Can Tech Make a Statement?
Welcome back for a condensed version of the Upper North Perspective! I have just a few little ramblings as we head into Athens this weekend for this year’s version of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.
There are many things to not like about last week’s win over UVA. First of all, the offense fell victim to (what seems to be a common theme this year) either big plays or nothing. That formula was taken to the extreme this week and provided the offense’s worst day in quite a while. Fortunately for this group, the second half defense was ready to play and helped to lead this team to victory.
The most important thing is it provided this group with its seventh win and, for the seniors, a win in their last game at Bobby Dodd Stadium. For CPJ, it helped get him to at least .500 in ACC play once again. It also shows the fight in this team to go from a 3-9 2015 season and a 3 game losing streak in the first half of the 2016 season to now being 7-4 with an outside shot at 9 wins. That is huge for the kids this year and the future.
As we all approach Saturday’s game against Georgia, I have been left with one thought virtually all week along. This is the best opportunity that CPJ has had to put a major stamp on this series since 2009. Let’s examine why.
2008 was great for multiple reasons, but that win was simply a warning that Tech must always be taken seriously in this rivalry game. Under CPJ, GT will not be an easy out, and the 2008 game was all about putting the Bulldogs on notice.
However, 2009 was the opportunity to really make a statement and put a stamp on the series. There are not many times where you can look at this matchup and say that GT clearly has the better team, but 2009 was one of those years. Not only that, 2009 was also the first opportunity since the days of O’Leary, Lil’ Joe, and Godsey that GT could win multiple games in a row against the Dawgs. That win would have done so much for Tech. Two straight wins over the SEC rival would have helped change the perception of the program from a national standpoint, but more importantly, it would have affected the view of those around the state. Maybe CPJ had something great cooking. Maybe GT actually caught Georgia and things would be different.
We all know what happened on that day. We would learn later that the program was being investigated all week during game preparation for $312 worth of clothes that exchanged hands, and that provided a thorough distraction for COFH. But I think we were all left to wonder what could have been if that victory had taken place.
On Saturday, I believe that Tech has been afforded that same 2009 opportunity that it missed out on. The 2016 version of this game provides GT the chance to beat Kirby’s Dawgs and put them on notice. Not only that, it can also let the new regime know that they have a fight on their hands if they want to continue being the top dog (pun intended) in the state. This win would totally and completely put the 2015 season behind GT, and it would show that GT is continuing to trend in the right direction.
Coach Johnson has the first opportunity since 2009 to have the upper hand in this series. Not in overall record, but the trend is what is significant here. With a win on Saturday, CPJ can go to 3-2 in Athens. This would be quite the incredible feat. It would also be the 2nd win in three years, and it would dampen the prospects of the offseason under Kirby for Georgia. It would effectively transfer all the pressure in this series to the UGA sideline going forward.
Kirby needs this win for the perception of this program. If he falls to Tech, he would be 1-3 against the primary rivals, and it would officially be a down year. With one win, that would change into a rebuilding year and, in some ways, a successful first year. Kirby needs this to make a statement.
Oddly enough, two 7-4 teams actually have a lot at stake Saturday. It may not get mentioned nationally, but within this state, this game is going to be huge for how people view each program going into 2017. Will Tech for the first time in what feels like forever be able to signal that it is the kingpin in the state, or will we be sitting here at 3:30 on Saturday thinking that the more things change, the more they just continue to stay the same?
It’s honestly amazing what one win at the end of November can do for a program. Can Tech seize the opportunity being given to them?