With the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-3, 2-2 ACC) struggling to defend the pass, they should be glad to see the Syracuse Orange (3-3, 1-1 ACC) running into Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Jackets looks to halt a three-game skid, while the Orange are trying to keep momentum going after a 24-10 win at N.C. State.
The Jackets and Orange have only ever met twice in the past and Georgia Tech has won both meetings, including winning 51-14 in the 2004 Champs Sports Bowl in the last meeting. With Syracuse becoming a member of the ACC this season, they will have a chance to become much more well acquainted.
Syracuse runs the ball, and runs it a lot. That’s good news for the Jackets, who are much better defending the run than they are the pass, and have only allowed five running plays of over 20 yards all season. The Georgia Tech defense will have to key on redshirt junior running back Jerome Smith, who leads the ACC with eight rushing touchdowns, and whose 482 rushing yards have him near the top of the conference.
But the Orange also defend the run just as well, and that’s bad news for Georgia Tech. Syracuse ranks 3rd in the conference in rushing defense, and they know how to play assignment football.
Two teams who want to run it. Two teams who can stop the run.
Something’s gotta give.
So where does the advantage come in that has the Yellow Jackets favored by seven points in this game?
Believe it or not, it’s in pass defense.
As bad as Georgia Tech has been defending the pass this season, Syracuse has been even worse. In their three losses, the Orange gave up an average of 379 passing yards per game, as well as 11 passing touchdowns. That may be just the edge that Vad Lee and the Jackets need to break out of this offensive funk they’ve been in for the last three games.
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson has to keep the play calling simple to open up the game and instill some confidence into the obviously shaken Lee, who has looked anywhere from serviceable to unmanageable in the three consecutive losses. With Syracuse being as bad against the pass as they are, it might be an opportunity to use the short pass and screen game to open things up for the option, instead of vice versa.
The Yellow Jackets can, and should, win this game. They need to cut down on the penalties and mental mistakes, and be sure they hold on to the ball. Syracuse doesn’t turn it over often, and if the Jackets do, it could be disastrous.