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Georgia Tech vs. Pittsburgh Game Preview

Paul Johnson is 2-2 versus Pitt since the Panthers joined the ACC back in 2013. What does Tech have to do to get over the .500 hump this afternoon?

Pittsburgh v Georgia Tech Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Three keys to victory for Georgia Tech

Rest vs. rust. Thanks to the fallout from Hurricane Irma, Tech was unable to play its third game of the season down in Orlando. Two weeks off is not all that long for a team, but it was clear in the early goings of the Jacksonville State game that the team still had a few wrinkles to iron out. Perhaps extra practice time was the remedy, but it would be disappointing to see the Jackets come out flat in the first ACC game of the season. Pat Narduzzi has had Paul Johnson’s number since being hired at Pitt, so we’ll soon see if the Tech coaching staff took full advantage of the week off.

Use the passing game effectively. You’d be hard pressed to find a worse team than Pitt when it comes to defending the pass -- the Panthers rank 126th out of 129 FBS team in passing yards allowed at a robust 349 per game. Tech should be able to exploit both those general struggles and the size advantage created by Ricky Jeune on the outside, even if the big blows come on just a few long plays.

Please, no more fat man touchdowns. Tricky plays were the death of the Jackets in last season’s game against Pitt. Former offensive coordinator Matt Canada nearly jet-swept and lateraled the Jackets to death in what was an ugly loss on a last-second field goal by Chris Blewitt. The simply fact is that you aren’t going to win games when opposing offensive linemen score long touchdowns, okay? Let’s stop that madness.

Seriously, what an unlucky game. That final Pitt touchdown that was tipped into the hands of the receiver for a touchdown plus a game-winning field goal that bangs in after hitting the upright? What other team is subjected to that?

Three keys to victory for Pittsburgh

Limit the big plays. Pitt is entering a serious danger zone versus Tech given the specific weaknesses of its defensive unit. You simply can’t stop Paul Johnson’s offensive scheme without selling out to stop the run, at least to some extend, yet the Panthers have no one in the secondary that can be relied on to hold down the defensive backfield. That’s a serious issue, and one that likely will result in big plays. Putting a cap on just how many occur will be key.

Field a vintage B1G Narduzzi defense. Pat Narduzzi was hired at Pitt because of his reputation as one of the premiere defensive minds in college football. The results to this point, however, have been borderline atrocious and seem to be trending in the wrong direction. If there’s any team that replicates a run-heavy B1G offense down here in the ACC, you better believe it’s Georgia Tech — and that provides Narduzzi with an opportunity to experience success on the defensive side of the ball once again. The big plays will continue to happen, as mentioned earlier, but if a ground-and-pound opposing style brings out the old Pat, we could be looking at a three-game losing streak to Pittsburgh.

Take advantage of soft defensive playcalling. Who knows, maybe this will be the game that Ted Roof stops giving 10-yard cushions on 3rd down. In the likely case that it’s not, however, Pitt’s offense will need to take advantage of what Tech gives them on the defensive side of the ball: likely lots and lots of space. Keep doing exactly what Tennessee did successfully and Jacksonville State tried to do by relying on the short passing game and getting the ball to the running backs on those evil little screens and you’ve got a shot.

Georgia Tech is a nine-point favorite in this game. That is a ton of points for an opening ACC game, especially given how successful Narduzzi has been against Paul Johnson since arriving in the Steel City, but it really reflects how flat Pitt has looked all season long. It started with an overtime win against Youngstown State and continued with two blowout losses against Penn State and Oklahoma State (note: I’m jealous of that out-of-conference schedule), but whether or not Tech will be equipped to make it three-straight losses remains to be seen. Vegas likes the odds, but I still need to be convinced.