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Proof of Concept for Geoff Collins

Saturday’s win was bigger than just one game.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, we watched Georgia Tech score 32 points in the second half to blow out a ranked North Carolina team that was picked to win the Coastal Division before the season. It was a great win to be sure, but perhaps more importantly was what the win represented for Geoff Collins, his staff, and their tenure on the Flats.

There were elements present within the game and box score that naysayers could use to say that the win was “lucky” — the Yellow Jackets were +3 in turnovers after recovering all of the game’s fumbles, they still gave up over 300 passing yards on a solid 7.8 yards per attempt, and the offense was only 3/11 on third downs.

Make no mistake though — Georgia Tech’s win was not a result of luck, nor was it a fluke.

What we saw on Saturday night was a defense that repeatedly got pressure without sending more than 4 pass rushers, a rejuvenated and confident-looking Jeff Sims, a physical rushing attack, and game plans on both sides of the ball that made sense and were executed effectively. Not only that, but the level of competency that we saw was very similar to what we saw the two weeks prior against Kennesaw State and Clemson. Most importantly, what we saw was Proof of Concept for Geoff Collins at Georgia Tech.

The last three performances by this team are a sign that Collins’ plan is working, and that the program is, indeed, developing under the current regime. This does not mean that the build is complete, or that the team has arrived into its final form. There is still more to be done, and it will take more than this season to realize this program’s potential under the current regime.

The most significant thing that we’re beginning to see, though, is a certain level of consistency. Since Collins took over and began this rebuilding process, there have been individual moments and performances that have looked impressive from one angle or another — getting wins over Miami and NC State in 2019, winning on the road against Florida State to open last year, or scoring a combined 102 points in wins over Louisville and Duke later in 2020. The problem was, those wins were often luck-aided and tucked in between less-inspiring performances that left us wondering why they couldn’t happen more often.

Where the 2021 edition of this team has been different is that after a season-opening loss to NIU, they have now strung together three straight solid, complete performances (including two in a row against ranked opponents) in a way that they hadn’t done in the previous two seasons. That indicates to me that the terrible loss to NIU was the outlier — not the near-miss against the six-time defending ACC Champion Clemson Tigers or the subsequent win over the preseason Coastal Division favorite Tar Heels.

As mentioned, the build is not yet complete. With eight games left on the schedule, there are plenty of opportunities to continue to gauge where the program is at. We’ve now seen on the field the level of play that they’re capable of — the question now becomes whether that level of play can be sustained. Georgia Tech is due to play a Pittsburgh team this weekend that has a super-senior quarterback (he’ll be making his 44th career start and will almost certainly finish the season with over 10,000 career passing yards), but a team that has proven to be flawed — one-dimensional on offense and prone to giving up big plays on defense. Despite Georgia Tech opening as a small underdog (Pitt is currently favored by 3.5 points, as I write this) and having lost five of their last six in this series, this is a very winnable game, and another performance like we’ve seen the past three weeks should end up with another Yellow Jackets win.

Regardless of the outcome this weekend, if they’re able to continue showing Proof of Concept, Georgia Tech may make a bowl game in 2021 after all, and the outlook on the program will be very positive as we look to future seasons.

And, well, if that ends up being the case...

I’ll never have been happier to have had to eat my own words.

Get more of my thoughts on Georgia Tech’s win over North Carolina, their upcoming matchup with Pittsburgh, and all of the other action across the ACC on Basketball Conference: The ACC Football Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or anywhere else you normally find podcasts.