Friday, December 30, 2016

Gator Bowl Preview

I don't know about you guys, but I'm still basking in the after glow of the UGA win.  That is about as good as it gets.  I am used to GT finding ways to lose to UGA when we are AHEAD by 13 with 10 minutes left (or something similar).  See: 2013, for example.  We never come back and win in that scenario.  And they even had the ball.  Well, what do you know?  I thought we were the better team on the day anyway.  We largely wasted a chance in the first half to have a decent lead.  Set UGA up with an early fumble in the second half.  But eventually they gave us a couple mistakes back and we made the plays.  Go Jackets.  Can't believe it.

Anyway, on to the bowl game.  Which is the Gator Bowl.  I refuse to call it the Taxslayer Bowl.  Kentucky is a pretty good team.  Which is weird.  But they are.  Statistically though, they aren't very good.  A slightly above average offense and a bad defense.  That doesn't usually add up to a good team (although in fairness, GT is a good offense and a really bad defense, which doesn't usually add up to 8-4 either).  But football is a strange game, that has become stranger, and as this bowl season is showing, bowl games are unpredictable.

What I think (ahem... *think*) we can be reasonably sure about is that both teams will run.  Both are very good running the ball, in terms of yards per carry and yards per game.  GT is considerably more efficient passing the ball, but we pass less often.  Kentucky is sort of mediocre passing the ball.  Defensively we are both miserable at stopping the run.  That's probably worse for GT though because my working theory is that our running offense is so unusual that an opponent's pass defense is a better predictor of its ability to defend us (thinking logically, we attack space downfield, stress the linebackers and secondary, and nobody knows who will have the ball until the play develops - all of which is more like passing than traditional running).  Fortunately, Kentucky's pass defense isn't any good either.  So we should be ok whether my theory is correct or not.  Our pass defense is actually mediocre (statistically), believe it or not, but I'm not really confident in that unit.

I expect points, although, and stop me if you've heard this before for a GT game... not many possessions.  Both teams will run the ball and neither should get many stops.  So every possession should eat up clock.  This game should look a lot like GT-UGA.  I give GT the slight edge but its a toss up.  I'll pick Tech to win, 31-28.

As always, let's go Jackets!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

UGA Preview

OK well I botched the UVA week blog.  And I was pretty excited about the VT win so, my bad.  Just busy.  You know how it is.  Didn't get around to it.  But I'll re-do it real quick - UVA is a bad football team and we should win.  There.  And we did, although we made it... interesting? for a while.  I'll chalk that up to being a little flat after a big road win.  Not a bad thing to win when you are flat, even if your opponent is awful.

Now onto clean, old-fashioned hate, and we are going to keep this short and sweet.  On offense they have wasted some talent this year.  Really a poor offensive line.  Their offense has been bad, but then again, our defense is worse.  We are the cure for many a bad offense.  On the other side of the ball, it'll be a really good offense against a pretty darn good defense.  Interesting matchup.  With UGA at home, and knowing the history of this rivalry and how UGA always seems to get a big break or two in this game, I'll pick UGA to win.  I also think its easier for a bad offense to score against a bad defense, than it is for a good offense to score against a good defense.  So slight edge to UGA there as well.  I think it'll be a hard fought game, but something like 28-24 UGA in the end.

I hope I'm wrong.

As always, Let's go Jackets!

Friday, November 11, 2016

VT Preview

Here is the point in the season where I get a little apathetic.

We are one of the better offenses in the nation, but this is Paul Johnson's worst defense (according to the efficiency stats).  We are terrible.

VT is pretty good overall, a good defense and a decent offense.  So we are going to lose.  I would guess something like 38-20.

I hope I am wrong, and we pull the upset.  Not out of the question with some turnovers and luck, but they should win.

As always, Go Jackets!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

UNC Preview

Well, we made that a lot more stressful than it  had to be after a great first half.  But it was a win at least.  Good game from the offense, scoring pretty efficiently against really a pretty good defense.  The defense and special teams struggled, and Duke isn't particularly good at offense or special teams, so that's... concerning like it always is.  But we are at the point of this season, I think, where any win is a good win.  We very likely aren't going to be contending for anything important (to win the Coastal we need to win out and get a lot of luck).  So 7 or 8 wins and going bowling again would be great.  This helps in that regard, even though it was very stressful.

So, UNC?  An interesting team this year.  They lost to UGA, a loss that looks worse and worse by the week.  And were blown out by VT, although VT is very good and that was in a hurricane.  Of course they beat Pitt and Miami (two teams that beat us) and FSU (a team we surely would not beat).  I would say they are the kind of team that in the past few years has become a fairly typical UNC team.  Explosive if not consistent on offense, mediocre to bad on defense, but lots of good athletes all over the place.  A curious team to try to beat, especially with our set up (Good, possession based offense and struggled everywhere else).

Oddly enough, UNC isn't ranked very highly on offense, at least in football outsiders (per possession based efficiency stats that I prefer).  They are 51st.  We are 14th.  So, that metric would have you believe we are significantly better on offense than UNC.  I could believe it.  We were comparable against Pitt and Miami in total points (but on fewer possessions for us) and we are likely to do better against VT.  We'll see about UGA.   But basically, we are more efficient with the ball.  UNC isn't bad.  Certainly good enough to beat up our 100th ranked defense.  They are #77 on D.  Just looking at those two gives the impression we might be the better team.  I'm skeptical.  Vegas has UNC favored by 10 and I think that's about right.  We'll find out, but I expect this game to see both teams move the ball pretty well.  Think similar to the Pitt game, except UNC may get a couple more stops than Pitt did.  We need a key turnover or two, probably, to win here.  Although it is possible.  I'll call it 35-28 UNC.  Close game and we cover the spread, but no luck on getting the win.

I hope I'm wrong.  As always, Go Jackets!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Duke Preview

If we want to be bowl eligible, we probably need to win this one.  We are about 20-30%, according to the computers, to beat each of UNC and VT.  And about 40% vs UGA.  We are supposed to beat Virginia (75 or so %), but if we lose to Duke, we'd need to win 2 of those games.  With UVA not being guaranteed, and being an underdog in the rest, winning two would be seriously in jeopardy.  But if we beat Duke, we'd be a near certainty to win 1 of the remaining 4.

Now, being bowl eligible isn't all that much to get excited about, I understand.  But after a 3-9 season, its not a bad way to be.  I'd prefer us to win out.  Because 5-3 in the ACC Coastal could well win it (obviously as a tiebreaker of some sort).  I've seen this movie before.  I'll believe somebody emerges from this morass at 6-2 when I see it (even though VT has a relatively easy schedule left and only 1 loss).  The Coastal is chaos, per usual.  If we win out, 5-3 has a shot.  But that's a big if.

First up is Duke.  Losing two in a row to Duke is tough, even if they are better than old Duke.  I really don't want to lose 3 in a row.  They aren't very good at all on offense (around 100th best nationally in per possession stats).  Unfortunately, that's about as bad as our defense is.  Our offense is top 20 though, which is better than their defense rating, which is around the 40 range.  So we are (allegedly) slightly better overall, and we are at home.  This game could look a lot like the Vanderbilt game, given that Duke has a similar profile (credible defense, woeful offense).  If your offense is not good enough to move the ball against us, you are in trouble.  Defensively, Duke has been stingy against us both of the last two years (yes, even against our 2014 offense, which was close to unstoppable for most teams).  They are well coached.  But they aren't all that talented.  That is a similar profile to Vanderbilt, honestly.

Offensively they don't offer much to scare anybody.  This is one of Cutcliffe's worst offenses.  But our defense, on the wrong day, can make anybody look good.  Here's to hoping that doesn't happen.  I am thinking we win, something like 31-24.  But it probably won't be easy.

As always, Go Jackets!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Pittsburgh Review - Georgia Southern Preview

This won't be much of a post.  The Pitt game was awful as I'm sure you know if you watched.  We actually played pretty well on offense.  Couldn't get a stop on defense.  Still had a great chance to win.  Didn't execute.

This weekend is similarly simple.  We are better and should win.  But Georgia Southern is not bad.  They beat Florida a few years ago, nearly beat us in 2014, and took UGA to overtime last year.  If we don't play well we could lose.  Hopefully, we know that, and we are ready.

But now we need to talk about Paul Johnson.  As I understand the contract terms, really no way we fire him this year.  Too much money.  But the buy out drops substantially next year.  He's 3-3, coming off of 3-9, and unfortunately, this year and last year is making 2014 look like an outlier.  Because now we have 4 mediocre or poor years out of the last 5.  Looking ahead, we have 3 games we should win (but could lose) and 3 games we should lose (but could win).  So you figure probably 6-6.  Win the bowl and maybe that is ok.  But if we don't execute and find ways to lose winnable games, 5-7 or worse could be real trouble.  At that point, I would think 2017 would need to be 10 wins or else Paul Johnson would be gone.  8-5 probably wouldn't save him in 2017 if he had been 3-9 and 5-7 the past two years.

Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe he'd be ok.  I still sort of want to keep him, because I love the offense and I think he's a good coach with a good system and fits in well at GT.  But at some point he has to get results.  His first four years were mostly good, his last 4 years mostly bad, and now in year 9, it is still bad.  I think college football fans are way too quick to see "trends".  One bad year (or sometimes even part of a year) and suddenly a coach or a team is "trending down".  But now, I'm ready to say it looks like coach is trending down.  Post 2009 there has been a little uptick in 2011 (that fizzled) and a big uptick in 2014.  And other than that, 4 years of pretty bad stuff (and teetering on a fifth year).

So, we'll see how the year finishes.  I think we can play with and possibly beat every team left on the schedule (except maybe VT, we'll see).  But we can easily lose to everyone left as well.  We haven't had the greatest track record in close games lately....

As always, Go Jackets!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Miami Review - Pittsburgh Preview

Strange times to be a Tech fan.  This week we find ourselves bigger underdogs to a 3-2 Pittsburgh team, when we are 3-2, than we were last season to an 8-3 UGA team, when we were 3-8.  I guess that's just college football.

Anyway, good news, good news and then bad news.  The good news is that Clemson looks legit.  Yes, they did eventually allow Louisville's offense to get into a rhythm, but they got a lot of stops and really were dealt some bad situations thanks to turnovers.  And Louisville may be one of the best offenses in the country.  I think Clemson's defense is excellent and we shouldn't be too worried, since Louisville's offense in the first half looked very much like our offense, for the game.

The other good news is that we played Miami a pretty even game.  We don't know if Miami deserves their ranking yet, but they are ranked #10.  So, that's something.

The bad news is that we still threw away 14 points on silly turnovers and never really threatened to win the Miami game.  I can sit here and claim we played them even, but if the game were in doubt, maybe they press a little harder for points?

Who knows.  Its over now.  We move on.  I still think we might be a pretty good team but we need to start playing smarter, more efficient football.  Right now we are somewhere in between 2014 and 2015 in that regard.  We need our performance in that regard to move towards 2014.

We've actually, surprisingly (and quietly?) been carried by the defense so far this year.  Besides our terrible habit of allowing the opponent to score a TD on their first possession (4 straight games now), we held Miami to 14 points on 8 possessions after that.  Not bad defense.  And we held Clemson to 14 points on 10 possessions, after the opening drive.  After the respective first drives, we shut out Vanderbilt and allowed Mercer a FG.  And obviously our defense performed well, at least in terms of numbers, against BC.  They still haven't played anybody with a defensive pulse, except VT, against whom they scored 0 points and went three and out on 11 of 15 possessions.  So... hard to say much from the BC game in favor of our defense, but allowing only 14 points is never really a bad thing.

Meaning, while our defense hasn't been pretty and inspires basically no confidence for me to watch... they have put up decent results.

Offensively, we've been...  irritating.  Clemson and BC made us look silly, but we moved the ball well against Miami.  Just couldn't score.  And really looked impressive against Vanderbilt, who doesn't have much name value but does have, statistically, a good defense.

I still don't really know what to make of this team.  My gut thinks we might lack the playmakers and talent to have any real margin for error execution wise, and that might doom us to another bad year.  Maybe 6-6, maybe worse...  But I'm still hoping we can get to 8 or 9 wins.

This game will go a long way toward clarifying.  Pittsburgh is far from overwhelming, but they are average or probably somewhat better than average on both sides of the ball, and its a road game.  Offensively they've put up great numbers.  About 250 yards per game rushing, averaging more than 5 yards per carry, and a team passer rating of about 150.  That's fairly efficient.  They run the ball about 2/3 of the time and do it effectively, so this should be a short game (as always for us, but even moreso).  Might be only 7 or 8 possessions each, unless of course they are stopping us quickly.  Their rush defense has put up excellent numbers so far, but then again they haven't faced a rushing attack like ours, and the opponent's rushing defense numbers aren't a very good predictor of how they'll perform against us anyway.  Their pass defense has been very poor, which is... interesting.  I'm not sure if we can capitalize on that but Justin Thomas has at times been a very effective passer.  We'll see.

I predict a very low possession game.  Close and down to the wire.  Something like 24-21.  Turnovers, or otherwise which team can make the plays late in the game, will win.  I hope its us.  Would be a nice change from what's been normal for the past season and a half.

As always, Let's go Jackets!