If you'll remember before the season, FTRS had a small series called Opinions Week. Various members of the staff made some outrageous predictions and made those opinions public. With the season concluded, it's time that we take a look back at those and see how they compared with reality.
Just prior to Memorial Day 2014, I wrote what some took to be a hot take, saying that Georgia Tech was capable of going undefeated this fall. It was more in the scope of which teams were on the schedule and the flaws that even the best of them had. It included some recent series histories as justifications as well, and began with six games that were obviously, without debate, winnable.
Unlike most of this last weekend in Vegas, I was spot on! Georgia Tech won 10 of its 12 regular season games, and lost the other two by a single possession in pretty competitive games. Let's take a look back...
The First 6
The six games that were listed as "definitely winnable", Georgia Tech finished 6 of 6 in. That's Wofford, Tulane, Georgia Southern, Pittsburgh (bold call in retrospect), Virginia, and NC State. Of those, the closest was actually Georgia Southern, which I wrote off. But win or lose, the game still qualified as "winnable".
Losses, But Not Bad Ones
The next set was a look at Duke and UNC. Both had recent histories of great success for Georgia Tech -- the Yellow Jackets had gone 11-1 over the two under Paul Johnson, with the one blemish coming in his first season against UNC. No, Georgia Tech did not come out of these games with victories, but again, the metric was whether the game was "winnable". The Jackets fell to Duke at home 31-25 -- a six-point loss resulted from their worst game of the year, an injured quarterback, and a bizarre lightning delay that extended halftime by an hour. All that, not to mention the emotional letdown in the team and crowd after a huge prime time win over Miami the week before. I've said it before and I'll say it here again -- if Georgia Tech even plays an average game, they win this one. Instead, they played their worst game, and lost by a slim margin.
As for UNC, the Jackets lost in a shootout in the worst defensive performance of the season. Additionally, they had the ball down 5 with under 5:30 to play. They promptly had a 5-play, 87-yard drive that was capped off by a 75-yard DeAndre Smelter touchdown run on a reverse -- an amazing play that actually had a lot of Tech fans groaning over the time left on the clock. Sure enough, 3:07 ended up enough for UNC to work its way down the field and win the game with only 0:11 to spare. But, again -- obviously the game was "winnable".
Finally, the "Big 4". Coming into the season, Georgia Tech was on a 1-15 streak against Miami, Clemson, Virginia Tech, and georgia, and hadn't won against any of them in over two years. That said, Virginia Tech had major offensive issues and held the Yellow Jackets to 10 points in 2013 for a one-score win. In Blacksburg, Tech got a late touchdown on a nice throw-and-catch from Justin Thomas to Smelter, and then turned a DJ White interception into a game-winning Harrison Butker field goal. 4-game losing streak: broken.
Miami came in looking to replace its quarterback, and was missing multiple top options to do so. Instead, they came to Atlanta with true freshman Brad Kaaya under center. As was mentioned, when Duke Johnson is taken out of their offense, the Hurricanes struggle. While Johnson wasn't exactly "taken away" with 100 yards, he was contained and their offense was forced to throw the ball. Kaaya threw two crucial interceptions and the Miami defense struggled mightily to slow down an imposing Georgia Tech offense. Zach Laskey went for 133 of Georgia Tech's 313 rushing yards, and the Jackets rolled. 5-game losing streak: broken.
As noted, Clemson had a lot of offensive firepower to replace, and boy did it cost them in this game. Their best threat offensively was true freshman QB Deshaun Watson, who was returning from an injury and only lasted about a quarter before re-injuring his knee. He was replaced by senior Cole Stoudt, who had a sensationally terrible performance, going 3/11 for 19 yards and 3 interceptions. The Tigers' defense performed better against Georgia Tech's offense than anyone else did all year, but their offense was hardly a challenge for the Yellow Jackets' defense. They finished with under 200 yards on offense and a mere two field goals for points. 2-game losing streak: broken.
Finally, our in-state rivals. As noted, the difference in this game was the loss of QB Aaron Murray with a replacement of Hutson Mason. After a rough first half, the Jackets' defense tightened up in the second half against uga RB Nick Chubb, forcing Mason to beat them. Mason did have some success, but couldn't get their offense over the hump for more than one second-half touchdown. It was also Mason who ended the game on a poor decision to throw a slant route that DJ White had covered up masterfully. White came down with the pick, and that was all she wrote. 5-game losing streak: broken.
Even looking back at the optimism of the prediction, I'm surprised how close it got to being a prophecy. The luck finally started turning in close games for Georgia Tech, and not only was every game indeed winnable...but they darn near won every game. This will undoubtedly go down as one of the best seasons in the history of Georgia Tech football.