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Roundtable Discussion 10/31

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We talk about recruiting, targeting and coach of the year-ing.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Can you give us a breakdown of what you saw against FSU this past week?

Kieffer Milligan: Whew, that was a gutsy win! At no point was it pretty, but it did just enough to get the job done. Both offenses were pretty inefficient, driving for good yards but having a lot of drives stall due to negative plays. It really ended up being a field goal duel. I said during the game that field goals wouldn't win it for either team, funny how that turned out.

Offense was shaky at times, but looked improved at others. Florida State has a very athletic defense that was able to defeat blocks and make a lot of plays. The biggest thing that stood out to me on offense was the adjustments that were made to the blocking schemes on the fly. They still weren't always executed properly, but they showed that we can respond well to small nuances that opposing defenses like to throw at us. We used an outside release to fight the hard pinch the DEs were putting on the OTs, and we even went as far as to use an A-back to take out the Mike LB while the OT went on an outside release to the safety.

On defense, it was just a case of guys stepping up. So many injuries in this game on a unit that was already thin. The defensive play calling was a bit conservative, but it worked, so I won't complain. Adam Gotsis was unstoppable. He got the better of everyone he faced every play. It was nuts. FSU was also insistent on blocking him with 1 man every play for some reason. They kept double teaming Gamble while one of their guards got beat time and time again. That part of the game baffled me.

Cade Lawson: Nothing went perfectly (excluding the second half defense), but nothing went horribly either. The offense executed some some plays really well and other plays were still successful despite poor execution. Those are the breaks that you get sometimes and don't get other times. It happens. In terms of the defense, it was one of the most impressive performances of the year anywhere in the ACC. Dalvin Cook is an all-world running back and was bottled up. Golson threw his first interception of the year. The receivers for FSU weren't allowed to execute. Everything went well.

Joey Weaver: What an amazing effort by a team that had every reason to quit on the season and itself. They played a relatively mistake-free game, especially on special teams (which had been a disaster for several weeks in a row), and they finally caught a couple of big breaks. (As Coach Johnson said after the game, "It was our turn.") The defense was outstanding in bottling up Dalvin as much as we could have asked for, and the defensive line was constantly pressuring Everett Golson to a degree that we never thought possible. The offense hit a few big plays for scores and to keep drives alive, and it changed the game.

Finally, on the last play of the game, an opportunity presented itself. And for the first time this season, the team didn't miss it. What resulted was a play that will go down in Georgia Tech lore, as well as that of college football as a whole. Amazing game, and awesome win for a team that needed it so, so badly.

Ben Tankersley: Offensively, we still have a ways to go, but that performance also came up against a pretty good FSU defense. So far this season, I have actually been pretty impressed at what the offense has done in spite of the circumstances. Obviously, there are issues, but the team was able to overcome them this week.

The real story of this team last week, though, was defense and special teams. The two areas that plagued Tech in their five-game losing streak are the same two areas that (at least in my opinion) won the game against Florida State. They left FSU out of the endzone on virtually every drive, save for one that started inside the 10. They kept Dalvin Cook (probably the best running back Tech faces this season) to a season low of 80-something yards. Butker nailed all three of his field goals. And oh yeah, the whole Miracle on Techwood thing. That was pretty neat.

2) On a scale of 0 to 2007, how do you rate the craziness of the 2015-2016 season so far? - DressHerInWhiteAndGold

KM: It's a bit premature to be throwing things like 2007 around yet. We've seen a fair share of upsets, but there are still several undefeated teams at the top. In terms of ridiculous improbable plays, however, this one may just take the cake.

CL: I mean, the only really crazy part was the Miracle on Techwood. The rest has just been disappointing and exhausting if not a little bit unlucky. I'll go with a solid 1,003.5 and just meet you in the middle. In terms of college football as a whole, it has been a lot of fun. I honestly can't think of a plausible playoff matchup that I wouldn't be compelled to watch, and that's a direct result of the exciting upsets all throughout football.

JW: If we're talking about college football as a whole (which I assume that we are), it's been crazy, but hasn't come to a head quite like 2007 did just yet. This is one of those years in college football where it's really hard to identify any teams that don't have major flaws, and it ends in some of the best teams getting beaten by bad match-ups. The month of November sets up to be very 2007-esque in levels of chaos, and it'll be interesting to see which teams can hold serve as they go through the most difficult portions of their schedule.

BT: The chaos has only begun. We've seen some major upsets and some wild endings, but before the end of the season, I think things will only get crazier as teams race towards the College Football Playoff. So much, to the point that there will not be an undefeated team in the Playoff (that's my bold prediction for the rest of the season). I don't have a clue who will be in it, but things are only just starting to get crazy.

3) If we were to run the table to finish 7-5, does CPJ get coach of the year for turning it around, or does he take the heat for the five-game slide in the first place? - SullyGT

KM: You mean ACC coach of the year? That's going to Dabo Swinney unless something ridiculous happens. If you just mean whether or not we give him credit for turning around, then it's a little bit of both. He has to be held accountable for the way this team came out of the gate flat, but should also get credit for getting these freshmen ready to play on the fly despite the tough losses.

CL: He shouldn't. There are dozens of coaches who have done a better job and I doubt that a 7-5 coach could ever win the award anyway. Coach of the Year needs to go to the coach who led his team to a successful season, not a successful few months as would be the case if Johnson were to win out. He went 11-3 last year and wasn't even that close to winning it. A 7-5 showing will absolutely not get it done, and it shouldn't.

JW: I don't think he wins a "Coach of the Year" award by any stretch, but I do think you could look at it as being one of his best coaching jobs at Georgia Tech. The team was incredibly demoralized after five straight losses, and yet continued to play hard through it all. To take a team from staring into the abyss of bowl ineligibility in mid-October all the way to multiple huge wins (which FSU and uga would both be in this case) and a respectable bowl game would be nothing short of impressive.

That said, I think you could look at this season as a mulligan, but most will look at him and expect a much, much better return next season.

BT: Absolutely not. While turning around a 2-5 record is a very impressive feat, I don't believe a COTY would let his team get to that point. At this point, I'd give the ACC award to Pat Narduzzi for managing to make Pitt as good as they are without James Conner and virtually no defense (though it is better than last year's).

4) Do you see Justin Thomas improving much at all the rest of the season, or is the way he's played recently the new expectation for him in 2015? - Joel Hernandez

KM: This is what's to be expected from him until his supporting cast fully picks up the slack. Last year he was fantastic, but didn't truly turn it on until the later part of last season. That was when we were destroying defenses with the dive and Smelter/Waller were bailing the offense out whenever necessary. Justin Thomas is a good player, but will continue to feel like he needs to force things until the rest of the offense picks it up. His improvement is predicated upon their improvement.

CL: I think he'll continue to improve along with the rest of the offense. He still has the potential to do every game what he did to Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl, but the opportunities just haven't been there all season. We saw the explosiveness come back a little bit on that long touchdown against FSU, but hopefully it will fully return -- along with the blocking -- this weekend.

JW: It seems a weekly routine now to be writing the MMQB and include something along the lines of "this wasn't Justin Thomas's best game", which is tough to do after he had such high hopes coming into this season. That said, I'd like to see him improve quite a bit -- he's been making an awful lot of bad decisions, especially by trying to force passes when there's nothing there. You saw it on both interceptions in the FSU game -- he was under pressure and threw a pass into heavy traffic that was, predictably, intercepted. Something like that improving isn't hard to do over the course of a few weeks, but it certainly isn't easy when you consider how little protection he's had in the passing game. (As consistent as the pressure has been, I'm not even sure better protection would help at this point -- Thomas is probably in fight-or-flight mode from the moment he takes the snap on passing plays.)

BT: I hate to be that guy, but I don't think that much has changed since we saw him last year. Sure, he's another year older, but he's still taking pretty much every risk out there. The difference is that last year, he had the experience and luck around him to take advantage of those risks; needless to say, he doesn't quite have that this year.

5) What is your opinion on Jimbo Fisher's statements that there were some missed targeting calls in the game?

KM:

CL: If he said it then I have no issue with believing it. I didn't see them personally, but I seriously doubt that he was trying to make excuses or anything else. Jimbo Fisher is one of the classiest coaches in all of college football. If he says he saw something questionable then he probably did. The problem is that Paul Johnson could probably go watch the game and say the same thing, as could all coaches. Hindsight is 20/20, especially with replays so readily available. And even if Fisher was just trying to deflect some blame away from himself, who cares? He coaches for a team with notoriously crazy fans who are actively criticizing his decision to kick a make-able field goal with the best kicker in the country. Let the man defend himself. He deserves to be able to. The only thing that matters is the final score. Everyone who watched the game knows who won, including Jimbo. There's a huge difference between blaming a loss on a series of no-calls and acknowledging that a series of no-calls may have occurred. The latter is not offensive or noteworthy at all.

JW: It irritates me to hear those things, largely because Georgia Tech isn't a dirty team, and never has been under Paul Johnson. This is the second time Adam Gotsis has been involved in something like this in 2015 (the first time being when he was ejected from the UNC game) and, like I said the first time, it's entirely a function of him being 6'5" and the rule being somewhat poorly written. He's going in at guys at full steam with his facemask up, and because he's as tall as he is, the facemasks are colliding. I fail to see how that's even in the neighborhood of being as dangerous as hits the involve "launching" or a truly "defenseless" player (a receiver tracking a ball in the air, versus a quarterback standing in the pocket). There's no intent there beyond Gotsis just trying to make a good, physical football play. That he's tall shouldn't be reason enough to penalize him.

BT: Did I see anything that I would consider targeting? No. Did I see comparable hits to the hit that got Adam Gotsis kicked out against UNC? Yes. There were two that I remember. They were both helmet-to-helmet hits that just kind of happened. The first one was the one that was linked to in the comments where Gotsis goes head-to-head with Everett Golson. I don't believe there was any ill intent in the hit, just a consequence of Gotsis' size. The other one was a freak accident where AJ Gray and Golson bumped heads. This was on the play that actually took Gray out of the game. At first, I thought it was because he was shaken up by the hit (Golson visibly was), but later I found out it was a different injury. Both were accidents though. No ill intent behind either one.

6) Does Tech’s record play a bigger part in recruiting or does the miracle on Techwood?

KM: Neither! Recruiting is based on long term trends and the coach's ability to recruit. The miracle helped with the recruits who were in attendance, because the atmosphere was electric the whole time. Recruiting is a long term game that centers around relationships built by coaches, resources available for recruiting activities, and the perceived football atmosphere surrounding the school. There are other factors for sure, but I've found that these are the three that show up in every recruit's situation.

CL: I'm sure that both play some sort of role for potential recruits, but the Miracle on Techwood probably has the biggest impact for the guys actually in attendance. There is a whole section at every game dedicated to recruits right behind the band and all of those guys got to storm the field with the students. I saw a few of them down on the field getting recruited a bit too intensely by a very intoxicated fan, but I'm sure that didn't hurt their perception too badly. They laughed it off. High school guys live in the present, not the past and not the future. I think I'm qualified to say that. And, as it happens, the present is pretty awesome for the recruits who experiences the Miracle.

JW: This might be a bit off from what others say, but I'm actually going to say the "Miracle" is making a bigger impact right now than Tech's record is. The reason? Georgia Tech managed to pull one of the better moments in college football history in the middle of a crazy environment against a highly-ranked team, and did all of it right in front of several recruits who were there for the game. In that regard, it's a bit of a "pure luck" type of thing, but that those recruits were in position to rush the field and experience an incredible atmosphere and a huge win like that -- it's a huge deal to them.

I should add, too, that I'm just talking about the current seniors here. Any juniors or sophomores who Georgia Tech is recruiting will be far, far more affected by the questionable record. The older ones who were in attendance, though? That's a moment they won't soon forget.

BT: I would say they both have impacts on recruiting, just in different senses. The Miracle on Techwood's impact will come in the short term (this next year). Kids will see that and be like "Yeah, they made that awesome play. That'd be cool to be on the same team as that guy." The overall record will make a more lasting impact as time continues. Oh, Paul Johnson went 7-5? Well, it doesn't look like it gets much better than that. I'll just go somewhere else. It might be a bit extreme, but it gets my point across.

How do you see this weekend playing out in Charlottesville?

KM: UVA doesn't look that good this year, which makes me nervous. With Shamire Devine out this game and the guard position already performing poorly last game, I'm worried that the offense will stall out. The defense just needs to keep it up and avoid injuries. I'm hoping that this UVA team has given up a bit and will come out flat, especially with Mike London possibly halfway out the door already. The offense will need to move consistently again. Field goals, yet again, won't win this game for either team.

CL: The Hoos are not as good on either side of the ball as FSU, but this is still a trap game. Running back Taquan Mizzell leads UVA in receiving and rushing, so he's someone to watch for. Other than that, UVA is pretty devoid of offensive talent having lost All-American Kevin Parks to graduation. I have resolved not to predict scores, but this one could go either way.

JW: This game sets up so, so poorly for Georgia Tech, and it's terrifying. It's a huge letdown spot and also a sandwich game, for one (I'll let you decide whether Virginia Tech or the bye week is the other bun of this particular sandwich). Not only that, but it's taking place in Charlottesville, where Georgia Tech has traditionally played poorly for reasons that the likes of NASA and CERN have yet to determine.

That said, as much as Charlottesville is a bit of a black hole of football reason, that extends to their team. The Hoos have recruited exceptionally well over the last several years, only to perhaps lead the country in "recruiting rankings for teams that don't make bowl games". No, Virginia hasn't made a bowl game since playing in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve as 2011 turned to 2012. It's a perpetually underperforming team, but that's more to say that they have a lot of pure talent on the roster. It's that very reason that they've consistently given Georgia Tech fits for years now, especially when games are played at Scott Stadium. (Since kicking a game-winning field goal to upset the Hoos in 1990, the Jackets are 2-9 there -- although they're 2-1 under Paul Johnson.)

I'm very much scared of this game, but Virginia's team just doesn't scare me in a vacuum. All of the advanced statistics consider them one of the worst teams in the Power-5, and barely inside of the top-100 teams nationally. As Cade mentioned, they've given up a minimum of 26 points to every team they've played this year (Syracuse only managed 24 in regulation before tacking on 14 in OT, to be fair). Their offense has been largely unimpressive, with a few good players but a less-than-scary body of work.

If Georgia Tech can come into this game with a reasonable amount of energy and can build on last week's momentum, I think this game is very much winnable. I think they do, and I think that they score late to win an ugly one. Georgia Tech 27, Virginia 16

BT: As others have said, UVA is not a good team and that scares me to death. Carrying over the momentum from an emotional victory like that over Florida State to the next game is rarely an easy thing to do, and often times as a result, fans are let down. Add into that that UVA always seems to be a thorn in our side (especially in Charlottesville) and the fact that we haven't won a game away from Bobby Dodd Stadium this year, and I'm scared of this game. I think Tech will win, but I think it'll be a lot closer than anyone wants it to be. Tech wins 24-23.