Georgia Tech has lost a game, though not on the field. But the cancellation of the Yellow Jackets’ game at Central Florida on Saturday may not be the worst thing.
Yes, there was opportunity for Tech’s defense to continue the progress made against Jacksonville State. The offense could regain its footing after a so-so run-game performance against the Gamecocks. And Yellow Jackets players, after an offseason of lifting and conditioning, likely want every chance to put that work to use. Tech players from north and central Florida were probably particularly disappointed to lose a game in front of family and friends.
But, an open Saturday for the Jackets could play to their benefit. Tech clearly was dragging against Jacksonville State after playing its second game in six days. Coach Paul Johnson said after the game that, the offensive line, five days after playing 96 snaps against the Volunteers, looked as though it was playing in sand.
Spending Saturday resting and not playing 70 snaps in potentially humid conditions in Orlando, Fla., might be a preferable way to get ready for Pittsburgh and the start of ACC play on Sept. 23.
Before the game was cancelled Monday afternoon, Johnson recorded his weekly radio show with Tech voice Andy Demetra and shared his concern about the UCF game, Tech’s third game in 13 days.
“The last time we did it, our third game was the one that was really bad,” Johnson said. “I’m still concerned about it. It’s something we’ve got to put behind us. I don’t know if you talk about it with your team.”
It was unclear which season Johnson was recalling. Tech has played through similar scheduling twice in his tenure, 2009 and 2012.
The one he may have been referencing was the 2009 season, when Tech opened against Jacksonville State and then played Clemson and Miami on consecutive Thursdays. The last was indeed a rough night, as the Jackets lost decisively to the Hurricanes 33-17 on a wet night in Miami Gardens, Fla. It was a game that could understandably lodge in Johnson’s memory. Tech ran for 95 yards on 39 carries.
When recalling that game in 2013 in advance of another short-rest game, Johnson said that “we looked like we were running in sand and we were kind of spent.”
The compacted schedule in 2012 actually was identical to this year’s, starting with a Labor Day night game and then playing on consecutive Saturday’s. The Jackets lost to Virginia Tech in overtime (funny coincidence, that) and then hammered Presbyterian (a team not equal to Jacksonville State). However, the third game worked out far better than the 2009 Miami game, a 56-20 blowout of Virginia.
(Tech has also played two other stretches of three games in 13 days, in 2013 and 2016, though both were Saturday/Saturday/Thursday strings, where only the final game was impacted by short rest.)
Regardless, Tech will have extra recovery time from the Tennessee-Jacksonville State double and more practices to prepare for Pittsburgh. Further, Pitt will be playing Saturday, against Oklahoma State.
Cancelling games is generally not a positive. In this case, in the picture of Tech’s pursuit of an ACC title, it looks like it could well be.