PITTSBURGH --Paul Johnson, in general, and his option offense, in particular, tend to get the most attention when somebody takes a shot at Georgia Tech. But it's the Jackets' defense that has been the program's undoing more often than not when things have gone sideways, and this season is no exception.
Tech started this season 5-0 and included in that were wins at Virginia Tech and home against Miami. The Jackets had the early inside the track to win the ACC Coastal Division and go to the conference championship game. But then came consecutive unexpected losses to Duke and North Carolina, and now Tech (5-2, 2-2) would need a series of developments, including probably a sweep of its last four ACC games, to win the division.
The reason for the last two losses? Well, there's probably more than one, but its mostly defense. After allowing only 41 points in the wins over Virginia Tech and Miami, the Jackets allowed 79 in losses to Duke (31-25) and North Carolina (48-43). The Blue Devils and Tar Heels combined for 11 touchdowns and 952 yards in offense.
Johnson touched on one problem this week: "I take nothing away from [North Carolina], but we also missed 15 tackles and did things to help a lot. They were good enough, they didn't need our help."
Today's opponent, Pittsburgh, has one of the better defenses in the nation and ranks No. 3 (out of 14) in the ACC in points allowed and No. 2 in yards allowed. Compare that to Tech's rankings in various categories: 12th in scoring defense, 12th in rushing defense, 12th in pass defense efficiency, 10th in pass defense, 11th in takeaways, 12th in third-down defense and 14th in sacks.
Some of this certainly falls on defensive coordinator Ted Roof. But most believed the lack of talent along Tech's defensive front would be a problem this season, and that has been borne out. The Jackets' chances for a strong conference finish and going to a decent bowl game are dependent on defensive improvement.
That's all I've got for now. I'll be live-blogging all game. Feel free to weigh in with questions and comments and I'll respond when I can.