Following Georgia Tech’s 31-25 loss to Duke Saturday, it would be easy to let the negatives build up when looking towards the rest of the season. The Jackets lost on their home field to a team that had not won in Bobby Dodd Stadium in 20 years.
All is not lost. For many fans outside the ACC, this loss looks bad for Georgia Tech. Duke is still not really appreciated in the national scene in football, and that showed when Duke did not grace the pre-season AP top-25 as a division champion from the year prior.
Yes that’s the key phrase, “division champion”, in the same sentence with “Duke”.
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This isn’t your run-of-the-mill Duke program anymore. The days of ACC cellar-dwelling are over, as David Cutcliffe has done something remarkable in his seven seasons at Duke.
He has the program on the verge of bowl eligibility for the 3rd year in a row, and as mentioned earlier, they in-fact won 10 games and the Coastal division last season. If not for a miraculous performance by Johnny Manziel in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, they would have that trophy in their case as well.
This loss does sting for the Jackets, but all is definitely not lost. Georgia Tech’s wins against Miami and VA Tech are still huge, because the likelihood Duke goes through conference play un-scathed is very unlikely.
Many pundits refer to the coastal division as “awful” and “a mess”, but in reality, it’s just extremely balanced with great parity. Call me biased, but I truly believe the ACC Coastal is much better than the SEC East. Georgia Tech, VA Tech, Miami, Duke, and possibly even Virginia could easily compete in that division.
This parity could really help the Jackets later on in the season when Duke gets further into conference play against UVA, VA Tech, Pitt, etc. Duke has already lost to Miami, a team the Jackets handled easily, and lost to Pitt last season in their division championship season.
I have read a few articles and opinions that Duke “dominated” Georgia Tech Saturday. I have no idea what those people were watching. Refer to the stat line for the game. Duke did not win a single category compared to Tech except for one really important one. The Jackets outgained Duke 483-373, including higher totals in both offensive categories, as well as winning time of possession 30:16 to 29:44. The stat that matters most, turnovers: Tech 3 – Duke 0.
Oct 11, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets running back Zach Laskey (37) runs the ball for a touchdown against the Duke Blue Devils in the second quarter at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Considering how the mistakes seemed to pile up in this game compared to the first five, you would have to believe this was an anomaly. Tech was also heavily penalized (8 for 69 yds, and a couple of those questionable).
Justin Thomas threw two interceptions, but we later found out he turned an ankle in the first half, and that likely affected him throughout the rest of the game. It is very uncharacteristic of Thomas not to take care of the ball.
B-Back Zach Laskey joins the club with a fumble earlier in the first half as well.
Yes, backup QB Tim Byerly looked good in the 4th quarter relieving Thomas, but by that time the Duke defense had already softened up ahead 31-12.
All of the Jackets goals are still in front of them. Winning out will be tough, but as Clemson showed Saturday against Louisville, it’s not an unbeatable behemoth of a football team.
Winning out in league play would almost certainly assure the Jackets of a spot in Charlotte, so that should be Johnson’s message to the team, and I’m sure it will be. In all likelihood though, either a 7-1 or 6-2 record should win this division outright.
Georgia Tech heads to Chapel Hill Saturday night to play a team in North Carolina they have beaten five years in a row. Carolina likely played their best game of the season in South Bend this past Saturday.
What their reaction will be to that close loss is key, but you have to believe a team that has shown to be such a disaster on defense (even giving up 50 points in the loss to ND) is going to struggle again with Tech’s spread option.
The bounce-back begins this Saturday in Chapel Hill, as the Jackets look to keep the train on the tracks and return to Charlotte in December. With fewer mistakes, this team is hard for anybody to beat.
Chances are, the Tar Heels are getting this team at the worst time. The Yellow Jackets have already allowed one team from the state of North Carolina to end a streak, and I bet they wont let it happen two weeks in a row.