As we draw ever-nearer to kickoff, we’ve now examined the two extremes of Georgia Tech football: the best and worst-case scenarios. Now, however, the time has come to take a look at the most contentious of all the scenarios: the most likely outcome for Georgia Tech’s 2017 football season.
Let me preface this by saying that my game-by-game picks in a most-likely scenario article are not necessarily my season expectations as a Georgia Tech fan, but rather an attempt at an unbiased look at what to expect this season from a team with plenty of question marks. There are plenty of games that could go either way, so I generally try to focus more on the final record than trying to predict game-by-game results as I’ll attempt in this article.
But what’s the point of an article with no game-by-game predictions, right? I’m happy to oblige, even if they aren’t what I personally want to see happen. Let’s get it started!
Week One: Georgia Tech 21, Tennessee 27 (0-1)
Neither Georgia Tech nor Tennessee are sure-things in 2017. No one knows what to expect from either team come week one, but the season opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium very well could be — and perhaps should be — a loss for the Jackets. I’m most worried about the offense in week one. Paul Johnson still hasn’t named a starting quarterback for the game even though we are under two weeks away and the dismissal of Dedrick Mills hardly makes it easier to put up points in the beginning of the season. The Vols have similar issues to deal with, which is why I see this game as such a toss-up.
Week Two: Georgia Tech 45, Jacksonville State 14 (1-1)
We all watched Jacksonville State push Auburn to the brink a couple of seasons back, but the truth of the matter here is that the sheer difference as far as caliber of athletes is concerned should be too much to overcome. There could feasibly be a tense moment, a close call, or an impressive opening drive by the Gamecocks, but Georgia Tech is a better team top-to-bottom. This is also the type of game that a Matthew Jordan-led ground-and-pound offense should thrive in given the size differences up front.
Week Three: Georgia Tech 35, UCF 17 (2-1)
Today’s UCF team is not the same one that upset Baylor behind Blake Bortles and company all those years ago. Don’t ask me why, but this game just feels like one of those days where a Clinton Lynch or a Qua Searcy goes for three touchdowns on five touches or something crazy like that. The fact that UCF went 0-12 just two years ago remains amazing to me, particularly considering the school’s growth, but there’s nothing overly impressive about the current state of the program. This is the type of game that Georgia Tech has won consistently under Paul Johnson.
Week Four: Georgia Tech 34, Pittsburgh 24 (3-1)
Pitt is going to be replacing the vast majority of its stout offensive unit from a season ago and returns members of a defense that was among the worst in the nation a season ago (101st in total defense). Head coach Pat Narduzzi is beginning to draw criticism after his one-tough Michigan State defensive system has failed to translate to the warm ACC, where pass-happy offenses have run wild. Perhaps this is the year that the defense improves, but I have much more faith in Paul Johnson’s offensive gameplan than Narduzzi’s defensive plan. Just defend the trick plays this time, please.
Week Five: Georgia Tech 31, North Carolina 28 (4-1)
Paul Johnson has historically owned the Tar Heels, but that has changed in a major way over the past couple of seasons. Ted Roof has been absolutely unable to stop Larry Fedora’s tempo-oriented offense, but that has had a lot to do with quarterbacks Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky leading the way. Those guys are mercifully gone, as is defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, leaving the door open for Tech to claim the matchup for the first time since 2013.
Week Seven: Georgia Tech 20, Miami 31 (4-2)
Mark Richt’s teams have frustrated the Jackets for years and years. The big storyline before last season’s edition of Tech v. Miami was whether or not the strong freshman trio of Hurricane linebackers could hold back Tech’s option, and spoiler alert: they did. Like, remarkably well. Those guys will be even more experienced this year and are playing on what should be an even better overall team despite losing quarterback Brad Kaaya. I don’t like the Canes as ACC Champs by any means, but I like the way they match up with Tech even less.
Week Eight: Georgia Tech 21, Wake Forest 17 (5-2)
Don’t sleep on Wake Forest, friends — this is not the same program that was the laughing stock of the nation a few seasons back. I think that Tech has the better team this time around, but the Deacs will feature a strong defensive unit and a much-improved offense led by running back Cade Carney and quarterback Kendall Hinton. It’s a winnable matchup, but don’t be shocked to see it go the other way either.
Week Nine: Georgia Tech 17, Clemson 38 (5-3)
Brent Venables always has and always will have Paul Johnson’s number. It doesn’t matter how good the quarterback is, it doesn’t matter how deep the offensive line is. Nothing matters; it’s just hard to move the ball against his defense. It’s true that Johnson has had success against Clemson during his Tech career, but this game should be a win for Clemson... and a relatively easy one at that. There is a definite talent gap to be seen, even with the recent uptick in recruiting on the Flats.
Week Ten: Georgia Tech 42, Virginia 28 (6-3)
It’ll be Bronco Mendenhall’s second go-around in Hooville, but don’t expect the outcome to be any different. Versatile back Smoke Mizzell is gone, there is no clearly phenomenal option at quarterback, and the team has still lagged in recruiting quite consistently. There are a couple of things looking up for the Cavaliers, of course: they have a very good safety in Quin Blanding, one of the finest defensive backs in school history, and will be playing Tech at home. Charlottesville, for the blissfully uninitiated, has been a house of horrors for Georgia Tech recently.
Week Eleven: Georgia Tech 20, Virginia Tech 24 (6-4)
File this one under “screw you, Bud Foster”. Jerod Evans may be gone, but Virginia Tech is widely expected to take a step forward in year two of Justin Fuente’s tenure and that step could land right on the Jackets. Losing to the Hokies always hurts, but it took some serious luck and a very solid game from Matthew Jordan to bring home the upset last season. We’ll see if the magic is there once again.
Week Twelve: Georgia Tech 33, Duke 20 (7-4)
David Cutcliffe has built a fundamentally sound program and has a strong quarterback in Daniel Jones, but the pieces are just not there as they have been in the past. This should be the year that Paul Johnson exorcises his strange Duke demons and brings home another victory; a loss at this point in the season would be quite depressing, to say the least.
Week Thirteen: Georgia Tech 28, Georgia 31 (7-5)
Again, let me remind you that this is the most likely scenario, or the expected scenario. Of course I believe that Georgia Tech will win this game, but the fact is that it is a game that Georgia probably should win this time around. I hope they don’t, but logically speaking they will probably be heavy favorites and will have a good shot at winning. So will the Jackets, but this is an article about a scenario where Tech simply meets expectations and doesn’t exceed them, the latter of which Paul Johnson has done so many times before.
That’s a 7-5 season, a bowl berth, and a shot at 8 wins. Our staff predictions will be out later this month and you’ll see then that this was an attempt to step back and look at the whole body of work; the homerism comes later. Feel free to share your thoughts below.