I’ll be honest. I’ve watched a total of three Georgia Tech football games this season. I mean, I’ve kind of had my hands full with my chosen team this season, you know?
You may be in a similar boat, so I hope you’ll appreciate this brief Q&A with Josh Brundage of our SB Nation sister site From The Rumble Seat about this weekend’s game. Josh has some interesting thoughts on Paul Johnson’s job security, at least one terrifying stat about Jackets QB Justin Thomas, and a lot more class some of his insectine brethren. Enjoy.
MD: The Jackets have won four of five and find themselves with some momentum. What turned things around following the three game losing streak earlier in the season?
Josh: Tech has actually been pretty consistent this season. The Jackets got blown off the field by Clemson, but the Miami game was turned on consecutive possessions of them recovering fumbles for touchdowns. In the Pitt game, they caught a tipped-pass Hail Mary to tie the game late, and then bounced the winning field goal off the upright and thru as time expired. So 2 of 3 of those losses were pretty fluky, and I thought Tech looked like the better team in both… but such is college football.
In the recent wins, Tech has just done a better job of not beating themselves – they’ve capitalized on turnovers and made fewer mistakes of their own.
MD: How, if at all, is senior QB Justin Thomas a different player versus the one Georgia saw in 2015?
Josh: I think the biggest difference in Thomas this year is that he’s stopped pressing and trying to do too much himself. In 2015, Tech limped into the end of the season – Thomas had lost his entire supporting cast and was surrounded by freshman that had no idea what they were doing on offense. The line and A-backs didn’t know how or who to block. This year, the offense is much more efficient and experienced, and he has developed decent chemistry with his A-backs and WRs.
This year, Thomas has generally had time to throw, and has shown he’s a very accurate passer when given the opportunity. He’s only thrown 1 pick in 2016, and that was a garbage time deep pass against Miami. He’s in general making better decisions and trusting the players around him.
MD: Georgia Tech sits at 8th in scoring defense and 10th in total defense in the ACC, but has bested its season average for points allowed each of the past three weeks. Has this defense turned a corner?
Josh: This defense lives off turnovers and mistakes by the opposing offense… They still struggle with the same things they’ve struggled with all season, namely a lack of pass rush, which leads to open receivers all over the field. This defense can be picked apart through the air if quarterbacks stay patient enough, so I’m not sure there’s a corner they’ve turned as much as they’ve gotten lucky the last few games and have played lesser opponents.
I would hope that Ted Roof, our much-maligned DC, would send lots of pressure to try and rattle Eason and make him be consistent and beat us with his arm, but Roof isn’t always into “common sense.” So judging from previous games, we’ll generate no pressure rushing 4, play super soft coverage on the receivers, and get picked apart at least the first half until Johnson yells at him to change something.
MD: If Georgia Tech needs a big offensive play to win this one, who does Paul Johnson look to?
Josh: Definitely Justin Thomas. He’s been consistent all season, a vocal leader on the team, and we’ve largely seen him revert back to his dazzling, 2014 form. On the other side of the pitch or pass will probably be Clinton Lynch, who has 7 TDs on the season and averages 31.6 (!) ypc. It seems like every time Lynch touches the ball, good things happen, so he’s also a name to watch out for this weekend.
MD: Before the Virginia game Paul Johnson sounded philosophical about his job security. Is there really a chance new AD Todd Stansbury fires Johnson? Will this game materially affect your answer?
Josh: There’s not a chance Johnson gets fired, and the biggest reason is that the school can’t afford it. We’re still paying 2 fired basketball coaches in addition to our current one, and Johnson’s contract extends through 2018, so he’s here at least until the end of it.
This game doesn’t effect his job security if he loses, but I could see it being easier to offer the next extension if he wins it. Like it or not, and most Tech fans like it, he’s our coach for the foreseeable future. He’s honestly a great fit for the school, his graduation rate for players who don’t leave early is dang close to 100%, and the Tech fans who call for his head because we’re not Alabama, or Clemson, or even Georgia, are trying to compare apples and oranges.
Johnson spoke very candidly in a recent podcast with the AJC about the academic restrictions, budget constraints, etc about being a football coach at The Institute. It’s not an even playing field in regards to recruiting and money and everything… I mean, even you guys understand that being in the same conference as Alabama.
Anyway, his biggest point was that Tech will never look like or be able to recruit like the schools in our immediate surroundings, but that doesn’t mean that Tech can’t be competitive with or beat those teams.
To put this back on him as Tech’s head coach, I really think Johnson and his offense are a perfect fit for Tech and allows us to challenge and often beat the schools the naysayer Tech fans want to compare us to. I mean, hell, we won the Orange Bowl in 2014, and played in it in 2009 as well. He’s taken the team to 2 NY6/BCS bowls since his hire in 2008, and no one had done that since our National Title season in 1990.
And honestly, it’s annoying, but we largely enjoy and take it as a compliment that even in down years, no one wants to play Tech and most of our opponents usually request a bye or FCS option team the week before us.
MD: Because we must: score prediction?
I think the score is going to be entirely determined by Eason vs. the Tech defense. I’m going to hope that the Yellow Jackets sell out to stop the run to stifle Nick Chubb, and rattle Eason’s confidence… but that’s a big hope.
This game is so fluky and hard to predict every year, but I’m going to say Georgia Tech wins, 28-17… and I don’t feel confident about that.
Thanks to Josh for educating us. I’ll be hitting him up for calculus help in the future, I’m sure. Until later . . .