Taking a look back at their schedule from 2013, the Georgia Southern Eagles from down in Statesboro had a very interesting campaign. The team went 7-4 in their final season in the FCS, defeating the likes of Elon, Chattanooga, and even Florida in what would be chalked up as a relatively disappointing season for the Eagles -- their last campaign with fewer than ten wins came in 2009. The Florida victory in particular stood out; not only was it the game in which two Florida players infamously blocked each other, but it was also Georgia Southern's first victory versus an FBS school in 21 tries. The Eagles hope to carry that great momentum into their inaugural season in the Sun Belt, but they will face a challenging schedule as they claw at FBS win number two -- a schedule that includes, you guessed it, Georgia Tech.
When this game was first announced, I was hoping that it would be between two teams running the classic Paul Johnson flex-bone offense first made famous at Georgia Southern. Those dreams, however, would be crushed at the end of last season when GSU head coach Jeff Monken was hired away by Army. Stepping in to fill his place will be former Sam Houston State head coach Willie Fritz, who runs a different kind of option offense than what we are accustomed to seeing. They call Fritz's offense the pistol-triple-option, which meaning that it is similar to the triple option but a lot more...spaced out. They run it out of the shotgun and that, in addition to looking really weird to Tech fans, could provide the Jacket defense with some unique challenges. Check out this link for a more detailed breakdown of the GSU offense.
While the unique offense that will be integrated at Georgia Southern could cause some issues for Tech defenders, I highly doubt it will do so. You have to think that practicing against a very similar offense at just about every practice would give the Jackets a distinct advantage over any other non-option team, allowing them to be sufficiently prepared. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Southern try to beat Tech up the middle by taking advantage of what could be a shaky Georgia Tech defensive line, but the Jackets should ultimately fare well against the Eagle rushing attack.
The Georgia Tech offense shouldn't have much of a problem getting through the GSU defense either. The Eagles allowed 344 yards per game (good for 38th in the FCS) and 23 points per game in 2014, neither of which were sparkling number in the FCS and both of which will need to improve in time for FBS play. Justin Thomas will be hands down one of the fastest and most athletic players the Eagles will face all season, and I think that his great footwork and general knowledge of the offense will be a huge pain for GSU. They will already be outmatched as far as talent and athleticism, but Thomas's added explosiveness could be the nail in their coffin.
All things considered, the Jackets shouldn't have any problem handling the Eagles this season. Barring major injuries/chemistry issues for Tech, the game should likely end in a blowout in favor of the good guys. My projected score is 56-14 Tech behind a great rushing day from Justin Thomas, but it could be a bit closer if things fall into place for the Eagles (and fall apart for the Jackets). If Tech players remember who to block and as long as what was a Sun Belt mishap doesn't turn into a Sun Belt curse, then we should be good to go. The thing I'm most worried about is enough Tech fans showing up to be able to call it home field advantage -- the Southern fans certainly won't miss the game and I fear that it might get overlooked by Yellow Jacket fans who think of it as too much of a cupcake game to show up in full force. BE THERE OR BE SQUARE, GT NATION!
What are you most looking forward to about the Georgia Tech vs. Georgia Southern matchup? Will it be a blowout or much closer than I projected? Will the Jackets be equipped to handle the hybrid triple option run by the Eagles?