As we draw closer to kickoff, pressing questions start to emerge. Over these next few days, the FTRS staff will be showcasing their expert opinions and analysis to answer these questions.
Days to Kickoff: 19 Days
What is Georgia Tech’s most important game this season?
I'm going to cheat a little bit and give two games. Pitt and UNC at home in back to back weeks is a critical sequence for the Yellow Jackets this season. If the goal is to represent the Coastal Division in Charlotte, holding home field against two divisional opponents that Tech has struggled with in recent seasons is an absolute must. Heading into October 2-0 in conference will set the Yellow Jackets up pretty well for a run at the Coastal Crown. Losing one isn't the end of the world but removes pretty much all room for error. Lose both and Tech might struggle to make a bowl game. (If I have to pick just one, I'll say UNC. Losing 4 straight to them isn't a good look.)
I think Tech's most important game this season is actually the UNC game. They've torched the Tech defense the last few seasons, and it will be a must-win game over a rebuilding Heels team if Tech hopes to contend for the Coastal. That game should set the tone for conference play the rest of the season. It's also the game before the bye week heading into Miami. If Tech takes care of Pitt and UNC ahead of that game, the Thursday night game in Coral Gables will have a lot of weight.
I'm going to go in a bit of a different direction than I'm sure most are going here, and I'm going to say that Tech's most important game is its first one. While it's true that going into ACC play, Tech is going to need to get off to a good start against Pitt and UNC back-to-back, Georgia Tech has the perfect opportunity to make a massive statement if they beat Tennessee. Granted, the SEC East isn't exactly a powerhouse division, I believe beating Tennessee (and moving to 4-0 against the SEC East since the beginning of last year) would carry a lot of weight, not just in terms of our record, but also in recruiting. In the national spotlight, Labor Day at 8 p.m., everyone will be watching.
Oof this one is tough. I had a tough time picking between Tennessee, Pitt, and COFH. There are great arguments for all 3 to be made, but I'll go with COFH. There's just too much riding on it this year. 3 of the past 4 looks a hell of a lot better than 2 of the last 3.
Tennessee. Let freedom from the $EC ring.
It'd be really easy to say it's Tennessee, because it's a nationally televised, neutral-site game against a top-25 SEC opponent on Labor Day. So, yeah, I'll say Tennessee. It's the biggest opening weekend game Georgia Tech has played since the Jackets hosted Notre Dame (and College GameDay) in 2006. See y'all at the Stankoniadome.
Miami - A midweek tilt. National television. Everything about this game screams hype. To win the ACC Coastal, it will take some big wins. And a game on the road at the much-hyped Hurricanes is a big game. If Tech wins this game, that puts them in the driver's seat in the division race, or at least in as good of a position as they can reasonably expect, for the remainder of the season. And, after last year, I think the team is out to prove themselves against the Hurricanes - that game was much closer than the scoreboard indicated at the end of the game. Despite the bill of a wide-open division, I think it comes down to Tech, Miami, and Virginia Tech. The first of these to play is Tech - Miami. It'll take flipping games on the road to make it to Charlotte. That's tough. And on October 12th, it'll be time to see what the Yellow Jackets are made of.
Tennessee. It's a rare chance to make a major statement right out of the gate on a national stage. A win would be huge for the team's morale, the new quarterback's confidence, and Paul Johnson's ability to continue taking a perpetual dump on the SEC. (The last one applies to another game too, but saying Georgia here would be too easy.)
Usually, I do not like to overvalue the Georgia game, but I actually do feel that is the most important game on the schedule this season. Starting strong against Tennessee is obviously a top priority. Beating Clemson would be HUGE. Getting back on the right side against UNC and Miami are both important. Getting another one on the Hokies would obviously be fantastic. However, nothing would make a statement quite like beating Georgia for the 3rd time in 4 tries, getting the first win at home over the Dawgs since 1999, and going up 2-0 on Kirby. People around the state would have to take notice of what is going on here on the Flats, and the heat would begin to really turn up on Kirby.
Home vs. Pittsburgh. The middle of the ACC Coastal looks extremely muddled this year and Pitt and GT are right in the middle of it. This is the ACC opener for both teams. The winner of this game has a shot at the ACC title, the loser is likely looking at a finish towards the middle of the ACC. The runner-up is the game after Pitt, at home against UNC. Both games look like toss-ups, so 2-0 would have big implications.
Georgia. The Yellow Jackets have not beaten UGA in consecutive years since 2000. However, Tech has won two out of the last three against the Bulldogs and has a chance to gain control of the rivalry in 2017.
I'm going with the Virginia Tech game. Despite losing Jerod Evans to the NFL, the Hokies remain one of the favorites in the ACC and will be Tech's penultimate conference opponent for the season, preceding only Duke. If the Jackets end up being in contention for an ACC Championship berth at that late stage in the season, a second-consecutive win over Justin Fuente's team would likely be a game-changer. After all, either the Hokies or Yellow Jackets have gone on to represent the Coastal in the conference title game for ten of the past twelve years.
The Final Tally:
- Tennessee - four votes
- Georgia - three votes
- UNC - two votes
- Miami, Pitt, and Virginia Tech - one vote each
What is Georgia Tech’s most important game?