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Keys to the Game: Special Teams

In our final part of the preview series, we take a look at how special teams will impact Monday's game between the Yellow Jackets and Trojans.


1. Georgia Tech's Special Teams Unit Takes on a More Talented USC Special Teams Unit. Alright, I'll admit it: I'm making an assumption here. I don't know for a fact that USC's Special Teams players are more talented than ours. For all I know, they're not. But here's the premise of my assumption: First, the Special Teams players on any team will be mostly guys that don't see the field on offense or defense, outside of sub situations. Second, USC gets better talent overall than we do on a yearly basis. Thus, the guys that don't see the field too much for the Trojans will likely be more physically gifted than our guys that don't see the field too much. Make sense? Good. This is important because the way that any team of any sport overcomes a noteworthy talent deficit is by out-scheming their opponent. As our own Bobby Dodd once said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "They're bigger, stronger, and faster than you. But you have a major advantage -- you're smarter than they are." For Tech to match up well against USC's Special Teams, they need a good gameplan along with solid execution.

2. Georgia Tech Cannot Afford to Lose the Game on Special Teams. The interesting thing about football is how often a game is won or lost on Special Teams. Let me make this really clear -- Tech is not talented enough to win a game against USC in which they need to dig themselves out of a hole. This includes turnovers, but can also largely include Special Teams slip-ups. Make a great play on Special Teams? Awesome, you helped the cause. Well done. Make a major mistake on Special Teams and allow a score (or close to it)? Well, that was another fun, losing trip to El Paso. Again, similar to other games the Jackets have played in the past 3 months, they don't need to be perfect on Special Teams -- that's a tall order for even the best of college football teams in today's world. The key, though, will be avoiding the big mistake -- that fumble on a punt return, the missed tackle on a kickoff return that goes for big yardage (or a touchdown), or the roughing the kicker penalty that gives USC another set of downs (because Lord knows our defense doesn't have a knack for getting off of the field on third down in the first place).

3. USC is Cocky, and That May Come Back to Bite Them in the Ass. Showing up to the traditional dinner late? Defensive lineman calling the city of El Paso "shitty"? Ranked #1 before the season starts, and playing a bowl game before New Year's Day? Here's the deal, Tech fans: USC is cocky. They have this feeling that they deserve to be in a better game -- that they're too good for the Sun Bowl. Maybe they are, that's not for me to judge. The bottom line is this: In their minds, they're above playing in the Sun Bowl, and that might be their Achilles' Heel in this game. Tech comes in hungry, without a Bowl victory since I was in middle school (…that wasn't a joke). If their Special Teams units come in taking things for granted, unfocused, we've seen twice this year what Jamal Golden is capable of. If he's allowed to take one to the house (or even the red zone), USC will be allowing Tech an advantage that they have no business being afforded. Personally, I'm extremely interested to watch the mannerisms and performance of USC's 2012 B-side players in this game, because if either side isn't focused, it can and WILL come back to bite them in the ass.

I expect one big Special Teams play to have a major effect on this game. I don't know what it'll involve, or which side it will impact positively or negatively, but simply that there will be one (and only one) Special Teams that plays a large part in the outcome of this game, regardless of who wins.

Do you agree, Tech fans? Can we really hurt USC if taken for granted? Can we get stomped on Special Teams if we're not fully prepared? Will Special Teams impact this game at all? I'd love to hear your thoughts.