Alright boys and girls, it’s time to put on your gold-colored glasses and talk about Tech’s upcoming National Championship!
Any best-case scenario for Georgia Tech has to start at the quarterback position. Last season started particularly rough as Tech cycled through various quarterbacks in order to find one that would work before settling on James Graham, and now here we are a year later with another quarterback battle. This best-case scenario starts with a quarterback (take your pick honestly) establishing themself as the best of the quarterbacks early on. From there, Tech also needs to establish more of an offensive identity, which will be easier with an established starting quarterback. On defense, the best-case scenario sees vast improvement in the front 7, specifically with the pass rush. The secondary was easily the strength of last season’s team. Since we’re talking best-case scenario, I’m also gonna say the special teams figure themselves out too. As for the record, I’ll say a modest 10-1 with a loss to Clemson that is closer than Clemson would like it to be. As for the postseason, well, put on your gold-colored glasses and have a good time!
The full season happens and we go 9-2 (the losses being Clemson and Notre Dame). Setting aside the likelihood of playing 11 games, our schedule is pretty favorable (albeit with some weird traveling). Outside of the two named powerhouses every game is certainly winnable, especially in the most anything-can-happen season of all time. Obviously wins are great, but this scenario also sees a young squad get a lot of great playing time and gives us a change to find and latch onto a quarterback.
I mean is there any other way than to say the best case scenario is unmitigated football success? Stranger things have happened. Just saying, if we beat Clemson and go undefeated in conference play (likely undefeated overall), with the way the conference championship could play this year, we’d see, uh, North Carolina, in Charlotte? It’ll be too late and cold for lo’ Mac, so we win that. Then it’s two games to a crown. Will this happen? No. But it’s dumb not to dream big if we’re talking about best case scenarios.
Just a warning, when I write a best case scenario, it really is the best case scenario. Being realistic is overrated.
The first game of the season quickly turns into a rout for the Jackets, with Jordan Yates going for 4 passing TDs and 350 yards in the air. The next week goes the same for Tech, as Central Florida runs into a offensive buzzsaw (surprising, I know). The long flight to New York takes a toll on the Jackets, as they come out sluggish. Luckily, the defense picks up the slack and the Jackets grind out a 13-7 win. While Louisville made potentially the best hire of the 2018 offseason, Geoff Collins absolutely dominates the Cardinals with Tech’s defensive strategy, stifling them for less than 100 total yards. Week five against Clemson feels like a Big 12 matchup, a high-scoring offensive game ends on a Steven Verdisco 56-yard field goal to win 66-63. All of the running from the previous week, plus the second long flight in a month, gives Boston College an early advantage in week six. Jordan Yates does some Heisman-like things to win the game, and the Jackets close it out in a nailbiter 27-24. Notre Dame is always overrated, and with the entire Tech squad fired up over not being able to play in the greatest stadium in the world, the result was never in doubt from the beginning (win, 35-17). Pittsburgh’s stout defense is overwhelmed by the three-headed monster of Jordan Mason, Jamious Griffin, and Jahmyr Gibbs, the running backs combine for over 300 yards rushing in week 9. Week 10 means Manny Diaz and Miami. The Canes, 1-9 at this point, are totally lost, but, actually play well in the game. Unfortunately for all Miami fans, the defense lets Jordan Yates connect on 10 straight screen passes for a game-winning TD drive. The last two games are no challenge for the Jackets, as Tech beats Duke and N.C. State by a combined 49 points. An ACC Championship matchup in the snow against Clemson doesn’t lead to an offensive battle. Instead, the game goes to 4OTs before Tech pulls off the victory 9-6. The CFP semifinal goes well, with Collins & co. dispatching Oklahoma 42-35. That sets the team up for a championship game against u(sic)GA. In the most heartbreaking fashion for dwag fans, Jeff Sims (in for a struggling Jordan Yates) leads the Jackets to a 31-28 comeback victory. What a season.
The Best Case scenario this year is that we actually get to play football! Fortunately, there was a FCS matchup this past Saturday so we got a little appetizer, which was rough at best, to go along with a few Group of 5 matchups this weekend. Also, the fact the B1G is trying to 180 their decision to delay the season says that there is too much pressure to play.
Georgia Tech’s best case starts with the coaches starting to settle on a true identity on offense based on their best talent. One of the quarterbacks separates themselves well enough to not need a rotation of QBs to start the season. Mason continues to grow and becomes one of the best backs in the ACC while freshman Gibbs is already an impact player to pace Mason and leave defenses no time to breathe. Their production is also bolstered by a larger and more experienced offensive line that starts to buy time for the QB to read through progressions and pick apart opposing secondaries. At receiver, Jalen Camp returns to be the leader of the group while Ahmaraen Brown continues to be a deep threat to defenses trying to cheat up to stop Mason and Gibbs. Malachi Carter and Marquez Ezzard also contribute to make this one of the best receiving corps in recent memory.
Defensively the Yellow Jackets become one of the best teams in the ACC against the pass with everyone in a talented secondary back. The linebackers are improved by new names around Curry and the defensive front generates some decent pass rush with Antonneous Clayton. The interior of the defensive line lacks depth but they remain relatively healthy all year.
Pressley Harvin III continues to do what he does best but the offense doesn’t make him try to prove he is the best punter 81 times this year. The return game sees a new face from the recruiting class take over to give the offense a helping hand as well. Oh, and Tech finds a kicker who can hit the broadside of a barn even if he was standing inside of it.
All of that together would give Tech a chance to be as competitive or better than most teams on their schedules. We will say that Clemson is still just too tough to overcome but what would a Best Case be without humiliating Notre Dame and running the rest of the schedule? Tech loses a second matchup to Clemson for the ACC title but gets a two-loss UGA team in a New Year’s 6 bowl and beats the brakes off of them.
Jeff Sims is a legit starting quarterback. We roll him out in Tallahassee, and he holds the job all year. Ryan Johnson and returning experience give a significant boost to the offensive line. Antonneus Clayton and strength/size gains give a significant boost to the defensive line. The secondary is legit good, placing one or two guys on 1st Team All-ACC. We win all of the games we are favored to now (BC, NCSU, Syracuse, and Duke). We win closely contested, likely 1 possession games against teams who are 3-10 points better on paper than we are (Louisville, FSU, Pitt, and UCF).
It’s a game played with an oblong ball made of leather. Anything is possible. One of the best things about college football is how quickly teams can rise and fall. An undefeated season is within our capability. It would take a few unlikely miracles, for instance, a star quarterback would have to emerge. This also means it would have to be someone we haven’t seen yet, Jeff Sims is a high 4 star who made appearances in multiple showcases. Tucker Gleason is no slouch either.
Other talent has to emerge as well. What if transfers WR Marquez Ezzard and DE Antonneous Clayton are the real deal? What if the 18 pounds average each lineman has gained actually works. Our leaders in the secondary improve at the same rate and become superstars. These are all things that are actually possible.
We get a hot start at FSU and beat our non-conference opponent UCF. From there, one of our freshman QBs has caught fire and we have the best stable of runningbacks in Georgia Tech history. Close games start to become blowouts and Clemson stumbles when they roll through The Flats on October 17th. They tend to lose to a surprising conference foe on the road each year. Why not us? We’ve certainly ruined Clemson’s title hopes in the past.
Beyond that, our schedule is pretty easy. We run the table, beat Clemson along the way, Notre Dame has a down year and we claim a spot in the playoff. By then, we are 11 games deep into a hot year, our team is on a tear and feeling confident. We would give any team a run and with a couple of breaks, we could win the playoff too. If we realize the dream and tons of talent emerges across the board, undefeated national champion is possible.
The best case scenario for this season is, well, that we have a season at all, and a full one at that. It seems the coaching staff has a much more solid idea of what they want to do on offense, so hopefully they’ll stick to it instead of throwing out the offensive grab bag we saw last year. This is doubly true for quarterback - the shell game didn’t work for Charlie Weis in 2007, and it didn’t work last year either. It’s looking like either Jordan Yates or Jeff Sims will be the guy, so pick one and stick with him. By week 1, not, like, week 7. And the conventional wisdom states rebuilding an OL is a multi year project, but we at least need to see pretty significant improvement from last year. Losing Devin Cochran sucks, and any positives stemming from that won’t pay off for at least another year or two.
Right, there is that whole pandemic thing. Best case relies on everyone being and staying healthy. Which doesn’t even come close to happening to Georgia Tech in a good year, never mind a year like this. But let’s just pretend. FSU has a first year head coach who might already be losing the locker room. The worst Tech team in decades still beat NC State. Same for Miami. Clemson..... Syracuse is still trying to find themselves after Eric Dungey graduated. Notre Dame, being forced to play at another school’s home stadium, might not be at full power. I honestly have no idea what is going on in Chestnut Hill. There are wins on this schedule that don’t require mass quarantining or opting out from the other side. In a best case scenario? I can see, oh, eight. Clemson is still Clemson, Notre Dame is still Notre Dame, and I have a feeling Louisville is just a bit better than they were in 2018. Still, 8-3 after last year’s.... whatever that was would be a huge step forward, both on its own and for setting expectations for 2021.
What’s your best-case scenario for the season?