breaking news

Braves trade Matt Kemp to Dodgers in major salary swap

Georgia Tech has dominated the Atlantic (besides Clemson)


Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson led his team to a Super Bowl championship, but there are dozens of players who have done that. However, Wilson can make a claim that none of the planet’s 7.6 billion inhabitants can match.

On Sept. 25, 2010, Wilson piloted N.C. State to a 45-28 win over Georgia Tech, torching the Yellow Jackets with 368 yards and three touchdowns through the air and another touchdown on the ground. In coach Paul Johnson’s tenure, it remains the only regular-season game that Tech has lost to an Atlantic Division team that it plays on a rotation. That is to say, any Atlantic team besides Clemson, Tech’s permanent crossover partner – Boston College, Florida State, Louisville, N.C. State, Syracuse and Wake Forest.

The Jackets are 13-1 going into the 15th such game in Johnson’s tenure, against Wake Forest on Saturday night at Bobby Dodd Stadium. In the category of games against cross-division opponents excluding permanent partners, Tech has the best record in that span, bettering Clemson’s 11-3.

Johnson is 31-30 against the rest of the Coastal Division and Clemson.

Johnson was asked this week if he had any ideas to explain Tech’s dominance in this segment of games.

“Not really,” he said. “I don’t have any idea why. Conference games (and here Johnson paused, seeming to attempt to formulate a theory) … couldn’t tell you.”

Queried for their thoughts, Duke’s David Cutcliffe and Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson started out by noting that Johnson is a good coach with successful teams. Cutcliffe called Johnson and his staff “outstanding.”

Said Cutcliffe, “They have a good record against a lot of people, nonconference and otherwise.”

But the two coaches, and North Carolina’s Larry Fedora, also seized upon the easy explanation that Tech’s unorthodox spread-option offense is more difficult to defend for teams that play the Jackets only periodically. (In the current arrangement, other than their permanent crossover partner, ACC teams play cross-division opponents roughly once every six years.)

Clawson called it “a tough prep.” Cutcliffe said there was no question that teams that don’t see the Jackets regularly have a more difficult time preparing.

Teams in the Atlantic “probably don’t think about the triple option or the option game that Paul utilizes on a daily basis,” Fedora said, “where probably the teams in the Coastal Division that play them every year probably spend a lot more time on it.”

Two games that support the theory are the Jackets’ 49-44 shootout win over Florida State in 2009 and the 56-0 humiliation of Syracuse in 2013. After the latter, Johnson was asked why Tech only threw the ball five times in 72 plays.

“The way they were playing, there was really no use,” he said.

However, against teams in the Atlantic besides Clemson (and, for that matter, including Clemson), Tech hasn’t necessarily run wild, effecting a spree of out-of-position defensive tackles, cornerbacks spilled to the turf by cut blocks and safeties watching play-action passes sail over their heads.

In the 14 games, Tech has exceeded its season averages against ACC opponents for both total offense and points just four times.

Actually, the Jackets have actually been under the averages for both total offense and points against ACC teams five times, the opposite outcome that the theory proposes.

That includes two of the three wins over Boston College (2008 and 2016) and the Miracle on Techwood Drive win over FSU in 2015. In those games, strong play by Tech’s defense and, memorably, special teams, made the difference.

Evidently, the answer to all questions about Tech isn’t always “Paul Johnson’s offense.”

Probably a part of it, too, is that the Jackets haven’t taken on a string of powerhouses. Only three of the 14 opponents finished the season in the Top 25 (FSU in 2008 and 2015 and N.C. State in 2010, the sole team to beat the Jackets). Four of the 14 teams had league records of 2-6 or 1-7. And, for the purposes of this somewhat arbitrary exercise, it helps that Clemson is not included. The Jackets are 5-5 against the Tigers in Johnson’s tenure.

Still, other Coastal teams have had a similar advantage, and none are close to Tech. From 2008 through 2016, North Carolina was 9-5.

Also, Cutcliffe and Clawson are right. Under Johnson, Tech has consistently been competitive, avoiding disaster all but the 2015 season. Johnson, along with Cutcliffe, are the ACC’s deans for a reason.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of the 14-game set is that Tech is 8-0 in games decided by six points or fewer, including the past two. While many Tech fans may believe that last-second, come-from-ahead defeat is simply an accepted part of life supporting the Jackets, particularly after this season’s last-second losses to Tennessee and Miami, the Jackets have won far more than their share of last-possession thrillers in this group of games.

Some of the most memorable plays in Johnson’s run – Cooper Taylor’s forced fumble and Rashaad Reid’s end-zone recovery against Florida State in 2008, Johnson’s gutsy (and successful) decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 in overtime against Wake Forest in 2009, Lance Austin’s return of a blocked field-goal attempt for a touchdown against the Seminoles in 2015 and Justin Thomas’ conversion of a fourth-and-19 against Boston College last year in Dublin – have victimized the non-Clemson Atlantic cohort. The luck that has often eluded Tech in games against Miami and Virginia Tech has evidently been unloaded here.

Tech’s main goal Saturday will be earning its fourth win of the season. Will it help that Wake Forest, which hasn’t played Tech since 2010 and won’t reappear on the Jackets’ schedule until 2024, is an Atlantic Division team not named Clemson?

Hard to say. But it apparently won’t hurt.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

18 Georgia Tech athletes graduating this weekend
18 Georgia Tech athletes graduating this weekend

Georgia Tech is holding commencement exercises this weekend for fall-term graduates, with undergraduate graduation taking place Saturday at McCamish Pavilion. Among the graduates are 18 current or former Yellow Jackets athletes. The list, as follows: Baseball Keenan Innis Men's Basketball Jodan Price Women's Basketball Charon Sweeney Cheerleading Chris...
Josh Okogie, Ben Lammers closer to health
Josh Okogie, Ben Lammers closer to health

Georgia Tech guard Josh Okogie is getting closer to getting cleared to play, and center Ben Lammers’ ankle is feeling better after not practicing or playing on it for eight days. Tech plays Florida A&M Sunday at McCamish Pavilion, its first game after a layoff for final exams. Coach Josh Pastner said Friday that the team is going “day by...
From Bavaria, a ‘freak’ defensive end is coming to Georgia Tech
From Bavaria, a ‘freak’ defensive end is coming to Georgia Tech

Four years ago, Julius Welschof knew virtually nothing about football. The German teen didn’t know the rules, didn’t know the positions and didn’t know how to throw or catch the ball. But, on an extended visit to the U.S., a family friend introduced him to the game and, evaluating his body and agility, told him that he had the potential...
4 prospects on Georgia Tech’s list
4 prospects on Georgia Tech’s list

With college football’s inaugural early signing period starting Wednesday, Georgia Tech coaches are trying to finish strong with the signing class for 2018. Tech has 17 players committed as of Friday, and there’s room for a handful more. Here are four players that Tech coaches are trying to add to the class. Graham, a dual-threat quarterback...
T.K. Chimedza spurns powerhouses for Georgia Tech
T.K. Chimedza spurns powerhouses for Georgia Tech

Kurai and Gertrude Chimedza thought that their son’s college choice was a no-brainer, but they kept their opinion to themselves. T.K., one of the state of Georgia’s top prospects at defensive tackle, would have to make the decision on his own. While powerhouses Georgia, Florida State and Oregon made scholarship offers, Chimedza went with...
More Stories