The Alcorn State Braves will be heading into Atlanta in week one looking to build off of a fantastic season in 2014. The Braves were 10-3 (7-2) on the season and defeated Southern in the SWAC Championship game to capture their first conference title since 1993. Georgia Tech has scheduled some rather tough opponents in the "cupcake game" slots recently, and Alcorn State could potentially fill that role once again to open the year.
What to watch for:
The Braves were one of the most dangerous teams offensively in the FCS last season, and they'll be returning most of their weapons in 2015. Alcorn State runs the ball very well, and they'll likely look to keep the ball on the ground as much as they can against the Jackets to keep their defense off the field and to limit turnovers through the air. Last season, Tech struggled heavily against the run and in most areas defensively to open up the year. In the opening game, Wofford was able to run the ball effectively against the Georgia Tech defense to keep the game fairly close for much longer than people expected. Defensively, the Braves had much more turnover and lost a good number of leading tacklers from last season. Despite that, the Alcorn State secondary should remain very productive with a few talented players returning. Run defense should be the weakness for the Braves, so it wouldn't be surprising to see Tech throw the ball less than 10 times in the game. The key matchup though will be the success of the Alcorn State run game in the first half. The Jackets will score early and often, but if the Braves can control the ball on the ground, they'll be able to stick around longer than the fans at Bobby Dodd want.
Who to look for:
QB John Gibbs Jr.
Gibbs Jr. was the 2014 Co-Offensive Player of the Year in the SWAC. He threw for nearly 3,000 yards on the season while also adding over 1,000 yards on the ground and 32 total touchdowns. The senior quarterback has plenty of experience and shouldn't be fazed at all going on the road to a bigger environment than the team may be used to. Gibbs Jr. is easily the biggest key in the game to the Braves giving Tech a game or falling behind early and becoming a scrimmage in the second half.
DL Darien Moody
Moody can play all around the defensive line and was a force to be reckoned with in 2014 as a junior. He finished the year with 10.5 TFL and 7.5 sacks to earn First-team All-SWAC honors. The Braves have to have someone step up in the front against the Georgia Tech offense, and it's going to need to be Moody. If Moody doesn't play one of his best games to clog up the option, it could be a really long night for the Alcorn State defense.
What to expect:
Despite Alcorn State having an impressive 2014, the Braves are in a bit over their heads facing up with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. The offense is capable of putting up some numbers behind talented quarterback John Gibbs Jr., but the defense isn't very experienced after losing four of their top five tacklers from a top-10 FCS defense in 2014. The Jackets should be able to run the ball at will against an inexperienced front seven for Alcorn State, and they won't have to feed into the Braves' strength at secondary by throwing the ball.
Best-Case Scenario for Alcorn State
The Braves are able to run the ball effectively early on to keep the Jackets' offense off of the field. A couple of scores early on keep the game within two touchdowns at the half which would essentially be a win for Alcorn State
Worst-Case Scenario for Alcorn State
The Georgia Tech defense is all over the run from the start, and the Braves are unable to sustain any success on the offensive side of the ball. The Jackets get all of the possessions they need, and it gets ugly enough for some backups to see the field by the time the game reaches the second quarter.