This is speaking with the enemy, in which we pick the brains of those who know the most about this weekend's upcoming opponent. This week's volunteer is Tyler Duke of SB Nation's excellent Georgia Tech site From The Rumble Seat. I have it on good authority that he makes a killer guacamole, knows the words to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, is a heck of an engineer, and does not post regularly on StingTalk. You have to admit that's pretty impressive.
1) The Jackets started the 2014 season with a close call against Georgia Southern and losses to Duke and UNC, but come into this weekend winners of four in a row. What's been the difference?
FTRS: The difference has definitely been the defense. The Georgia Tech defense has allowed 17 points-per-game since that terrible loss to UNC, and defensive coordinator Ted Roof has done a great job of changing the schemes and getting guys in the best position. The offense has been consistent all year for the most part, but the improvement from the defense is what has Tech fans feeling confident about the team right now.
2) Would Tech fans trade a loss against Georgia for a win in the ACC title game versus FSU?
FTRS: Very few fans would trade a loss against UGA for the ACC Championship. It's not something I necessarily agree with, and I do believe that some Tech fans put too much emphasis on the Georgia game, but I understand where those people are coming from. The recent history of the rivalry has obviously been horrible for the Jackets, and I think that has caused some fans to measure the success of the entire season into one game. Personally, I would take an ACC Championship that would get us into the Orange Bowl against a very good team. The national attention from beating FSU would be huge, and quite frankly, I'm ready for those guys to lose. For seasons when the opponent in the ACC Championship game isn't an undefeated team that everybody wants to be knocked off, I would probably take the UGA win.
3) Georgia Tech ranks 12th in the ACC in total defense (giving up 388.8 yards per game) and 9th in scoring defense. Georgia on the other hand is leading the SEC in scoring at 43.3 points per game. What does Georgia Tech need to do to keep that total down?
FTRS: The answer is pretty simple - keep the offense on the field. Georgia Tech's best defense is usually the offense. In the Miami game, the defense wasn't necessarily good, but they were able to force a couple of turnovers, and the offense stayed on the field almost the entire second half. If the offense can be effective, it should limit the amount of time Georgia has to pound the ball on the ground with Nick Chubb.
4) Is there a point at which Paul Johnson has to beat Georgia for his own job security? Are there other factors more important to the fan base in evaluating his performance seven seasons into his tenure.
FTRS: I guess it depends. If he has seasons where he wins games against Virginia Tech, Miami, Clemson, and potentially FSU for the ACC Title, his job security shouldn't be hurt by a loss against UGA. But Tech won't win those games every year, and eventually he will have to start winning some games against Georgia. For the fan base, I think UGA is absolutely the most important game every year when evaluating the team and the job the head coach has done. Most people are fairly satisfied with what Johnson has done thus far, but they aren't happy at all with his job against the Bulldogs. A couple of more losses could really hurt his support around Atlanta.
5) Fill in the blank: Georgia Tech wins this game if _________. Georgia Tech is in serious trouble if ________.
Georgia Tech wins this game if the offense can limit Georgia possessions, and the defense can force a turnover or two. Georgia has done a great job at protecting the ball this year, so the second won't be an easy task.
Georgia Tech is in serious trouble if the offense turns the ball over. They can't afford to waste away any possessions or give Georgia any extra chances or points. A few turnovers will probably end any possibility that the Jackets have of winning on Saturday.
6) Score prediction?
I predicted 31-24 Georgia at the start of the year, and I'm adjusting it to 34-27 Georgia now. The emergence of Chubb has washed away any worries of Todd Gurley being gone. Hutson Mason isn't spectacular, but he takes care of the ball. I think that's the difference. The opportunistic Georgia Tech defense thrives off of offenses that take risks, but that's not this UGA offense. I think both teams move the ball fairly easily, but the Bulldogs are able to make one more stop in the end. It should be a good one.