Generally, the very best times in our lives are the ones where everything is peaking at once. Maybe that means success in the classroom or at work (good grades, graduation, a promotion), alongside success in one's personal life (engagement/marriage, birth of a child, new house), and maybe even success in one's personal time (great round of golf, invitation to an exclusive club, winning an election). That said, a lot of good times are had without the entirety of the picture being particularly great.
The same is true for Georgia Tech's football program right now.
Last year, the pieces were in place on offense and in the schedule for Georgia Tech to participate in the first-ever College Football Playoff. There was a highly-talented quarterback surrounded by highly-talented senior playmakers operating behind a highly-talented offensive line. They played a schedule that laid out perfectly -- easier games up front, most challenging games at the end, and limited threats in its out-of-conference opponents (which could be seen as a positive or negative in terms of affecting Playoff chances).
Unfortunately, the defensive pieces weren't quite in place yet to facilitate that run. Georgia Tech's losses saw the following:
- Duke moved the ball more successfully and consistently than it has against the Yellow Jackets in years.
- North Carolina scored 48 points -- including a game-deciding touchdown on its final drive where the defense needed to make a single stop to protect a lead.
- Florida State's offense went without a turnover for the first time in 20 games en route to a 37-point performance.
This year, though, much of the above changes. Georgia Tech's offense looks to replace its starters at all five skill positions as well as an All-American offensive guard, and a more daunting schedule changes to include an effective out-of-conference game on the road at Notre Dame and a contest against back-to-back-to-back ACC Champion Florida State. Although Paul Johnson's team returns its best quarterback under his regime and a high strength of schedule could work to the Yellow Jackets' favor, causes for worry are also present in the surroundings.
Meanwhile, Ted Roof's defense projects to be the best unit on the Flats in a number of years, stacked with talent and seniority across the board. The defense projects to start eight seniors (regardless of whether we're talking about a 4-2-5 or 4-3 alignment) and only one underclassman (that being a returning freshman All-American). The defensive line and secondary should both have as much depth as they ever have during the Paul Johnson era. Combine that with the fact that this is Year 3 of Ted Roof's tenure and the full understanding of his system that should be present, and again, this unit should be as good as it's been in quite some time.
That's great, and really something to look forward to after a number of years of frustrating defensive performances.
...but wouldn't it have been cooler for that defense to be in place last year? Or, conversely, wouldn't it have been great to have last year's offense, only with this year's defense and schedule? (The latter would implicate strength of schedule being a positive, of course.) The offense from last year and defense from this year would set up to be a legitimate playoff contender.
Instead, the bad news going into this fall is that the offense will have considerable questions to answer against a tougher schedule this year. The good news is that they should have a great defense backing them up. (The other good news is that Paul Johnson's offenses have rarely answered questions unfavorably, and relevant concerns typically fade sooner than later.)
All of this is to say that you're justified in expecting this season to be a good time, but not a great time. Again, the greatest of times typically would be when everything comes together perfectly. Even still, you can have really good times when some things are great and others above average or good. This season sets up to be a really good time, where 8-10 wins seems like a very justifiable prediction.
Then again, you never know. I've been wrong before.
Would last year's offense and this year's defense truly constitute a Playoff team? Am I wrong about the potential of this year's group given last year's results?