Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics
In part two of our series, we look at the other side of things -- Georgia Tech's offense against USC's defense.
1. Georgia Tech's rushing attack takes on an average USC defense. Upset of the year: Georgia Tech wants to run the ball. Looking at the stats, USC is nationally a very average defense. They rank 57th against the run, 70th against the pass, and are 47th overall in points allowed. What this says to me is that, all things considered, it's a pretty safe bet that Tech can rush for 300-350 yards in this game. Now, that said, the man coaching this defense is Monte Kiffin, once of the most highly-respected coordinators in the business. There can be little doubt that he has some sort of idea on how to scheme against our offense, and so it will be up to our offensive coaches to throw a few things at them that they aren't prepared for, and up to our players to execute a scheme that's tough to stop assuming we're firing on all cylinders. Do that, and we can score 30 or more points on this defense.
2. Georgia Tech's Blockers Will Be Up Against a Highly Talented Defensive Front. USC is famous for the linebackers that they've produced (including but not limited to Brian Cushing, Ray Maualuga, and safety-who's-kinda-like-a-linebacker Troy Polamalu). Tech's offensive line has faced some very talented fronts when playing Virginia Tech, Clemson, georgia and Florida State, and once again will have their hands full taking on a very talented Front 7 of USC. The most success that Tech has had on offense this season was in a stretch in which they played Boston College, Maryland, Duke, and UNC, and non-coincidentally was the same stretch that saw their best blocking of the season and saw records set in the number of blockers that were put on the ground as a result of our blocking, at least as far as the Paul Johnson era goes. In fact, our offense has seemed to go as our blocking has gone -- better blocking means more success, less blocking means less success (Grade-A analysis over here…). Similar to the aforementioned four games, our offense will have its hands full trying to open up running lanes for our ballcarriers, and if they can't, it'll be a very long day for our offense.
3. USC's Secondary Must Remain Focused Against a Relatively Silent-But-Deadly Receiving Corps. (Fart jokes? Must be the airport bar.) Again, no secret that Tech will run the ball mostly, with a couple of passes mixed in. The issue for USC's secondary will come if/when they guess wrong on what play will be called, because if they sell out to stop the run and the Jackets look to pass, our receiving corps (Darren Waller, Jeremy Moore, Chris Jackson, Corey Dennis) is more than capable of burning them for a huge 60-70 yard TD reception. I have little doubt that their unit is capable of covering our guys, but it'll be interesting to see if Coach Johnson is able to dial up something unexpected to turn the tides of the game. A big play here could make a huge difference in the outcome of the game.
4. Georgia Tech will try two QBs….and one has to come out hot. Ever since the Clemson game, each Tech game has featured two quarterbacks -- Tevin Washington, and Vad Lee. Outside of a breakout performance against UNC, Lee hasn't seen much time past his customary two drives. "OMG Paul Johnson, what're you doing??? He's our future!!" You're right, he is our future. But I'll tell you right now that you're wrong if you want to suggest that two drives per game isn't doing much for him. My father grew up in Louisville, KY, making him (and therefore me) a fan by default of the Louisville Cardinals. (I know that seems like a complete non-sequitur, but stick with me here.) Back in the Petrino era at Louisville, Brian Brohm was the prized recruit (similar to our Vad Lee), while Stefan Lefors was the incumbent (similar to our Tevin Washington). His freshman year, Brohm was the backup to Lefors, not seeing too much time. However, he DID see at least one drive every single game (usually in the first half). That may seem minimally impacting, but when he took over the following year, he seemed to be developed far more than most sophomore quarterbacks. That's what we should notice about Lee -- in a similar fashion, he's seen significant time, even playing over 75% of a game against a division rival on the road. Now, this is relevant in our bowl game because the plan is to give each QB their customary two drives, and it would not shock me in the least to see CPJ go with Lee after that, due to him being the "hot hand". Lee has this interesting habit of playing like garbage in practice, only to shine the most and play to his true potential under the brightest lights. Keep an eye on Georgia Tech's QB situation as this game progresses -- you might be surprised as to how it turns out.
Overall, I fully expect Tech's offense to rack up over 250 yards rushing at the very least and put up 24-28 points. If figure that anything else will be a result of clever playcalls, defensive breakdowns, or other phases of the game -- any less the result of overmatching and poor gameplanning.
What are your expectations, Tech fans? A performance for the ages? A performance making us wish we could be playing LSU instead? Something somewhere in the middle? I'd love to hear your opinion.