  However, I don’t expect him to complete 70% of his passes for 250 yards every game.  What I do expect is that we’ll hit about 1/3 of the deep passes (over 20 yards or so), and the shorter passes should be near the 55%-65% metric.  Considering Nesbitt throws the ball deep a lot due to the single coverage most teams will show, a solid 50% completion percentage overall would be fine with me.

The problem is wide open A backs and wideouts dropping highly catchable balls.  If Roddy Jones, Stephen Hill, Orwin Smith, and the rest of the outside players can’t catch passes that hit them right in the hands, Tech is in massive trouble.

2) Let me continue dumping on the skill position players and say that the A backs and Wideouts MUST get their assigned player on the ground.  It’s absolutely imperative on every option play or toss sweep that the playside A back get out and cut the linebacker or safety they’re going to block, and the wideout must cut the corner that’s guarding him.  Watch any good running or screen team, and every successful play will have bodies littered on the playside.  Guys know we’re going to cut them, but you have to make sure 100% they’re on the ground.

Not the best video, but an example of a solid cut block:

You have to seal off the perimeter.  You just have to.  You do that, and you’ll get consistent 5, 10, 20 yard plays by the A backs and Nesbitt on the perimeter.  As it currently stands, a safety for Kansas was running free on most plays after defeating the cut and would tackle out perimeter guy after 1 or 2 yards.  We have to get 4+ yards on every running play to keep this offense going.

A lot of offensive issues, but I think overall they’re small and can be solved in time for their next opponent, UNC.

Defense

GT can’t get pressure up the middle, their DT Walls is getting pushed around on every play.  This of course leads to gap control being an issue, which is leading to a lot of the runs’ success.  If you don’t stay in your gap and defend both sides of the gaps you’re assigned to, bad things happen.  Like big runs.

Missed tackles is still an issue.  The short runs turn into huge ones.  Until GT can wrap up, they’ll be a middling defense, regardless of the scheme. Statistically GT’s D is slightly better but only by a few yards.  I think they’ll continue to improve as the year goes on, and the deep pass defense is actually quite good.  The problem is that so far the only way to get any pressure is to bring at least 2 blitzers.  If you don’t get to the QB fast on a 5 man rush, you tend to leave some gaps for the QB to get the ball to.

I can’t count the times the pressure took a little too long to get there against Kansas, and the QB dumped it off to his hot receiver and he gained 10 yards.

Penalties

Penalties kill you.  Penalties killed Tech.  The well-documented holding penalty to start the half set the tone for a disastrous half which went a little something like this:

Exhibit A) Kick return to the 30 nullified by holding, Tech starts at their own 8.  Goes 3 and out.  Punts the ball 13 yards.  Gives up a TD.

Exhibit B) Tech stops KU near midfield on 3rd down.  Called for roughing the passer.  New first down.

Exhibit C) Tech stops KU on 3rd down.  On the ensuing punt, called for roughing the kicker.

You do this sort of crap enough, and you’re going to lose a lot of games.  Tech’s offense didn’t score a ton of points but they had a good day on the stat sheet running the ball.  Almost 40 yards more than their average last year, as a matter of fact.  The defense isn’t quite there yet, but they gave up 315 yards – not exactly world beaters, but it’s not like they got gashed on every play.  They just would maddeningly find ways to keep the KU offense on the field.  Ultimately it led to a loss.

Maybe this is last year’s Miami game where they just played a truly awful game, regrouped, and didn’t lose another game until the UGA contest.  If you look at the schedule, every single team they play for the rest of the year is beatable from here on out – even the teams I said they initially had no chance against.  However, who is this Georgia Tech team?  I’m not sure even they know yet.  They didn’t look like they were ready to play last week, and if they pull that sort of stunt going up to a depleted UNC squad this Saturday, they may come back to town 1-2.

However, if they learn that you can’t take a play off, and you have to finish (as cliche as that may be), this team has all of the ability to come out and use this game as a chance to kick off a really strong run.

Quick thoughts on GT v. Kansas

What a debacle.  GT got embarrassed on a weekend where they really could have set themselves apart as the ONE good ACC team.  Almost everyone else lost, and obviously Tech did the same in a very disappointing effort in all phases of the game.  I’m going to quickly hit a few things that jumped out at me while watching the game: […]

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I already posted my thoughts on the offensive effort so I’ll add a few bullet points about the entire game.

Offense

Great reads by all 3 QBs that played.  Nesbitt made the cleanest reads and was one step ahead on every run.  Everyone’s already talked about throwing the ball and I was honestly a bit surprised they didn’t spend more time working on that in live game action.  You figure that if you are going to try to air it out a bit, why not do it in game one?  Who knows.  In any event I’m not that worried about it (yet).  The first game of the season is always a bit unpredictable.

Looks like we have a lot more depth on the offensive line this year.  I’m not trying to make excuses for the Iowa game – GT got their butt handed to them in every phase of the game.  However, they had a skeleton crew at OL in that game, and it certainly didn’t help.  Hopefully this year come bowl season the depth can help keep the team competitive.

The A-backs and WRs did not do a good job blocking the corners and linebackers on the perimeter.  Despite that, Nesbitt was able to rip off huge runs but this is against lesser competition.  UNC, Miami, or VT will shut down our perimeter game if  Roddy Jones and company don’t seal off the edges better.

Defense

Overall, the entire effort has to be taken with a grain of salt.  It’s the first game in a 3-4 with frankly, the wrong personnel.  We’re undersized at defensive tackle and ILB, and this means the only way for Tech to really dominate is to have flawless technique when engaging the offense and playing smart.  Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the competition (or lack thereof), but I can’t even count how many plays I watched the defensive tackle over-pursue to one side or the other and then see the running back run thru the hole where the tackle used to be.  That has to be cleaned up.

To Groh & the rest of the staff’s credit, they got it cleaned up by the half.  I liked the effort by the guys to maintain leverage at the point of attack once they had a chance to see what a bunch of big 300 pounders would try to do to them on every play.  The bottom line is that GT’s defense isn’t going to dominate every game, but they should do two things:

a) play more disciplined, focused, consistent defense

b) adjust based on what the other team is doing

Last year’s defense did none of that.  They looked lost in over half of the games they played (Miami, FSU, both Clemson games, UGA, Iowa all come to mind) and the staff did nothing to adjust to what the other teams were doing.   I don’t guarantee Tech will even be in the top 50 defenses in the country, but there is no way in hell Groh will ever allow the sort of disaster that happened against UGA last year, where they ran essentially the same 3 plays the entire game, and the Jackets did nothing to adjust at all.

And finally…

Solid but unspectacular win for the Jackets.  Expectations have been raised in Atlanta, so a lot of people found a ton to complain about (myself included).  But overall, it’s the first game of the year, two of their best playmakers on both sides of the ball are being replaced, and they are running an entirely new defensive scheme.  Mistakes are going to be made.  But good coaches correct them and the next week they are improved.

I really do believe GT is going to stomp the life out of Kansas this weekend.

Quick thoughts on GT v. SC State game

I already posted my thoughts on the offensive effort so I’ll add a few bullet points about the entire game. Offense Great reads by all 3 QBs that played.  Nesbitt made the cleanest reads and was one step ahead on every run.  Everyone’s already talked about throwing the ball and I was honestly a bit surprised they […]

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