I hope everybody had a great and merry Christmas. Now it's time to get back to football. Toe meets leather in just five days, so let's take a look at some things for which to watch.
1. Pass Rush
I'm breaking the trend only slightly since our winning streak came to an unfortunate end in the ACC Championship Game. Instead of focusing on the defense as a whole, let's focus on just one key part that was absent in that last loss: the pass rush.
Ted Roof and the defense have been trying to come up with some way to get to the quarterback the entire season, but have only been successful in small increments. Tech has a grand total of two players with at least four sacks: true freshman defensive end KeShun Freeman with 4.5 and sophomore linebacker PJ Davis. The rest of the defense has combined for an abysmal 9.5 sacks. Needless to say, it's been an issue.
But in those games where we do get a decent pass rush, our defense is much better. Here's a stat for y'all to chew on. Against FBS opponents this year, Tech allowed 33.5 points per game when sacking the opposing quarterback once or not at all. When they sacked the quarterback more times than that, that average drops all the way to 17.7 points per game.
With a crazy split like that, I would expect Ted Roof to be doing whatever he can to get his defense to get some pressure on Dak Prescott.
2. Whatever's Left of the Receivers and A-backs
As the regular season came to a close, the Yellow Jackets started dropping. First, breakout a-back Broderick Snoddy broke his leg against Clemson. Out for the rest of the season. Against georgia, Deandre Smelter tore his ACL. Our for the rest of the season. Against Florida State, Tony Zenon had another leg injury that I've heard rumored to be an ACL/MCL injury. Likely out for the rest of the season.
That's three pretty good players right there. We need somebody to step up. I'm not as concerned about a-back as I am about wide receiver.
At a-back, we still have Charles Perkins and Dennis Andrews, both of whom have been playing well, especially recently.
At receiver, there's a bit more of a drop-off. Likely starting the Orange Bowl at receiver will be Darren Waller and Micheal Summers. Now, they're both good receivers, don't get me wrong, but they don't quite have the same chemistry with Justin Thomas, like Deandre Smelter did. That can be shown by a play against Florida State.
It was fourth and long, Tech was trying to catch up. Thomas dropped back to pass. He threw expecting Waller to keep going on the deep route. Waller was expecting the pass short and cut back. Incomplete pass. If Waller keeps running forward, that could very well be a touchdown and the result of the game could potentially change. But let's not speculate.
The point remains, Tech needs someone to step up in place of our injured players.
It's no secret that Tech's defense lives and dies by the turnover. Tech has had 10 different players combine to pick off opposing quarterbacks 17 times. DJ White and Jamal Golden lead the way with four each.
Combine that with Tech's 14 forced fumbles (nine recovered) and five field goal blocks, and it's no wonder our defense has appeared to be as good as it has.
But we learned against Florida State that this isn't necessarily a good thing. We could not turn the ball over at all. Jameis Winston played nearly a flawless game. We were the first FBS team State played that they did not turn the ball over against. It's not a coincidence that that was also arguably their best game of the entire season.
Tech needs to find a way to make stops without needing to rely on turnovers. There's nothing wrong with turnovers. At least until you can't turn the ball over.
What are you watching for in the Orange Bowl?