We stipulate that any sporting event pales alongside the concerns of Real Life, and lately Real Life has brought hurricanes and evacuations and floods and wind damage and power outages and gas shortages and human hardship untold. Not long ago, these fingers typed an assertion that, “In the South, college football is life itself.” That was hyperbole expended to make a point. As we’ve again been reminded, only life itself is life itself.
That said, this space generally is reserved for sports discussions, and Georgia Tech is among the teams we discuss. Due to weather-related havoc, the Yellow Jackets have seen one-sixth of their schedule rearranged. Tech’s game at Central Florida on Saturday has been canceled. The road game at Miami slated for Oct. 12 has been moved to Oct. 14.
Neither change would seem to do a disservice to the Jackets. They opened their season on Labor Day night against Tennessee and played Jacksonville State five days later. The hangover was palpable at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday , even against an FCS opponent. Now Tech gets two weeks to prepare for Pittsburgh and the season’s first ACC test. It won't leave town until the Miami game, which is a month away.
More to the point, Tech gets to avoid what would have been a difficult game on a Saturday night in Orlando. UCF is picked to finish second in the American Athletic Conference East behind South Florida, which is ranked No. 22 in the Associated Press poll. (That’s one spot ahead of, er, Tennessee.) The Knights are coached by Scott Frost, once Nebraska’s quarterback and more recently Oregon’s offensive coordinator. Tech knows something about UCF: George O’Leary, who once coached here, also coached there; Todd Stansbury, who played here and is now the Tech athletic director, was the Knights’ AD.
Oh, and Georgia fans have reason to shudder at the mention of UCF: The Knights of O'Leary beat them 10-6 in the Liberty Bowl on New Year’s Eve 2010 to close Mark Richt’s worst season.
In a week-by-week assessment of Tech’s season, I struggled more with Central Florida than any other game . In the end, I picked the Jackets – by a field goal in overtime. We say again: This was never going to be anything less than a tough road game against an impassioned opponent that figured to score a lot of points. What could have been a galling loss is now an off-week. In the grand scheme, that’s a win.
(Oh, and I wouldn’t worry about the absence of an actual win costing the Jackets a bowl bid. Even if the Jackets go 5-6, esteemed colleague Ken Sugiura reports that they could seek a waiver to make them postseason-eligible . And let’s face it: If Tech goes 5-6 a year after finishing 9-4, it has bigger issues than some crummy bowl.)
As for Miami: Delaying the game by two days wouldn’t seem a big deal, but it could be. As scheduled, Jackets-Canes was set for Thursday night. Even fan bases that don’t often get energized – the U’s qualifies – tend to be pumped for a midweek game. And Tech will travel to Dade County coming off a bye, whereas Miami will face Florida State on Oct. 7 in another rearranged-by-weather game. Richt’s latest team was slated to have that Saturday off.
It could be that these alterations make no significant difference, that Tech will finish 6-5 as opposed to 7-5. (I had them going 8-4 and beating Tennessee, which they should have. But they didn’t.) Still, it’s worth mentioning that a coach who works around here has groused for a decade about never getting a scheduling break from anyone or anything. That coach’s team might just have gotten two.