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2018’s Most Important Game

The answer will surprise you. Hot takes galore!

NCAA Football: Georgia at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

What makes a game important to a team’s season? Does a certain result in an important game scream “we’re back!” or “we’re screwed!”, or does it signal more of the same? Does an important game help a team turn a corner in their season or their evolution as a program?

It really comes down to your expectations for the team’s season. If you expect a team to do well, its result in a certain matchup may vindicate your prediction. But the flip side is also true: the team’s failure to win its most important game could sink their year. Sometimes, in the case of John H. Cooper, the difference between what the coach thinks and what the fans think is the team’s most important game (B1G title games vs Michigan games, in the case of poor Cooper) can be the difference between sustained regular season success and rivalry-disappointment-fueled firing.

That brings us to the curious case of Georgia Tech. Despite what my previous words belie, I don't think the most important game on Tech’s 2018 slate is the one in Athens. Heck, I don’t think it’s the one versus Clemson on the Flats either. Other games I considered naming here include our homecoming game vs Duke and our annual “whiteout” game versus Miami (FL).

But this isn’t about any of those teams. The most important game on Tech’s schedule in 2018 is...Bowling Green.

Wait, what?

No, you read that right — Bowling Green.

Now, before you sharpen your pitchforks, light your torches, and crucify me in the comments section, I know this is an extremely, extremely hot take, but I implore you to hear me out on this one.

How hot this take is, right now.
How hot this take is, right now.
Barstool Sports on GIPHY

Let’s take a look at the middle of Georgia Tech’s schedule:

Georgia Tech Opponents Weeks 4-6

Date Opponent 2017 Record 2017 S&P+ Ranking
Date Opponent 2017 Record 2017 S&P+ Ranking
9/22 Clemson 12-2 8th
9/29 Bowling Green 2-10 109th
10/5 Louisville 8-5 16th

A date with Bowling Green on the Flats is sandwiched in between a body-blow game versus Clemson and a tough game on a short week in Louisville. This makes September 29th a prime candidate to be the lettuce in a let-down look-ahead sandwich.

Common sense tells you Tech should win this game. Heck, we set the line for this game around three to four scores on this week’s episode of our new podcast (which you should totally check out, by the way). Bowling Green only won two games last season: vs Kent State and Miami (of Ohio, not even the one in Florida), and their offense was 90th of 130 in the FBS and paired with a defense that ranked even worse (123rd). There is nothing about this game, statistically or otherwise, that gives Bowling Green a shot.

And yet, you take a look at the schedule and wonder — could Bowling Green make some noise on the Flats?

Let me be clear: by no means am I predicting a Georgia Tech loss in this game. But this could be the most important game on Georgia Tech’s schedule: coming off a tough possible (read: most likely) loss versus prohibitive ACC favorite Purple Dabos and heading into a short week versus the Fighting Petrinos, this game could very well define Tech’s season. Slipping to a close victory marked by defensive miscues and offensive issues would reveal red flags in how Tech has adjusted to its new defensive scheme and how the option is working in 2018. A strong showing versus a projected-to-be-middling MAC team would be a welcome respite and reset from the Clemson game, showing that despite what Clemson might have done to the Jackets, they live to play another week aggressively and effectively.

Again, I want to emphasize: this is a game Tech should win. But when you look at the sandwich in front of us here, you kinda wonder if the lettuce might give you some trouble on the way down.

I needed to add a sandwich image eventually. Mango Chicken Salad in a croissant? Interesting.
I needed to add a sandwich image eventually. Mango Chicken Salad in a croissant? Interesting.
Pinch of Yum

That was a bad metaphor, but you get the point. Despite Bowling Green’s failings last season, this game has a very trappy feel to it — and as Tech fans, we know that the Jackets always have trouble with one game they are supposed to win every year. I expect the Jackets to put on a show on Grant Field, but you can never (completely) count out the magic of #MACtion.