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Tuesday Muse-day 9/3: Expectations, Support, and Not Getting Disheartened by Clemson

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In which we talk uniforms, patios, and why the Clemson game was actually fine.

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Clemson Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Hey y’all, welcome to the first week of the new era. 14-52 ain’t anything to write home about, but I don’t think it caught any of us off guard either. Let’s get to it.

Game Recap in Three Sentences

Travis Etienne rushed for 205 yards and 3 TDs on just 12 carries, kicking off a potential Heisman campaign for the guy who has to be one of the most criminally underrated backs in the country.

Tech went with Tobias Oliver at QB for most of the game but only managed to get 65 yards passing on 33% completion.

There were turnovers aplenty on both sides, including a couple egregious ones from Tech that blew up almost-certain scoring opportunities.

Uniform Rating

(Out of 3 stripes, only when it’s a uniform I haven’t rated before)

2.4/3 stripes. I think we look really good in this color combo and am happy it’s our regular.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 29 Georgia Tech at Clemson
great colors, clean, simple, elegant
Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

#404TheCulture Champion of the Week

(The individual who most exemplifies #404TheCulture)

Lewis Caralla. This dude has installed such a culture already that guys were doing barbell curls on the sideline before the game. If you had to pick the team most likely to do this last year, I think we would’ve been at the bottom of everyone’s list. It’s the perfect catch-your-eye weirdness that I want us to embrace.

5 Star (7 Star, 5 Star) Developmental Program Haiku of the Week

(A Haiku describing the game, the season, or anything else I feel)

Year zero kicks off

Tough game against the Tigers

I loved Coach’s hat

ATLeast We Ain’t Them of the Week

(The team that got absolutely blasted this week)

USF.

The Bulls lost (read: got slapped around) 0-49 to Wisconsin on Friday night, managing to only rack up 157 total yards. The worst stat line from this game? USF gained an improbable 1.1 yards-per-carry on 23 attempts. The second worst stat line from this game? QB Blake Barnett earned himself a 4.6 QBR after throwing for 109 yards and 2 INTs on 43% completions. Yuck.

Above The Line of the Week

(The 3 things I would like to praise this week)

  • Having real, positive highlight footage of our team included in pre-game media
  • A defense that held one of the best QBs in the nation to 168 yards and 1 TD / 2 INTs
  • Patio dining at the end of summer

Stat of the Week

(A Stat from the game/season that I find significant or interesting)

294 yards of offense.

That was our total from Thursday night. It may not seem like much but let’s look at it through the lens of historic data. Here are the last five games against Clemson with their total offensive yards:

  • 2018: 203 yards
  • 2017: 230 yards
  • 2016: 124 yards
  • 2015: 230 yards
  • 2014: 353 yards

All of a sudden 294 yards ain’t too shabby. Yes they were playing backups for a large part of the game, but they were doing that the last few years as well. I choose to look at this in a positive light: we took a brand new offense (with a roster not designed for it) into a hostile environment against the top team in the country and came out with one of our best offensive productions of the last five years. I think this is a huge sign that things are going to be alright in the post-option world.

Expectations, Support, and not Getting Disheartened by Clemson

Expectations in college football are pretty wild. There are so many teams with so many identities that asking two separate fanbases “What do you expect out of your team this year?” will almost certainly produce two very different answers. There are the elite top tier teams who expect to win the National Championship. There are the very bottom tier teams that just expect to play 12 games. Almost every team has expectations for beating certain rivals. Some teams favor conference results while others favor non-conference ones. Some teams expect to be a top 10 defense, others expect to rush for 500 yards per game. Some teams are deeply historical and base their identity on that; others are upstarts who pride themselves on making it to the big stage. The point is that identity and expectations vary wildly from team to team. So what do I expect from Tech this season?

To answer this question I think it’s helpful to lay out a few statements/facts that I will base my answer on:

  • We have a new coach that is installing a brand new offense on a roster that was not recruited for said offensive system
  • We have some very talented athletes, especially on defense
  • We are in the midst of a massive culture change
  • Year zero’s are historically very difficult

Now I already published my specific season predictions (which you can find here), but as a refresher I think we will go 4-8 with wins against USF, The Citadel, Temple, and NC State. Beyond those four, I expect us to compete in most of the remaining games we play (by “compete” I mean keep it moderately close and not get blown away). In short, I don’t expect a whole lot results-wise. What I do expect though is a sneaky good team that will get better as the season progresses and leave us excited for 2020. I expect the defense to be good and I expect there to be some bright spots on offense (Jordan Mason and Ahmarean Brown come to mind). I expect a pretty experimental offense that changes from game to game as we figure out who is good at what. What I don’t expect is a team that puts it all together all the time. There will be some speed bumps and there will be some pain points, but when the season is over I expect to feel confident heading into 2020. This is a set-up season for us, not the end state. I fully expect us to be consistently ranked every year starting either next season or in 2021.

What that means for 2019 is that we shouldn’t expect too much. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: just sit back and enjoy the ride this year. The worst thing we could do is not support Collins during this crucial formative period and create unreasonable expectations for the team. The worst thing we could do is watch a losing season, say “well, I guess things will never change”, and stop supporting the program. Instead, this is the year we need to rally around Collins and the team and show them that we aren’t the sleepy fanbase others perceive us to be.

On a more granular level this means we need to not be disheartened by the Clemson game. I said it above, but think about the situation: our brand new coach took a roster he didn’t recruit and a playbook that wasn’t designed for them into Death Valley (a place that the Tigers have lost only once in the past five years) to play against a National Championship-defending team (including two potential Heisman candidates and seven five-star players) led by arguably the best head coach and defensive coordinator in the country. That is just about the roughest possible season-opening situation I can think of. When you look at the game through that lens there really is nothing to panic about. We shut down Trevor Lawrence, had a couple nice offensive drives, and forced four turnovers. That’s pretty good all things considered. Were it not for a couple really awful turnovers (muffed punt, goal-line interception), we could’ve finished with a score line way beyond most people’s expectations.

So let’s try to not be too upset by this game. Let’s try to not give up on Collins or the team. Let’s take our punches and move on with the season. There’s a lot of football left to play, and there’s a lot of things left to be seen. I think we will be able to expect a lot out of this team one day; we just have to let them get there first.