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Mailbag 11/9

The running game has been very good lately, which implies that the offensive line is playing well. How did that happen?

Georgia Tech v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

GTalbatross: What was the most significant event in the world the last time GT volleyball, football, and both basketball teams won their games?

Ben: I’m going to go with the fall of the Roman Empire. That’s probably a safe bet. Oh god, I just became a statistic. No!!!!

Jack: I have to imagine it has happened at some point in the last few years. Just gonna line up a winnable ACC game for volleyball, a November win for football, and one of the first two games for basketball likely against an in-state opponent.

Jeff: After much research, the last occurrence was last year on the weekend of Nov. 19th. Football defeated UNC, Volleyball over Clemson 3-0, Men’s over Northern Illinois, and Women’s over Auburn...they lost to uga that week too, but the Auburn game fell in that vicinity.

Jake: It is exceedingly difficult to get that on the same day, given volleyball plays Friday and Sunday typically, while football is Saturday.

gtbadcarma: The misery started with a loss to Clemson in 2019, how fitting would it be if Tech pulls off the win against Clemson to close that era? What message would a win against Clemson send?

Ben: Clemson is 2-4 in the ACC. And I think it’s evident they are on the decline. Further, that “era” ended when Collins got the boot. The only message a win over Clemson sends this week is that Tech is bowl eligible.

Logan: To me, it sends the message that GT now has goals to aspire to. Previously I was just happy if we didn’t embarrass ourselves when we lose these games, now I am back to believing we can actually win games against teams that used to dominate us. Clemson might not be great this year, but they’re still Clemson so winning against them would feel great.

Jeff: I’d say a new era is already underway, but using Clemson as the springboard back to a winning record would be big. The biggest thing about beating Clemson this week is it would cement Georgia Tech as one of the top teams in the ACC for conference record. Every blog of opposing teams who have lost to us still thinks this is “Really Bad GT,” and it is not.

Chris: It’d certainly be a lovely little bookend.

Jake: I think the old era is now long gone - in the last 13 months, Brent Key has surpassed 37 months of Geoff Collins’ ACC win totals, to say nothing about the potential to get to 10 or 11 wins by the end of the year.

YankeeJacket: The running game has been very good lately, which implies that the offensive line is playing well.

How did that happen?

Ben: It’s crazy what happens when you have a coach who actually wants to coach instead of look cool. But yes, the OL is playing better. You can see that in the passing game as well. Despite throwing the ball a lot more, the Yellow Jackets’ offensive line is allowing less than a sack per game (0.89 to be specific, which is the 6th-best mark in the country). I think this just confirms the theories that Key was being held back as the OL coach under Collins.

Logan: I agree with Ben’s assessment, I also think some of it comes from how the play has adapted as the season went on. We are using more screens and creative option plays which makes defenders spread out and changes their blitzing options. Defenses can’t just stack the box against us and expect to shut down the offense.

Jeff: Lot of actual returning experience, coaches being allowed to develop, better play calling, and a QB who knows what is happening on the field.

Chris: For starters I think the development has been a lot better now that they’re actually practicing and not being micromanaged by you know who. Also, as Logan mentioned, Faulkner has done a lot better job than Patenaude of working with what we have and molding the offense the fit the personnel. Previously it felt like we were just calling a “pro style offense” for the sake of it, but now it feels like we’re actually trying to find our own identity and grow within it.

TheCalvinist: Considering that (transfer portal excluded) we shouldn’t be losing too many starters or 2nd string contributors between this season and next, I’m not crazy to think we have a legitimate shot at winning the conference next season right?

Ben: I’m not ready to say that Tech has a shot at winning the conference next year. This team has still had some really bad and stupid losses. If they do well not to lose any major unexpected pieces, then I could see them being in contention. Hell, if they had beaten Louisville earlier this year, they’d be in control of their own destiny for it.

Logan: I know we’re feeling the high of multiple victories right now, but let’s temper our expectations a bit. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the transfer portal (that could affect a lot) and we aren’t the only team in the conference getting better. Additionally we are going to have a tough schedule next year, even compared to our current one. Anyone can win the ACC, because the ACC is consistently a chaotic mess; so yes, we can win the conference, but I wouldn’t expect it next year.

Jeff: I am going to be of a different opinion than Ben and Logan. We won’t be favored to win because FSU will keep that mantle. We most certainly can make the ACC title game though if your scenario holds true. The meat of what makes our schedule difficult is the non-conference side. Yes, we open with FSU, but they will have serious turnover due to the NFL draft this year. I am looking at everyone else and it will be a similar story. Louisville benefitted from a ton of SENIOR transfers, NC State has a defense this year but will lose a bit, Miami is due for an overhaul, and UNC as well. Watching us perform this year and getting better doesn’t make the schedule seem nearly as daunting.

Chris: I think we could firmly be a top 3 team in the conference, but I think we’d still need a couple things to fall into place to have a real shot at actually winning it. There are still plenty of good teams out there and I’m not totally ready to say I’d be confident in our ability to consistently beat them. Still, it’s not impossible.

tyler_pifer92: Put yourself in the shoes of a Clemson fan (I know, I know just bear with me). You’ve had a decade of absolute dominance, but you find yourself with a 5-4 record. Surely Dabo deserves to have one bad season, right? How would you feel about the program if Georgia Tech was in that position?

Ben: Putting myself in the shoes of a Clemson fan, I would be a bit more critical (even though I already am). Clemson has long been really bad at developing talent. For example, do you remember the name Mitch Hyatt? Hyatt (per the 247 Sports Composite) was the second-best player in the state of Georgia and the 23rd-best in the whole country out of high school. He was a consensus five-star recruit who decided to come to Clemson. Out of the gate, he was the starting left tackle, a position he held all four years. While he was there, Hyatt was part of two national championship teams, a three-time first-team All-ACC member, and a unanimous All-American. With all of those accolades, you would think that a guy like that would get drafted pretty highly, right? You would be completely wrong. Hyatt went undrafted and eventually signed with the Dallas Cowboys as part of the practice squad. But why? Here’s a quote from a Cowboys analyst in an article about Hyatt:

From talking to scouts around the league, you hear a similar story as to why Mitch Hyatt went undrafted. Hyatt was just as good as a freshman as he was during his senior season. Scouts didn’t see him improve from year to year and that turned a lot of them off.

There was no development. As you look more into Clemson, you see that become more prevalent, and ultimately, that’s what has led to the issues they have now. There is absolutely no player development happening. So if I was a Clemson fan, yeah, I’d be pissed. If Georgia Tech was just skating by on pure talent and nothing else, yeah, I’d be pissed that it was catching up to them. Anyway, Dabo isn’t actually a good coach. He just kept getting money and big-name recruits. Now that all of his good coordinators are gone, it’s catching up to him. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

Chris: I’ve gone back and forth on this. On the one hand, no one can be at the top forever and the signs of backslide are there. On the other hand though, it still feels like with something like one or two more great players or a solid coordinator hire they could turn it around. I’m going to need to see them have another year like this in a row before I’ll believe they’re truly in decline.

Logan: I think its ok for Clemson to have 1 bad season, but Dabo needs to be showing he is making progress. Technically last year was a down season for Clemson and they ended it with an 11-3 record. Dabo kind of just kept doing his thing following last year, and now Clemson is having beyond a down year. Dabo needs to make a point that he is actually trying to adapt, otherwise I would expect him to be out sometime next year.

DressHerInWhiteAndGold: Your take on Jim Harbaugh? Cheater or plausible deniability?

Ben: I don’t think Harbaugh is a dumb man who doesn’t know what was happening under him. Whether that can be proven, though, is a different story.

Logan: I don’t like defending Jim Harbaugh... The thing is this is a complicated situation with a lot of moving parts. How aware was Harbaugh of what was happening? He probably was aware of something going on, but was he actively ordering and encouraging it or was he just taking advantage of the fact that someone on his staff knew what the calls were? It’s tough to say. I want to see how the investigation plays out. Personally I think he probably cheated somewhat, but so does pretty much every college coach.

Jeff: Jim Harbaugh has never been shy to push the edge when it comes to rules, but so does every other very successful coach at a major program. Jim just doesn’t seem to hide it better than some others.

Chris: Idk. I would totally believe that he had no knowledge of this going on and it was all coordinated by other people, but I feel like you still have to punish him because he’s in charge and part of his job is making sure that kind of stuff doesn’t happen.

DTGT: Is the Binion Index still a thing? Surprised to see no evaluation of the crazy point spread for this week. +14.5 seems....big. If I gambled on sports I may actually take that line.

Ben: Robert left FTRS after last season to focus more on his personal life and career, so he is not currently updating the Binion Index. As to whether or not he will continue at some point in the future, well, that’s up to him. I told him that he is always welcome to update the rankings here.

TkTheGoat: It’s that time of year, who are your Playoff teams? And do you agree with OSU at #1 in the playoff poll?

Ben: I’ve paid very little attention to the teams at the top, so yeah, I guess tOSU is fine at number 1. From what I’ve seen of UGA, they have played down to a few opponents but just outlast them. Beyond that, who knows.

Jack: I’m fine with them at 1. All of the top three teams have a case for the top ranking, so any version of OSU, uga, and Michigan at 1, 2, 3 feels right. I maybe would slot in Washington at 4 though. I’m a little biased as a Seattleite, but that team is really good. It’d be a great year for the 8-team playoff!

Chris: In no particular order: OSU, UGA, Michigan, Washington. No one has really looked completely dominant so I’m okay with any of OSU, UGA, or Michigan getting the 1 spot.

Logan: 1) Ohio State as they have played some good teams and are still undefeated. Michigan is probably 2, but since they play each other I’m just listing Ohio State as the winner will end up in this spot.

2) uga. I mean, clearly they’re good they just also haven’t been impressive or played many tough opponents. My opinion may change after this weekend.

3) Washington. I think Oregon is actually the better team here overall, but Washington beat them. Until the Huskies lose they should stay here.

4) FSU. Until FSU loses they will be in the 4 spot, they probably deserve to be ranked higher based on who they have played, but let them make it through the ACC first. If FSU loses then either Oregon or Texas will jump to this spot.

Jeff: Fun Scenario - Undefeated Big Ten Champ (Ohio State or Michigan), Undefeated FSU as ACC Champ, One-loss Texas as Big 12 Champ, Undefeated Washington or One-loss Oregon as Pac 12 Champ, and One-loss Bama beats uga in the SEC Championship. Does the SEC get left out? Texas would own a head-to-head over Bama.

TkTheGoat: Whats the worse W-L record a team can have and still be ranked? So if they played 6 top ten teams and lost by 1 point in every game, and killed every other opponent, would they be ranked at 6-6?

Ben: This is why W-L records are really bad measures of how good a team is! Frankly, I don’t have an answer to your question because there are so many things that go into that.

Jack: While a near impossible scenario to line up, yeah, I think they would be! In volleyball, we’ve seen instances of losing teams being ranked early in the season because they scheduled a bunch of top ranked teams up front, so I think that could happen. One caveat though is that team would need to be previously ranked already. I don’t see how this scenario plays out without said team already having established credibility.

Logan: Keep in mind you are only judging by the final W-L record. There are so many scenarios where a 6-6 team could potentially end up ranked. What if the team goes 0-6 then wins their next 6 games against ranked opponents? I could see plenty of scenarios where a 6-6 team ends up with a low rank by the end of the season. I struggle to see a non-bowl team being ranked though so I think the line ends at 6-6.

Chris: I agree with Logan, I think there is a scenario that a 6-6 team finishes the year ranked, though it’d be very very unlikely.

JelloPacket98: What braniac thought it was a great idea to blow up the division format, because they were tired of 8-4 teams making the conference championship game, only to expand to 17 teams, come up with a convoluted schedule where you could now in theory end up with 8 teams with identical 6-2 conference records who never even play each other? And oh btw, if Louisville or BC stumble, there’s a very real possibility of a 7-5 GT team sneaking into the championship game...which is exactly what they attempted to eliminate when they blew up the division format in the first place!

Jack: Coastal Chaos has only been allowed to spread now that it’s been freed from it’s shackles of the division format.

Chris: Divisions have worked forever, but I kinda get the gripe that the system sucks in something like the BIG 10’s situation. Maybe that’s an argument for letting divisions change membership though, not getting rid of them entirely? You could probably do some kind of 5-year rebalancing while still protecting rivalries, I don’t think that’d be worse than whatever the hell we just did.

Jeff: I still maintain that Coastal Chaos chooses a vessel for its insidious designs and this year “Thy Name is Georgia Tech!”

Logan: I didn’t have a problem with getting rid of divisions, but the format they chose seems so strange to me. At least in divisions you play everyone involved and the best record goes to the championship, in this format a team can get an easy set of teams and sweep them all to be in the ACC championship. You can end up with atie record against a team you never played so how do you effectively tie break that? I dunno the whole thing feels messy.

Partywaggin: How thankful are Louisville and Ole Miss they played us early?

Ben: I said this earlier, but I’ll say it again. If Tech beat Louisville, Tech would control its own destiny in the ACC. That’s a bit crazy to believe after the mess of the Collins era.

Jack: On the flip side, how thankful are we that we played Louisville early? They’ve gotten better and very well could be better suited to beat us at this point in the year than at the beginning. Yes, we have too, but similar to the North Carolina game, we’d have to hope the offense is clicking so we could win a shootout.

Jeff: Tech has been so up and down I think it was a grab bag on which week an opponent falls.

Chris: I’m kinda with Jack, I’m not totally sure we’d come away with wins in both of those if we played them now.

Logan: I think Louisville might be happy, but then again we might be happy we got them early before they picked up steam. Ole Miss probably wouldn’t care.

Frodo Swagginz: I think it’s easy to see why players left Tech before. GC stunk up the place, they could make more money elsewhere, and the program was declining rapidly. Assuming Tech makes it back to a bowl game, is it crazy to think that the portal won’t rip the soul out of the team?

Ben: A team’s W-L record isn’t the only thing that contributes to a student-athlete’s decision to enter the transfer portal. There are several reasons someone could decide to transfer, and I think it’s a fool’s errand to try and blindly predict how many players will or won’t transfer in/out.

Logan: It’s all about the money, money, money. Hard to say if players will want to stay or go, but if there is more money to be made out there its hard for athletes to turn it down.

Jeff: A team with a winning record certainly attracts better talent. Money will play a big part, but I am not so sure that begins to dwindle when places like Miami are investing millions to finish behind GT in the standings.

Chris: I feel good about retaining talent. We’ve proven we’re a program that’s on the upswing, has the ability to play at the top of the conference, and that has a coaching staff heavily invested in our success. I’m obviously biased, but Tech feels like a good place to be right now.

Yeller Bug: Since no human can beat AI in chess, when will schools save money by having AI replace OCs and DCs? Given our technical prowess and financial fragility, should Tech lead the way in this endeavor?

Ben: I don’t think AI will ever fully replace coordinators, but I think it could be interesting to see AI-enhanced coaching or game preparation. I don’t know enough about NCAA rules to know if it’s legal, but I imagine it’s probably something that will come up in the next several years.

Jack: “Ask Madden” for live playcalling would be revolutionary for inexperienced coaches. At this level though, these coordinators know the playbook inside and out so well that they know their options. Where I do see this being helpful is in analyzing an opponents play calling tendencies and use that info to adjust gameplans in real time.

Jeff: I was listening to a podcast that was talking about how College Football is far behind most other sports in use of technology and I think it will be a long time before they give in to AI.

Chris: I think it’ll be a while, sports are pretty reluctant to change.

Logan: I’d like to see it happen in other sports first. Football has plenty of moving parts to factor in, lets try something “turn based” like baseball first and see how that plays out.

Jake: Did we ever release the Coaching Candidate Profile that was Robo-Heisman? That was fun to play out.

BuzzForPresident: Some time ago I asked in this forum what people should respond with when someone says “Go Jackets”

It appears that question has been answered by the marketing department to be “Sting ‘em”.

How do we feel about this? In the original discussion I thought it was a little too close to the saying from that evil school and seems a little unoriginal.

Ben: Why do we have to have a thing? Trying to force any of this is just stupid. Just say whatever feels right to you. Personally, I’m not going to tell people “Sting ‘em” because I think that’s stupid. If someone says, “Go Jackets,” to me, I’ll respond and say, “Go Jackets.” Also, just because the marketing team says to do something doesn’t mean that people will do it. Georgia Southern’s university marketing team explicitly prohibits the use of “GSU,” but that doesn’t stop any Georgia Southern fan from using it. Hell, it’s included in several of the cheers at their games.

Jeff: I am clueless about this new trend. I usually respond “Go Jackets” back.

Chris: Same as Ben and Jeff, I usually just also say “Go Jackets”. I don’t think we need to force some kind of call and response.

Logan: I usually say something like “Thanks” or “Back at Ya”, I am awkward like that.

Jake: Feels most natural to go with a “Go Jackets,” but I think “Sting ‘Em” is fine. I don’t dislike it. It is, well, fine.

Submitted via email: Hey guys,

Hope all is well this week. My week has been busy and chaotic, so hopefully yours is better.

People have been flipping their opinions on Brent Key over the year after every win or loss. My question this week is, now that we have a few more weeks under our belt, are there any other new coaching hires in college football that you would trade Brent Key for? Deion definitely has lost some of his luster, but not sure about who else is out there.

Let me know your thoughts and have a good one guys,

Signed: Mage who only knows fireball

Ben: At the time, I was hoping Tech would hire Jamey Chadwell or Willie Fritz, but ultimately, that didn’t happen, so I’m not going to waste my breath clamoring for what could have been. Brent Key is the coach, and he’s got the team in position to make a bowl game despite some infuriating losses and maddening inconsistency. But he’s also in his first season as a head coach, so he’s got plenty of room to grow. What will determine his success is how he develops as a coach over the next few years.

Logan: I’m happy with what Brent has done. I expect some doomsayers if we lose this week, but generally Brent is a Tech guy who loves his players and loves coaching here. Coach Key is probably not going to set the world on fire (although if that happens I’m all for it), but he’s a solid coach that loves this program and that’s what we need right now. So, long way to say I would not trade Coach Key for another option.