On the heels of three straight losses, Georgia Tech plays host this weekend to the 3-3 Syracuse Orange this weekend. After an 0-2 start, the Orange have won 3 of their last 4, even though the level of competition across those games is debatable (Wagner, Tulane, NC State). They're led by dynamic sophomore QB Terrel Hunt, who gets things done with his arm as well as his legs. Hunt is currently passing for 58.6% completion with 7 TD's, and he's carried 37 times for 240 yards and 3 TD's (good for 6.5 per carry). He's flanked by a 1-2 punch in running backs Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley, who have combined for 804 yards and 12 TDs thus far.
However, they'll face a Georgia Tech defense that has struggled at times, but been rock-solid at others. Particularly in the second half, only Miami has really had success against the Tech defense going all the way back to last year's ACC Championship game. However, Syracuse's strong suit offensively is their rushing attack, which Georgia Tech will have to work to contain. Their last two games have seen a combined 416 rushing yards from opponents, even though the four teams prior to that combined did not rush for that much. With the secondary so banged up, there will be a lot of relying on the front 7 to step up and stop the rushing game and get a pass rush on Hunt. If this can happen, they'll be able to give the pass defense the best shot it can get for making plays and shutting down the Orange offense.
Offensively, Georgia Tech has struggled in their three losses and looks to rebound this weekend. The rushing attack has sputtered two of the past three weeks, forcing them to rely more on the arms of Vad Lee and Justin Thomas. More success in either phase of the game could lead to big payoffs on the scoreboard. The Syracuse defense, on the other hand, is ranked 21st nationally in rushing defense, but 103rd in passing defense. If ever there has been a week to get the quarterbacks and receivers on the same page, it's this week, against a very young and unproven Orange secondary.
With upcoming games against Virginia, Pittsburgh, Clemson, Alabama A&M, and georgia, this game looks to be a must-win for the Yellow Jackets if they're to preserve bowl eligibility. Coach Johnson has maintained in recent weeks that this team is likely better than its record suggests, and that it's played well for a large portion of games even in losses. In order to win this week, the Jackets will have to play better than recent weeks against a solid Syracuse team. To win, Tech needs to win the turnover battle, contain Syracuse's rushing attack, play clean on special teams, and simply execute on offense. If those four things happen tomorrow, the Yellow Jackets will win, and Tech fans everywhere will be able to take a deep breath and relax.
What are your feelings going into Saturday's game, Tech fans? Expecting a win? Expecting a loss? Are we going to feel better about ourselves afterwards?