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FTRS Roundtable 10/9/2015: A Treacherous Road Ahead

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Our roundtable this week does a lot of looking at the road ahead and guessing whether Georgia Tech will come out still in one piece.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, we told you that if Georgia Tech lost a third straight game following video roundtable discussions, we were going to stop doing them over video.

Well, we're men of our words. This week's roundtable is in text form, and can be found below. Enjoy.

Biggest takeaway from the North Carolina game?

Kieffer Milligan: I just got a chance to watch the tape today, and there are a lot of good takeaways on both sides of the ball. If I have to pick one, I'll try to be optimistic and say that the blocking is definitely improving. It wasn't perfect, and has a long way to go, but it's better. Particularly edge blocking. The WRs did a better job of crackback blocking, and the ABs actually got guys on the ground. The OL looked like it was employing some different techniques to mitigate some of the issues. The tackles were doing a better job of attacking the jam attempts by DEs, and taking better angles to the MLB. Attacking the DE during the release to the second level also helped deal with the cross-charges UNC threw at us(when the OLB crashes inside and the DE stays out wide). UNC cross-charged too often, and it really helped the offense get to the edge. We would also occasionally chip the MLB with the OC or OC, which wasn't done in previous games, or at least not as well.

Ben Tankersley: Last Saturday was a tough game to watch, but something was made very clear. And that's the fact that Adam Gotsis is absolutely vital to our defense. After he got thrown out for targeting, our defense pretty much fell off the rest of the game. I think a lot of that has to do with our depth at defensive tackle (which is pretty nonexistent at this point). Something else that I noticed was that Ted Roof doesn't seem to like to play a spy on a running quarterback. That's how Marquise Williams was able to run all over our defense. It was awful to watch.

Cade Lawson: Even now, one year later, this team just doesn't appear ready to handle dual threat quarterbacks. It seems trivial, but that UNC game was an easy win if Tech would have just contained Marquise Williams a little bit better, particularly on those quarterback draws that killed us all game long. The defense, which I still believe is a much-improved unit over last season, will need to do some soul searching after allowing Williams to lead North Carolina in passing, rushing, and receiving. DeShaun Watson is a guy with similar scrambling tendencies and a much better offense around him.

Tyler Duke: My biggest takeaway from the UNC game is that no game should be considered an easy-win for the rest of the season. This team's talent and execution is at a stage right now where every team left on the schedule could easily get a victory against Tech. The defense allows too many big plays, and the offense, namely the blocking, isn't at a high enough level to win a shootout with anyone. This is a sad takeaway, but it's the truth.

Joey Weaver: If there's one thing the UNC game taught me, it's how badly Georgia Tech lacks a deep threat in the passing game right now. The Tar Heels repeatedly stacked the box with 8 and 9 defenders, making very little effort to defend the pass. And why would they? The Yellow Jackets are entirely one-dimensional right now. They're not good enough at running the ball to make up for their inability to pass the ball. Until they can figure out how to throw the ball successfully, teams are going to continue blowing up the running game.

Gun to your head, yes or no: Do we make a bowl this year? -- thebugman10

KM: I think so, we will have to be perfect in games against Pitt, UVA, VT, and Miami or sneak a win against Clemson, Florida State or uga, but I think we can at least do one of those things.

BT: At this point, I'm not sure, but I'll say yes. Out of the seven games left, I could see four wins. Obviously, it won't be an easy path to a bowl game, but I still choose to remain cautiously optimistic, especially now that I feel like we're nearly past the toughest part of our schedule after this weekend.

CL: Yes, I think we do. The majority of our remaining schedule looks winnable with some obvious exceptions (unless the offense gets back on track) and I trust Paul Johnson and the players enough to get to six wins. They understand the importance of making a bowl just as much if not more than we do. But wow, who'd have thought that the conversation at this point in the season would be about whether or now we even make a bowl? Life comes at you fast.

TD: I say yes, but just barely. I've got them finishing at 6-6 right now with wins against Pittsburgh, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Miami. There's a huge chance that the Jackets drop one of those games, but I also think there's a chance that they steal one from Clemson/Florida State/Miami/Georgia. 6-6 is a pretty good bet right now in my opinion. It's terrible I'm saying that.

JW: My heart says ‘yes', my mind says ‘jury's out'. I talked on MarkRogersTV this week about how a loss at Clemson would really put this team behind the 8-ball. They'd need to win 4 of their final 6 games, against Pittsburgh, Florida State, @Virginia, Virginia Tech, @Miami, and uga. Which of those 4 are you comfortable with predicting a Georgia Tech win in? Because it's getting tough for me to feel good about any of them.

Were we actually good last year, or just really lucky? Likewise, are we actually bad this year, or just really unlucky? - packerman

KM: Oh we were most definitely good last year. Bill Connelly addressed this our preview for this year. Our offensive efficiency stats were off the charts, and it's nearly impossible to post numbers like that over the course of a season on luck alone. If you aren't a fan of stats, we passed the eye test as well. During the second half of the year, we were beating teams down with the dive. There's nothing lucky about running it down the other team's throat. However, you could say we were lucky in terms of injuries. Very few people missed significant time last season. That's not the case this year.

This year, the injury bug has certainly been a problem, but we just aren't as good. A lot of that has to do with our inability to dominate with the dive, and a lot of that has to do with terrible blocking on the edge, a lot of it has to do with not having receivers that can bail the team out in a pinch. The defense has been better in most games, but was a bit exposed against UNC. This team is not as bad as they have been playing, however. They are making poor mistakes in critical moments. That's not bad luck, that's something that good teams don't do.

BT: A little bit of both to both questions. We had some very experienced players last season that knew the offense and were able to run it proficiently. The offensive line had a leader in Shaq Mason. Justin Thomas had someone to bail him out of trouble in passing situations in DeAndre Smelter and Darren Waller. It's no secret, though, that our defense was questionable for a good part of the season. There were some teams that we went out and beat them, but there were some games where we won because we got on a hot streak. Overall, I would say we were better than we were lucky.

This year, we lost a lot of that experience. We haven't been able to find any kind of consistent success. I think a large part of that is that we aren't as good as we were last year. Injuries do play a role in that. I think this team still has a ton of potential. They just need to continue to learn the game and hope they can find some momentum to become consistent. This team, I would say has been bad and unlucky.

CL: I hate attributing wins and losses to luck just as much as I hate attributing them to officiating. Does luck play a role of some sort? Sure. But it wouldn't be fair to chalk up an 11-win season to just good luck or a 2-3 start to purely bad luck. Last year's team was undoubtedly the best of the Paul Johnson era. All you have to do to see that is look at the box score from the Orange Bowl. That was a top-5 caliber Mississippi State team with one of the best defenses in the nation and Tech absolutely thrashed it. If anyone had luck in that game, it was MSU on the pre-half Hail Mary, but they still lost big. This year's team, while I'm hesitant to call them bad, is just young and inexperienced. I expect them to get back on track, though whether that happens this season remains to be seen.

TD: I think the answer to both of those questions is a little bit of both. Last season, we were absolutely very good. The talent that left this team was some of the best that Georgia Tech has ever had in one class, and without top-notch recruiting, it can be very hard to replace that. At the same time, last year's team was definitely lucky in terms of timely turnovers forced that were many times the result of terrible decisions by the opponent. For this year, the team is playing pretty badly right now with some horrible blocking, lack of playmakers, and lack of timely turnovers forced. With the bad luck part, we've seen some referees that haven't exactly helped us out and some big plays go the opponent's way at the worst time.

JW: As others have said, it's a little of both, both in an on-field sense and in an injury-related sense. Last year's team stayed supremely healthy for almost the entire year (they suffered their first "out for the season" injury in Game 11). That said, the team was also presented with opportunities to make plays, and they took them. This year, neither of those is the case. The team has already suffered a half-dozen season-ending injuries and may well have as many as 8 on their hands. (Making things worse is that all of those are compounded by happening primarily within the same position groups.) On the field, plays simply aren't being made. Blocks are being missed, the quarterback is trying to do too much, receivers aren't getting open...there's just not much to build on. They haven't caught many breaks (if any), and they haven't done a ton to create them either.

Last year with our on field success we had one of the biggest classes in recent Tech history. Do you think with this season being less successful it will in turn hurt us? -- wima13

KM: I don't think this is as big a deal as may think it is. Much of the 2015 class was added during the summer before the 2014 season, and 2013 was certainly nothing to write home about. This year recruiting has slipped, but there are also fewer scholarships available. The staff was quite picky at the start of the cycle, and now that they have missed on some big targets (even after the success of 2014). If anything, last year's success helped us avoid the "poaching" of our commits by bigger programs near signing day. Recruiting is a long-term game, and it's all about perception in the long term. One year of success didn't move the needle much.

I get the feeling that the coaches are not doing their due diligence to scout as many players as possible before sending out another round of offers. With a possible medical redshirt coming for Errin Joe, the number of scholarships available is small.

BT: At this point it's tough to tell. I'm not totally convinced that our success last year was the direct cause of the quantity of our recruiting class. We had that many players because we needed that many players. I think it affected the quality of those players -- as we got some pretty good players in that class -- and I think our success (or lack thereof) will certainly play a role in our recruiting class this year going forward and next year.

CL: No, not really. I think a big season would have certainly helped us, but a bad season shouldn't hurt too badly. I'd also like to point out that the great 2015 recruiting class was not purely a result of the 11-win season considering most of those guys had already committed before the season began looking like anything special. The reason the 2014 team was so good was because of how hard-working and dedicated the players were. If we lose a recruit because they don't want to achieve success through that hard work and dedication, then we are better off without them anyway.

TD: I don't think it'll be too noticeable, but I think it does hurt due to the fact that it's a season wasted that could've shown recruits that Georgia Tech can contend again and be one of the better teams in college football. Because of the wasted opportunity, I do say that it hurts.

JW: I do think it'll hurt recruiting efforts, but not in a big, noticeable way. I think it'll hurt less than a strong performance would have helped, though. Also, I'm referring to recruiting success in terms of quality of players, not quantity. The number of players that Georgia Tech can sign is governed by scholarship limits and openings on the roster.

Given the 2-3 record and very difficult schedule, what is a reasonable fan expectation for the rest of the season? - YJAlleyCat

KM: My best advice to Georgia Tech fans for the rest of the season is to have no expectations. Watch each game like there is nothing to lose, because there isn't much left to lose. Sure, there's the bowl streak, but stressing about that will only make the games miserable. Losing sucks, and as fans we should never settle for a mediocre program, but thinking about the remaining season won't help. For now, focus on Clemson.

That said, I'd say 6-6 is probably the most reasonable thing to expect from this team right now. The team's performance against Clemson will be telling about how much fight they have left.

BT: Reasonably, I would say either 5-7 or 6-6. I think there are two games left on Tech's schedule that I feel very good about (Virginia and Pitt). There are two other games I feel good about (Virginia Tech and Miami -- I'm feeling less good about Miami though). And then the other three, I don't feel good about at all. Right now I would say it's pretty good odds that we win three of those games.

CL: Right now a "reasonable" expectation is probably 6-6. That isn't necessarily what I am expecting because I still haven't come to grips with the fact that this team isn't a 10-win team, but I think 6-6 is fair. I have resolved, however, that I will not go on record predicting a win in any game for the rest of the season. Which leads me to my Clemson prediction...

TD: Like I wrote up above on the bowl question, I see the team finishing out at 6-6 for the season. I would say the Jackets drop one of the four "easy games" and win of the four "hard games."

JW: A reasonable expectation is a tooth-and-nail fight for bowl eligibility. I'm not optimistic about this weekend's game at Clemson, and a win would be massively helpful to the team and fans from a morale standpoint. If not, the final 6 games presents a "no rest for the weary" type of scenario, although 4-5 wins over that stretch wouldn't shock me. I can't point to a single game in the back half of the season that I feel particularly good about from Georgia Tech's perspective, but at the same time, each of the teams are noticeably flawed and beatable.

Best-case scenario: 8-5, including a bowl win. (I would be over the moon.)

Worst-case scenario: 4-8, with no bowl game and a further degraded injury situation.

My guess: 7-6, including a bowl win.

What's your expectation and prediction for the Clemson game?

KM: I mostly watched the second half of the Notre Dame-Clemson game, in which Notre Dame had a lot more success. I think Notre Dame was the better team in this matchup, but they gave Clemson the game with fumbles and bad drops. Clemson's defense reloaded well considering all their losses, and they'll be a stiff test for an offense that may just be starting to put it together.

On offense, Clemson brings another mobile QB, something Georgia Tech has never been able to figure out. It will be important to hold the point of attack better this week with Gotsis and Gamble back. Clemson has a young OL, but they looked good against Notre Dame. The jackets will need to stand tall against physical runs, or they will be blown out. Clemson's receivers are also dangerous, but I have more faith in the secondary than I do in our defensive front right now, especially after watching last week's game.

A lot of people are saying this is a trap game for Clemson, and I wish they'd stop. Putting them on "upset alert" will only motivate them and make it less of a trap game. Having this game placed nicely after an emotional win against Notre Dame is nice, but I don't think it's enough. I think we stay in the game for a while, but Clemson pulls away late. Clemson 34, Georgia Tech 21

BT: I'm not gonna lie. This weekend is going to be rough. I won't make a prediction (since that hasn't been working out too well for me), but it would take a lot for Tech to pull off the upset this week. Hopefully, we can catch them beat up after squeaking by Notre Dame.

CL: If my highly mathematical and entirely top secret formula is correct, I now know exactly how to play fate just like it has been playing me for the past two weeks. Here we go! Georgia Tech will head up to Clemson and lose by a final score of 223-0 in a game where Clemson starts two quarterbacks, Deshaun Watson and the ghost of Tajh Boyd, who each throw for 11 million yards and 666 touchdowns. You may be wondering why Clemson only scored 223 points despite 22 million yards of offense and well over a thousand touchdowns by the quarterbacks alone, and the answer is simple: the Tigers ran the score up so high that it could no longer be captured by the human concept of numbers and started over at 0. Also, Paul Johnson stubs his toe on Howard's Rock. Take that, football overlords. What are you gonna do now?

TD: I really have no clue what to expect from the team. I think they'll play with a little more fire, but I don't believe it'll be enough to get the upset. I'll go with a final score of 34-24 Clemson. The Jackets will stick by them early and have a few nice offensive drives, but the talent of Clemson will eventually emerge and give them a fairly easy win in the fourth quarter.

JW: My prediction before the season was that Georgia Tech couldn't win this game against a healthy Deshaun Watson. That was back when we all still thought the Yellow Jackets might be a top-15 type of team. To me, the thought of going on the road to play a dangerous Clemson team in a highly hostile environment the weekend following midterms is a LOT of odds to overcome.

That was before Georgia Tech started playing poorly and dealing with injuries.

As you can imagine, my stance hasn't changed much. They've lost 3 straight games in Death Valley by at least two touchdowns. I think that streak continues. Clemson 31, Georgia Tech 13

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions! As always, send them in on Facebook, Twitter (@FTRSBlog), or email (fromtherumbleseat@gmail.com)! We'll do it again next week.