I included the following chart in a story that is up on myajc and will run in Saturday’s paper. (I encourage you to buy several copies.) The chart lists the fewest points scored in a three-game stretch in each of coach Paul Johnson’s first seven seasons at Georgia Tech.
A few thoughts below.
1. At 42 points in the past two games, my first thought was that this team would be in danger of scraping up against some of the lower totals, but that’s not the case. (Although there’s no telling how many points Tech will score against North Carolina Saturday.) This team isn’t the first to have trouble scoring points.
The 2011 team is an interesting comparison. That team, you may remember, torched the opposition in its first four games, including the 66-24 rout of Kansas, not unlike the Jackets’ strong start this season, before the rest of the schedule brought the offense back to earth.
2. After last season and the first two games of this season, it was easy to think that it would simply keep rolling. I think there was good reason to think the offense would run better than it has, namely the return of four starters on the offensive line and quarterback Justin Thomas, but I think the loss of nearly all of the skill players (plus subsequent injuries this season) and guard Shaquille Mason was undervalued and the play of the line has been a mystery.
3. I think the bumps that the offense has hit serve as perspective on how remarkable last year’s offense was. It set a school record for rushing yards, rushing yards per game and yards per rush and tied the NCAA record for third-down efficiency. By season's end, it was machine-like.
It would be unreasonable to think the offense would stay at the same peak, particularly early with a lot of new parts. That said, the falloff (in the past two games, at any rate) has been more drastic than most (all?) would have anticipated.
Tech has gone from first in the country in third-down conversion rate to 104th (34.69). The past two games were just the second instance in Johnson's tenure that the offense has had back-to-back games with a third-down conversion rate under 30 percent (2010, N.C. State and Wake Forest). As Johnson put it after the Duke loss, "we've been good forever (on third down). Today, we were awful again."
4. Miami was part of the lowest-scoring three-game stretch five times. In this instance, Duke and Notre Dame probably deserve some of the credit.
5. I tend to think that the offense will figure things out sooner or later. Of the seven three-game sets in the chart, Tech won the following game five times with 30 points or more. Of the other two, the 2012 set ended the season and, last season, the Jackets scored 43 points in the loss to North Carolina.