Quick Ed. Note: I'm back! Great vacation in Honduras, but good to be back in 'Murica. Thanks to Grant and those who helped him out to keep the ship from sinking while its captain was on leave!
After consecutive games to begin the season against Wofford, at Tulane, and against Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech will travel to Blacksburg on September 20 to begin their ACC schedule against their divisional rivals, the Virginia Tech Hokies. Recent history has not been kind to the Yellow Jackets in this series -- they're 0-for-4 since 2010 against the Turkeys, but all of the losses have been close. Last year, VPISU ruined the 100-year celebration of Bobby Dodd Stadium on a White-Out Thursday night game. This year, Georgia Tech looks to do the same when they head into Lane Stadium.
If you'll remember from our opponent preview, VPI is in a similar boat to Georgia Tech in that they have an awful lot to replace, and in particular at quarterback and on the defensive side of the ball. The Gobblers lost long-time starting QB Logan Thomas to graduation (and eventually the Arizona Cardinals by way of the NFL Draft...which, by the way, really?), and also are going to be replacing 7 starters on defense, including their two leading tacklers and two more to the NFL. Offensively, they retain most everyone outside of Thomas, although that statement means a little less when you consider that Thomas over 93% of the team's passing attempts and was their second-leading rusher in both carries and yards.
After three out-of-conference games against Wofford, Tulane, and Georgia Southern, by all means Georgia Tech should be 3-0 coming into this game, with this being their first true test. This game's history spells bad news for the Jackets, as Paul Johnson is a collective 1-5 against Beamer's Birds and winless in Blacksburg. However, the good news is that losses this game has never been a blowout under Johnson (the worst loss being an 11-point, 37-26 game in 2011), which implies that even given the track record, this game is always very winnable for the Jackets. I think that trend continues this year.
Offensively, the Thanksgiving centerpieces have traditionally had their success against Georgia Tech using highly-athletic skill position players, particularly at wide receiver. This year, the strength is still there with their top three receivers (Willie Byrn, Demetri Knowles, and Joshua Stanford), but the Jackets will be better equipped to handle their attack with more focus on a 4-2-5 set than in previous years. In addition, last year's VPI offense just flat-out wasn't very good. (Good enough to beat Tech, sure, but 102nd nationally in yards per game and 100th in points per game. It was almost equally as bad the year prior, at that.) Without Logan Thomas at the helms, it's yet to be seen if their offense will be able to move them anywhere -- but as we saw last year, if they don't really have to move very far, they can still score enough to win.
On the flip side of things, they're charged with replacing 7 on defense, including some of their biggest pieces -- DB Kyle Fuller, DB Antone Exum, and LB Jack Tyler. In game 4 with that many starters gone, I have a lot of questions about how well they'll be able to combat Georgia Tech's offensive attack. Bud Foster has traditionally cooked up something special for this game, and it's usually effective, but it'll be interesting to see how so many new players react when they're in a live game for the first time against the offense.
Georgia Tech can't keep losing these games, especially as the fowl degrades offensively as they have for two years now. Who knows, maybe the new quarterback will out-perform Logan Thomas, maybe Bud Foster will out-scheme Paul Johnson once again, and maybe Lane Stadium is too tough of a place to go and get a win. I'm calling shenanigans though. Georgia Tech breaks the streak, wins this game 24-16, and goes into October ranked #24 at 4-0.
Calling me crazy, Tech fans? Was there something in that Honduran water, or is it right to think that this is the year Tech brings home a win in the series?