Today kicks off a new series that piggybacks off of a miniseries that we ran back in late June where we looked at the teams on our 2014 schedule and analyzed their season outlooks. This included everything from newcomers/players leaving to coaching and playbook changes, and more. This new series is similar, but now we will be looking at how each team on our schedule stacks up against us and maybe even give you a way-too-early score prediction.
First up on the itinerary is none other than Wofford. The Terriers will make the trip from Spartanburg, South Carolina to face the Jackets in Atlanta on August 30th (23 days, y’all!!) at 12:30pm for both teams’ season opener. Wofford plays in the Southern Conference, the former conference for both Elon and Georgia Southern and current home of Mercer, Western Carolina, and Samford among others.
To give you a good idea of the level Wofford plays at (or at least played at last year), in 2013 they beat Elon 31-27, Western Carolina 21-17, and even beat Georgia Southern 30-20, which really surprised me. Everyone seems to be placing more of an emphasis on the Georgia Southern game than the Wofford game for 2014, which now may not be quite as substantiated. Sure, GSU beat Florida last season – but who didn’t? The Terriers finished their season with a four game losing streak and a 5-6 record.
So, the question we’ve all been waiting for: how does Tech match up with Wofford? We’ll start with offense.
Believe it or not, Wofford passes even less than Tech does; the Terriers have an option offense that rarely looks to the air (137 total pass attempts and 939 yards on the year compared to Tech’s 203 attempts and 1675 yards). However, they’re also similar to Tech in the way that when they pass, it is usually for a big gain – they average over 14 yards/catch (compared to Tech at 18 yards/catch). On the ground, they average about 4.6 yards per carry and 270 total yards per game – just thirty yards shy of Tech’s average. Purely based on statistics and what we see here, Tech appears to have a far more effective offense, especially taking into consideration the fact that both offenses are option-based. When you take into account the difference in skill levels of opposing defenses, Tech has the clear advantage on offense.
Defensively, the Terriers allow 393 yards/game compared to Tech’s 360 – again, differences in caliber of opponent should be taken into consideration here. The one FBS Division I-A team that Wofford faced last season (Baylor) won 69-3, but that was a Baylor team bolstered by future NFL quarterback Bryce Petty. Regardless, Wofford’s defense was unable to even remotely slow the Baylor offense. All of these statistics should be taken with a grain of salt, of course; they are from last season and do not accurately reflect the way either team will perform this season.
Despite losing their star running back (Donovan Johnson) and receiver (Jeff Ashley) to graduation, the Terriers still managed to put seven players on the preseason All-Southern Conference team including running back Will Gay and several defensive players.
Even with quality talent on defense, I can’t see Wofford’s defense being able to slow the Tech option we all know and occasionally love – Justin Thomas will likely be the fastest player the Terriers face all season, unless Snoddy gets some touches, which he should. An unbiased third party would not give Wofford much of a shot in this game, and neither do I. You never know with these types of games though, as Middle Tennessee State reminded all of us in 2012. Plus, it’s the season opener, so anything could happen. With that disclaimer, though, I’ll put forth my waaaaaay-too-early score prediction: Tech 66, Wofford 3, and Justin takes it to the house on the first snap of the game.
What’s your score prediction? Any potential game-changing factors I didn’t take into account?