Friday, October 2, 2015

UNC Preview

Well that was awful.  I still don't think Duke is all that good.  Maybe a pretty good team but definitely not great, and still a threat to be something like 4-4 in the conference.  Maybe they'll surprise me and win the Coastal.

But for now what I really care about is us.  The defense has been better and I'm actually excited about that.  We are getting stops.  And for the most part playing well.  But the special teams has been atrocious and the offense isn't blocking anybody.  As noted in the preseason, I was worried this year might be like 2010, but I thought at least the O-line would block well.  I don't know how their performance so far could have been predicted.  They were pretty good last year (although Coach recently said something to the effect of they weren't all that good last year and our skill guys just made plays... that puzzled me a little bit).  In any event, I think they've clearly been worse this year than last year, despite us returning 4 starters and most of our backups.  I'm really puzzled by that.

Justin Thomas is still very good but he's trying to force things since nothing is really working.  This has been hard to watch so far.  I expect we'll sort it out and be at least pretty good on offense by the end of the year, but it won't matter too much if the special teams keeps this up.  The defense looks to be improved but I'm not sure it can carry the team and overcome poor field position and kick return touchdowns (and missed field goals...).

I really have no idea what happens tomorrow.  UNC looked pretty good against Illinois.  They looked pretty bad in week 1.  I think their defense under new coordinator Gene Chizik is better.  So logic would say we might struggle on offense since we haven't played well there anyway.  And UNC's offense destroyed us last year and returns 10 starters, and put up 48 points on Illinois (who isn't good but one would think at least has credible athletes).  All of that would suggest they might beat us.

But we are favored by a little over a touchdown.  I wonder what Vegas is doing here.  I know we were just favored by 9 and lost.  The line usually isn't off by that much two weeks in a row (arguably luck played a role in our loss to Duke I guess).  The last time I remember seeing a line on GT like this one, it was in 2011 for Clemson.  Where I immediately raised my eyebrows.  That was when GT was off two straight losses, also both on the road, and coming back home.  Clemson was 8-0 and ranked #5 in the country, and we were only 3 point underdogs.  I thought that was very strange.  And of course we won and fairly easily.

So maybe that's a good sign.  I don't know.  I'm just curious at this point.  Here is to hoping we play better.  Because this season still has a chance to be something, but if we don't turn it around soon, it will quickly become not very fun.

Let's go Jackets!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Duke Preview

Tough game last week.  It was difficult to watch, for me, and I imagine if you are reading this blog, likely difficult to watch for you as well.  However, after several days of reflection, I really am ok with the loss.  For several reasons.  First, its basically as good as a loss can be.  It wasn't a conference loss, so it has no affect on our ability to win the ACC.  It wasn't a loss to UGA, which would be bad for other, more personal reasons.  It was a road loss to a good team, so it doesn't harm our reputation much.  All of those things would make it a pretty good loss already, but to top it off, we have a pretty quick shot at redemption.  Clemson plays Notre Dame in 2 weeks, and we get Clemson the very next game.  Should Clemson beat Notre Dame at home (hardly a long shot, in fact Clemson might be favored), then we would have the opportunity to redeem ourselves and restore our national credibility right away.  Not that I think it needs to be restored too much.  Again a reasonably competitive road loss to a top 10 team is far from embarrassing.

Now some might argue with that "reasonably competitive" part, but I think the notion that we were beaten badly is simply incorrect.  It was 13-7 at halftime and but for a holding penalty (that in my opinion was VERY questionable) it would have been 16-14 midway through the 3rd quarter.  Additionally, we missed two field goals and both of Notre Dame's first two touchdown drives depended upon deep passes on 3rd and long caught thanks to arguable offensive pass interference.  Now, I know, luck usually goes both ways and sure we had an interception in the end zone and there some other plays you could quibble about, but for me, the final score of 30-22 is a pretty good reflection of the game.  Many would argue that 30-22 was misleading because it was really over at 30-7 with under a minute to play.  But I think 30-7 was actually the misleading score.

I thought the defense played really well.  Especially considering they were put in tough situations by the offense and special teams for most of the day.  Tough field position and they were on the field a lot.  The special teams was abysmal.  The offense sputtered due to Notre Dame's good defensive play and our own execution errors.  I probably should have figured as soon as I said last week that "the only thing that would surprise me is us executing poorly on offense", that all but guaranteed we would execute poorly on offense.  My fault.  

I did enjoy making fun of Notre Dame last week for hiring a "consultant" to defend our scheme, but, well, they did a good job.  Had a good game plan and, most importantly, varied what they were doing all day.  A lot of teams we play against mostly play their base, and then make adjustments only when we get something to start working.  Notre Dame varied up their fronts and alignment more proactively, and that might have caused our blockers some issues as we seemingly couldn't get into a rhythm.  We had 70 missed assignments, according to Coach, when a normal week would be more like 15.  

So credit Notre Dame and its coaching staff.  Of course, part of the problem was simply that they beat a lot of blocks as well.  That's talent.  I think one of my big questions going into last week, can the A-backs and WRs play at this level, was answered with a "not yet".  I saw several passes from Thomas that Smelter or Waller would have caught in my opinion.  And their blocking and running on the perimeter left a little to be desired.  I think they all have potential, but their youth showed last week.  

The good news is that the defense looks like it might be a pretty good unit, and the offensive issues are mostly fixable.  On to Duke.  I believe Duke is a good team but I actually think we win comfortably Saturday.  Just based on the way we matchup.  Duke is well coached and a pretty good defense, but I don't think they are very good on offense this year.  Consider our common opponent Tulane.  Yards per play is probably the best "simple" stat to give you a good idea of how well an offense was playing.  Since every offense is trying to gain yards, and yards per play gives you a reasonable sample size of about 60-80 attempts to do something.  Tulane gave up 4.1 yard per play to Maine, 5.7 yards per play to Duke, and 8.6 yards per play to Georgia Tech.  So we averaged nearly 3 yards per play more.  Duke offensively was considerably closer to Maine than to Tech.  

However, this time of year, there isn't much data to go on.  Only a few games.  Duke's offense gained about 4 yards per play on Northwestern, which was actually better than Stanford did against Northwestern.  And Stanford was then up near 7 yards per play against Central Florida and Southern Cal.  Its just hard to tell who is good at what based on so few games.  But my suspicion is that Duke's offense is not very good.  I"m confident that Tulane is not a good defense, and Duke sputtered and took a while to put that game away.

They are good on defense, but I don't think they have Notre Dame's talent.  And a well coached team with only moderate talent is just going to struggle to stop our offense.  They did a good job last year (although that was Thomas' worst game of the  year and we largely beat ourselves with unforced turnovers).  But while Duke might slow us down for a while, I expect we will eventually get to something like 31 or 35 points.  And I think our defense might hold Duke to something like 10 or 14.  Basically I expect this game to look a lot like the 2013 game in Durham, where we only scored 2 TDs on our first 6 possessions, but eventually put that game away 38-14.  

Sirk's passing has not overwhelmed me.  And we were pretty stingy against the run in South Bend, outside of the one 90 yard run.  I don't think its proven yet (Notre Dame may not be a very good offense for all we know) but my suspicion now is that our defensive front is the best its been in years.  And I think Duke is going to find points pretty tough to come by this weekend.  

We need to bounce back, but I'm assuming the team has been focused and had a good week of practice.  Humbling losses have a funny way of doing that.  If we can get this win and continue improving, I still think this team can be very good.  And everything is still possible.  Certainly an ACC championship.  We can still do even better than that, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.  Its a long season and we will need to play a lot better than we did last week before we have any need to worry about national implications.  

First things first, our ACC opener and a matchup of the last two Coastal champs.  Somewhat ironically, the loser of this game has won the ACC Coastal the last two years.  I'm not sure what that means.  Oh well.

As always, let's go Jackets!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Notre Dame Preview

Well first let me apologize for slacking on this blog so far this year.  To be honest I haven't had a whole lot to write.  I expected us to beat Tulane badly.  Duke beat them 37-7 and Tulane's offense looked inept, and I still have a sneaking suspicion that Duke isn't that good this year, and especially that their defense isn't all that great.  Meaning that Tulane must be truly awful.  So beating them 65-10 is what we were supposed to do, and it doesn't tell us much.  (Also noteworthy, Tulane didn't appear to be real well coached.  For those that didn't notice, Matt Jordan's long touchdown run was scored against a defense fielding 9 players.  In a 4-2-3 formation.  In my last blog post I was just joking that UNC played with a 4-3-0 defense last year, because their pass defense was so bad it was like they didn't even have a secondary out there.  Little did I know I was foreshadowing Tulane's defense against us.)

I still think we don't know a whole lot about this team.  We've done nothing so far to change my mind that we might be really good.  So that's the good news.  I still think we might be a playoff contender.  Depends on two things.  Is the defense for real (which really hinges on whether the D-Line is as good as it could be).  And can the new WR's and A-backs play against major college talent.  I think the answer to the second issue is yes.  The jury is still out on the first issue, the defense, but we'll find out a lot about it tomorrow afternoon.

Apparently Notre Dame has hired an option stopping "consultant" to help scheme for our game.  Well I guess our game and the Navy game.  But they play Navy every year and don't normally hire a consultant, so really its for our game.  This guy isn't really a consultant, but the Linebackers coach for Notre Dame last year who was apparently replaced, but they kept him on to scour the country consulting with other coaches and put together a scheme to stop us.  I'm not sure exactly what Brian Kelly thinks his job is, but apparently he is delegating large portions of it to coaches he recently fired but still wants to "consult" with on important matters.

Anyway I'm amused by this new concept, and the fact that it illustrates just exactly how much our offense is in our opponents heads.  Coaches have done this before, consulting in the offseason with LSU and Iowa back when everybody thought they had the "blueprint" to stop us.  (well, and they both did have it I guess - get a defense with 10+ future NFL players on it - its just not one they can share with other coaches).  UGA scheduled Georgia Southern the week before our game a couple times.  If Georgia Southern keeps changing their offense, then UGA may have to stop pretending its a coincidence, just admit they are practicing for our game, and start scheduling Navy in that slot.  Coaches also admit to spending extra time preparing for us.  Lots of coaches have admitted they devote a couple of weeks in spring practice.  Bud Foster at Virginia Tech spent most of August in 2012 putting in a whole new defense just for our Labor Day game.  UGA admitted last year they spent some extra time during both of their bye weeks working on our offense.  And I'm glad they did, since those were the only two games they lost, other than us.  If they had spent more time preparing for South Carolina during South Carolina week, and Florida during Florida week, they might have been 11-1 and playing Bama for a spot in the playoff.  Despite having beaten us 5 years in a row (at that time), we are apparently so far in their heads that we effectively beat them 3 times last year.  Well, I'm taking credit for all three anyway.  

So its not exactly new for a team to do extra stuff to prep for our offense, but calling it a third party consultant is interesting.  Not sure what effect it'll have.  When teams have success against us its usually a personnel issue.  And Notre Dame has some good personnel.  Kelly has stockpiled plenty of talent.  Hard to know what to make of Notre Dame though.  Are they really good, and maybe Texas is ok and UVA is better than people think?  Or are they more mediocre and Texas is just awful?

That the Irish are playing a backup quarterback doesn't make the game any more predictable.  He looked good in making the clutch throw to avoid a disastrous upset in Charlottesville.  But I'm afraid I don't have any significant insights into the game this week.  I can offer my prediction (ie - my guess).  I think we win a close, hard fought game.  But I wouldn't be surprised by much.  Poor offensive execution by us would surprise me.  That's about it.  I expect us, with Thomas and this experienced O-line, to execute the offense well.  Notre Dame still might slow us down if they win their 1 on 1 matchups, and defeat blocks.  But I don't think we'll beat ourselves offensively.  Other than that, most anything could happen.  Here is to hoping that our defense really is improved and we win easily.

The computers generally think we are good.  We rank about 10th in most and Notre Dame is in the 15-20 range.  Phil Steele's power ratings have Notre Dame in the 15-20 range and have Georgia Tech 3rd.  Most computers seem to favor us, but ESPN's index says Notre Dame has a 68% chance to win.  Of course all that stuff is based on trying to compare Alcorn St. and Tulane to Texas and Virginia.  Which is difficult at best, and a fool's errand at worst.  Computer information at this stage of the season is based on such little data that its close to useless anyway.  So we'll just have to wait until gametime to know much of anything.  Can't get here soon enough for me.

Go Jackets!

Monday, August 31, 2015

2015 Georgia Tech Season Preview

Well, I’m terrified.  

I know.  I’m supposed to be excited.  Everyone else is excited.  We just won eleven games.  And the orange bowl.  We are ranked preseason.  The Coastal favorites for the first time.  But, let me explain.

First the schedule.  Notre Dame added to the normal UGA non conference slate.  Both Clemson and FSU from the Atlantic.  The usual Coastal wheel of destiny, except Duke isn’t the pushover it used to be, so really any game is losable now.  That is 10 games we realistically could lose.  Several in which we will be underdogs.  We could be as good as last year and still only win 7 or 8 games.  

Second, expectations.  Historically, Georgia Tech hasn’t done real well with expectations.  Usually when we are ranked pre season and expected to do well, we don’t.  1990 (without much expectations) we snuck up on people and won it all.  1991 (with big expectations) we came back to earth.  Same combination for 1998 (not much expectations, conference title and 10 wins) and 1999 (big expectations, 8-4).  I’m not sure what causes this, but in my experience, when GT gets preseason respect, we underwhelm.

And finally, its because this year feels identical to 2010, for me.  We were fresh off an 11 win season and an orange bowl appearance.  We returned our stud quarterback.  Nobody was worried about the pieces we lost on offense because we had Paul Johnson and that stud at quarterback.  Nobody was worried about the defense because it “can’t get any worse”.  Even though the defense, which at times seemed atrocious, was a key part of our success.  Remember in 2009, the defense was thought to be awful.  Everybody remembers the UGA game (and to a lesser extent the FSU game) where it seemed like nobody punted.  In fact, in the UGA game, really, nobody punted.  In 2009, we played 3 games in which we failed to force a punt.  And we won two of them...

So going into 2010, the thought was the Groh might shore up the defense.  But even if he didn’t, who cares?  We will just keep on outscoring people.  Problem is, the defense did more than people realized.  It got key stops against Clemson in the regular season game, especially late.  It played a great game to limit Virginia Tech to just 23 points in our biggest win of the season.  It shut down a North Carolina team whose defense was good enough to hold us to 10 points through three quarters.  Those games easily could have been losses without the defense making crucial, timely plays.  In fact, the 2009 defense, for as much as it was derided, finished ranked 51st in football outsiders efficiency rankings.  That 51st ranking is tied with 2013 and 2014, and higher than 2010, 2011 and 2012.  In other words, we STILL haven’t produced a defense better than that 2009 group (although last year was tied).  

The 2009 defense wasn’t good, but it made timely crucial plays (Clemson, FSU, Wake) and played well in some big games (VT).  Similarly, the 2014 defense wasn’t good, but it made timely crucial plays (VT, Miami, Ga. Southern) and played well in some big games (Clemson, UGA).  

Going into 2010, the thinking was the defense couldn’t get any worse.  Well, it got worse.    This year I’m not sure what the thinking is (from the fan base collectively).  The UGA game tends to define, for a lot of our fans, the status of the team.  Thus, because the defense played pretty well in that game, the collective opinion of the defense might be pretty good.  Unfortunately, based on a lot of metrics the defense was awful.  It finished with a mediocre ranking thanks to turnovers only.  And so the question becomes, was that luck?  Or can we replicate that?  If we can’t, can the defense improve and actually get regular stops?  Or are we going to be horrible on defense next year?

Because that was the formula for a shockingly disappointing 2010 campaign.  Losses on offense that were ignored proved vitally important, and a defense that could actually get worse did get worse, and we went 6-7 and finished with Paul Johnson’s lowest computer ranking at GT (by far).  

So there are plenty of troubling parallels.  Losses on offense (Demaryius Thomas, Jon Dwyer, a couple of O-Linemen - compared to 10 of our top 11 RBs and WRs, and Shaq Mason).  A much maligned defense.  Lofty expectations.  The extremely difficult schedule actually makes this year potentially worse than 2010.

We won’t sneak up on anybody this year.  In fact we are likely circled on the calendar for many teams and will get their best punch.  We have a very vulnerable defense and question marks on offense.  Potentially overrated team and a tough schedule is a bad combination.

So that’s why I’m terrified.

But enough of the bad news.  Despite the loss of Shaq Mason, one of the best if not the best O-linemen in the ACC last year in my opinion, we still have a deep and talented O-Line.  In fact, its the #1 rated O line in the ACC according to Phil Steele.  And of course there is Justin Thomas.  If you have to have question marks on offense, I’d rather they not be at QB and O-line.  And they aren’t.  Justin Thomas is perhaps the best quarterback Paul Johnson has ever had (anywhere, not just GT).  I think he’s just about perfect for this offense.   

The QB and O-line give us a significant edge over 2010.  I know we had Nesbitt in 2010 but I think Thomas is better.  A significantly better passer, better at running the offense (because Thomas is great at that while Nesbitt was only good) and I think actually a better runner.  Nesbitt was obviously a great power runner.  Thomas is a great speed runner.  I think overall Thomas has a slight edge here.  Doesn’t really matter though.  Both are great runners, but the passing and ability to run the offense make Thomas significantly better than Nesbitt in my opinion.  And I don’t say that lightly because I loved Josh and I think he was a great player for us.  Thomas is simply a huge asset.  And in Byerly we have a very good backup.  Bylerly might have started for some other CPJ teams at GT.  Tough break for him that he is playing behind Thomas but hopefully he gets some meaningful snaps in short yardage situations as he did last year.  

As for the defense, its not hopeless.  In fact, I’m intrigued.  Last year we were awful on an every play basis.  Somehow very good in key situations.  Without the two fourth quarter INTs, we certainly lose at VT for example.  Without the overtime INT we probably lose to UGA.  Without a late forced fumble we (gulp) probably would have lost to Ga. Southern.  But it was still a defense that conceded 6.3 yards per play last year.  Within the ACC that was only better than UNC and the 4-3-0 defense it employed last season.  (I expect Gene Chizik to change up that scheme and actually put a secondary on the field this year - still though I imagine UNC fans are excited that East Carolina won’t score 70 on them again this year - as they are not on the schedule).  6.3 yards per play is the most ever allowed by a Paul Johnson team at GT.  Think about that...

But unlike 2010, the defense does not lose its two best players to high draft picks in the NFL from an already questionable unit.  Instead, we return most of our best players . . . from a still questionable unit (as the old joke goes returning a lot of starters can be the bad news).  But there are tangible reasons to think this might be the best D-Line we’ve had in years.  Adam Gotsis returns and is probably our best player.  We get Jabari Hunt Days back from academic suspension.  He was an excellent player for us in 2013, has bulked up and moved to DT, and has been getting rave reviews for over a year in practice.  He is listed in Phil Steele’s top 30 NFL draft prospects (although he’s mistakenly listed at DE where he won’t be playing for us according to our current 2 deep) without having played D-line in college.  So he’s certainly intriguing and could be a huge boost.  Keshun Freeman was excellent as a freshman DE, played a great game against UGA, and if he continues to improve could really be something special.  Rook Chungong and Gamble were solid players last year.  Francis Kallon, long thought to have enormous potential, has finally earned a spot in the two deep (which apparently has allowed Gamble to move to DE where he is probably better suited).  Its a deep and experienced group, with legitimate NFL talent and a number of guys with loads of potential that hasn’t been fully realized yet.  

It is my opinion that the D-Line is the most important part of any defense.  If you are disruptive up front it makes everybody else’s job much easier.  And the D-line could be a real strength of this team.  The linebackers shouldn’t be bad and the secondary has returning talent.  Most notably DJ White, who earned himself a place in every Tech fans heart with the walk off interception against UGA.  I think he’s underrated and should have gotten more preseason hype on the all conference teams.  

Anyway, there is talent on defense and I’m excited about the defensive line.  The offense is almost sure to take a step back from last year.  Actually I don’t think most Tech fan appreciate just how good the offense was last year.  The best offense in the country according to the opponent adjusted efficiency rankings of football outsiders, and actually maybe the best offense of the last decade.  We were real good.  So “taking a step back” from that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  But replacing 10 of our top 11 WRs and RBs, including 2 NFL caliber WRs, means we certainly won’t be as good.  But if we can get reasonable play from the replacements, and Thomas  and the O line are as good as advertised, we can still be very good on offense.  If the D-line is as good as I think it can be, we could actually be mediocre or even above average on defense.  If that happens look out.  We could be really good.  Imagine a Paul Johnson offense humming along paired with a defense that can regularly get stops.  

Thus, my approach for this season is cautiously optimistic.  I’m worried, probably moreso than usual, but excited because we could be good.  But I really wish we hadn’t gotten any respect preseason and had started unranked again.  More motivation for us in preseason practice, less focus from our opponents on the GT game.  With the target on our backs and all the question marks, I really think anything from 5-7 to 15-0 is reasonably possible.  I guess I’ll predict something like 10-4 (I do think we are justifiably the Coastal favorites and we should be in the ACC Champ game).  If one of those 10 is the game at Thanksgiving, I’ll be pretty happy with that myself.  I think 9-4 or 8-5 is also pretty likely, however.  We won’t learn too much until week 3, but I’m excited to get started.

Go Jackets!

Friday, December 5, 2014

ACC Championship Game Preview - FSU

So we are going to keep a good thing going here.  Obviously the short and sweet blog posts are working out.  This one will be the same as the last few weeks.

What a game!  I still can't believe we won.  The first half went exactly as I expected.  UGA had the ball 4 times, ran 32 plays, gained 224 yards, for 7 yards per play, and we only forced 1 punt.  If not for the two fumbles at the 1 yard line, they would have had 21 points on just 4 possessions.  It would have been 2012 all over again - we were struggling to force third down.  Forget about getting stops.  

However, give the defense credit for continuing to give 100% on those two fumbles.  I believe it was Milton who never quit on the long run by Chubb, and tracked him down at the 1 yard line.  Without that effort, and the effort of the defense to get a stop on 1st and goal, they would have scored the TD before Chubb had the chance to fumble on 2nd and goal.  Similarly, what a great effort by Nealy to track down Michel at the 1 yard line and force the second fumble.  In both cases, it would have been easy to think "oh well they are going to score anyway" and halfheartedly give 80%.  Two perfect examples of why you should try as hard as you possibly can every play.  You never know what might happen to keep points off the board.

The offense played pretty well in the first half, I thought.  It moved the ball and got us into scoring situations.  The FG block wasn't the offense's fault, and the offense was mostly working with poor field position.  7 points on 4 possessions isn't great, but it really should have been 10, which isn't bad.  Especially against a pretty good defense like UGA, with the field position we kept getting.  

The second half was truly shocking.  The offense mostly steamrolled UGA.  Just completely pushed them around.  I thought the fumble at the goalline (one of the worst calls in history by the way - how was the forward progress not stopped?) might deflate us.  Nope.  They came right back out and did it again.  And again.  Just marching up and down the field.  

And the defense!  Where did that come from?  Our front 7 just beat up their O-Line.  We forced a 3 and out.  We overcame a faked FG and a bad pass interference call, which gave them 1st and goal at the 2, and forced a FG anyway.  And held them scoreless in OT.  Of course, we did give up the go ahead TD drive with 18 seconds left, but this is one of the nation's best offenses, and we pushed them to the brink.  Literally inches from winning the game with a 4th down stop.  

For the 2nd half, UGA was held to 137 yards on 35 plays (not counting the fake FG as an "offensive" play - thats on the special teams).  Just under 4 yards per play.  For the game, they scored 17 points on 7 possessions (8 counting OT).  The 17/7 ratio is identical to the Miami game.  Also with 2 turnovers forced in regulation.  

So they averaged 2.43 points per possession, and we averaged 2.4.  Really about as even as a game can be.  Which is a good thing if you ask me, as I think UGA is a legit top ten team, and we just went into Athens and went toe to toe with them, and outplayed them in the end.  

Total team effort, and a great game.

Of course, it will take the same thing to get a win tomorrow.  I actually think we matchup better with FSU than we do with UGA.  They are more finesse than power, and Winston has shown a vulnerability to INT's this year, now that he doesn't have the great running attack he had last year, and he no longer has the full compliment of standout WRs he had last year.  FSU still has talent, but not the overwhelming variety of talent from 2013, and it seems Winston has been trying to do too much.  Our secondary has shown the ability to create interceptions.  If that unit plays well, we could easily force 2 or 3.  

FSU's defense is pretty similar in quality to UGA's.  Its good.  Maybe a little better than Georgia.  I don't think it has overwhelming strength.  Good speed though.  No telling really how they are going to defend us.  Kelly, the defensive coordinator, worked here at GT for several years, and was the interim replacement during 2012 after Groh was fired mid season.  I'm not really sure whether his inside knowledge gives him much of an advantage or not.  

I have a sneaking suspicion we are going to win this game, and maybe by 10-14 points.  The defense has finally convinced me that it is much improved.  But let's not forget Winston, when playing well, is maybe the best player in the country, and FSU has plenty of talent.  I've also got a sneaking suspicion they've been on cruise control most of the year, and also have been worn down because they have taken everybody's best shot all year.  Basically every game, the opponent is playing its biggest game of the year and FSU is just trying to play an average game.  That wears you down.  

From FSU's psychological standpoint, they've only played one game all year comparable to this one - and that was a top 5 matchup against Notre Dame.  They probably haven't been "up" for a game in a while.  Then again, we are the best team they've played all year, as Notre Dame has been exposed and its apparent now their top 5 ranking was not deserved.  

Further complicating matters is that Georgia Tech has not traditionally handled positive press very well.  And we are now getting plenty of it.  We've been doubted all year long, even by obsessed fans like yours truly, but now people are giving us credit and believe in us.  Can we keep the same edge and play with the same intensity?

So I don't really know what to make of this game.  If both teams play well, I think it should be close.  I really think we have the advantage, and should be expected to pull out a close one.  But I wouldn't be surprised by either team winning by 28 points.  Both offenses are good enough to light people up if they execute well.

I'll predict that both teams play well, and I think we pull out a close win late, something like 35-31,

I can't wait to see what happens.  As always, Go Jackets!

Friday, November 28, 2014

UGA Preview

So here it is.  Clean Old Fashioned Hate.  Another year, another chance.

Once again I have time to write a full post but I don't want to mess with success.  We'll keep it short and sweet.

I take partial credit for the Clemson prediction.  Their offense was moving the ball OK with Watson.  Hard to tell how that game would have turned out if he had stayed healthy.  Their defense did an excellent job, holding our offense to 15 points, although we did miss a FG and we moved the ball pretty well.  Altogether it was what you would expect from a great offense against a great defense.  We did not score as much as I'd like, but we only had 8 possessions (not counting the two possessions running out the clock in both halves).  Moving the ball as well as we did, scoring a TD and getting into FG range 4 times, and eating clock, all of those things help you win a game that only has 8 possessions.  Of course, the defense scoring 2 TD's thanks to a Cole Stoudt meltdown was also a big help.  In the end the game was a comfortable win, but its likely a hard fought battle if Watson had played.

Nevertheless, however it happened, the defense has now played great 4 weeks in a row.  And yet I still have this nervous feeling that we really aren't any better.  That if we played UNC or Duke again, we'd get the same result defensively.  Pitt, UVA, NC State and now Clemson all made a lot of errors that I'm just not sure we forced.  And I highly doubt UGA does the same.

First of all, their strength is our biggest weakness.  Power running.  I don't know what we plan to do with their offensive line and Chubb.  I don't know what we can do.  I'm worried this game might look a lot like 2012, where we have a hard time forcing 3rd down.  And even if we do limit the run, their passing attack is pretty good too.  They are 7th nationally in both yards per carry and passer rating.  Probably why their offense is ranked 7th in the country according to Football Outsiders.  Its an excellent offense.

But here is the real problem for us in my opinion.  We have a great offense too, actually ranked #1 currently by Football Outsiders, but we will be playing a different defense.  Georgia hasn't been a bad defense all year, but they appear to be peaking.  They are currently 24th in Football outsiders - not bad at all.  (Our own defense has risen from 100th to 58th with our play the past 4 weeks, but that still isn't that good unfortunately).

As great as our offense is, a pretty good defense should be able to slow it down some and get a few stops.  And the worry is, even if we score a TD on half our possessions (which would be a great day offensively), they might beat that.  They might have 28 or 35 points on their first 4 or 5 possessions, literally.

If we can find a way to get a few stops - turnovers, penalties, whatever - then I like our chances a lot better and this game may be a tossup.  But I just don't know if we can do that.  I'm not even sure our defense can do as "well" as 2009 and force some FG's.

I fear we may lose by 2 or 3 TD's in a game that isn't really in doubt in the 4th quarter.  Hopefully, we can make plays defensively and keep the game close and pull it out in the end.

As always, Go Jackets!

Playoffs?!? Don't talk about... Playoffs?!? You Kidding Me? Playoffs??

So, believe it or not, I think we actually are not out of the playoff picture.  I know, I know, we have two losses, they aren't particularly good losses, and we haven't played the toughest schedule.  But just stay with me for a second...

Ole Miss beat Miss. St.  We beat UGA and FSU.  UGA beats Alabama (we need Missou to lose for this to happen obviously).  Who does the SEC send ahead of us?  Every SEC team has two losses or more, we would have two losses, and we have a head to head victory over the SEC Champ.

We would also be a 2 loss champion of a Power 5 conference, with wins over Clemson, UGA and FSU to end the season.  SEC Champ UGA and FSU previously on a 28 game unbeaten streak (we probably need them to beat Florida for this to work).

In that scenario, I think we would be in the 4 team playoff unless another conference got 2 teams into the playoff.  The only real threat to do so would be the Big 12, with Baylor and TCU.  I'm not sure how the committee would decide that if they both finish with 1 loss, and we do all of the above.

Obviously the above is a long shot.  We are probably no better than about 10% to win the next two games and we still need help if we do.  But it is fun to think about.  In the first 4 team playoff, we are still technically in the discussion at Thanksgiving.  I guess that's something...