As an Industrial Engineer, statistics was a large component of my education at the Institute. One of the basic concepts of statistics is the importance of sample size when drawing conclusions, and to trust long-term (or large-scale) results over short-term (or small-scale) results.
Below, you'll see an image of Georgia Tech football's final records since winning the National Championship in 1952, relative to a .500 record. That's over 60 seasons' worth of results -- which I'm comfortable calling "large-scale", and therefore reliable when drawing conclusions about long-term trends.
The thing that you'll notice about the past 60 years is that the peaks are high, but that, in general, the team has been at or marginally above .500 in most seasons. The other thing that you'll notice is that the peaks tend to be short-lived, with strong seasons being followed up with quick returns to the norm.
That's what Georgia Tech's football program has been, historically -- one that has some really strong isolated seasons, while most years being little more than an average one. It's basically the same thing that former AD Dave Braine infamously said in the wake of giving Chan Gailey a contract extension in 2005:
Georgia Tech can win nine or 10 games. They will never do that consistently. That's my feeling ... because of the type of program this is.
-Dave Braine, November 2005 (Source)
(I find it amazingly appropriate that Braine gave the extension in the middle of one of the 7-win seasons that Gailey was known for -- and loathed for, to a degree.)
All of that said, 2015 is a season that has potential to change the narrative surrounding Georgia Tech's program for the near future. The Yellow Jackets are getting a lot of national attention as they come off of a state championship, a division championship, a near-miss at a conference championship, and an Orange Bowl beat down of Mississippi State. After years of being questioned in various capacities, head coach Paul Johnson is getting a lot of respect and attention on the national level. Quarterback Justin Thomas is getting as much attention as any player has on the Flats since the end of the 2009 season. The 2015 recruiting class was also the second in a row that many would consider to have been Johnson's best at Georgia Tech thus far.
All of this, basically to say that Georgia Tech's football program has momentum right now. They're in the midst of changing the national narrative that's been plaguing the program for years. However, the key to cementing the new narrative surrounding the program is to sustain that success -- the part that's been missing throughout most of Georgia Tech's history. The 2014 team may have been massively successful, but recruits and pollsters alike will be quick to forget such a season if the next couple of seasons are purely a regression to that 7-win plateau that Yellow Jackets fans are so regretfully familiar with.
However, the 2015 season has the potential to be particularly impactful on the program moving forward. A lot of that has to do with the 2016 season. Next year, Georgia Tech has out-of-conference games against Mercer, Vanderbilt, Georgia Southern, and georgia, and its ACC crossover game is against Boston College (in Ireland to begin the season). Combine that with the usual 6 ACC Coastal foes and Clemson, and the schedule is considerably more friendly-looking than this season's. In addition, the team would theoretically be led by a senior Justin Thomas, and much of the recently-recruited talent would be more experienced and developed. Point being, 2016 sets up as having potential to be a very special season.
And that's why 2015 is so important.
If Georgia Tech can find a way to win 9-10 games, perform well in a Bowl game, and finish 2015 ranked, the door will be open to string together three straight years with strong outcomes. The result of three straight very successful seasons? It's hard to say, given that Georgia Tech has had three straight 9-win years only once in its history (1951-1953 under Bobby Dodd). Still, a show of power and consistency in both 2015 and 2016 has the ability to change the course of the program for the foreseeable future.
The change starts now, and we're about to find out -- is this team up to the challenge?
The 2015 football season is a huge one, and it starts now. Let's do this.