Just two weeks ago, Georgia Tech football fans were feeling uneasy at best. They were concerned the season that began with such promise was about to come tumbling down in disastrous fashion. Paul Johnson’s team was having none of that.
Now into November, and coming off two very impressive routs of Coastal Division opponents, Georgia Tech hopes to reap some major benefits as they appear to be playing their best ball at the most important time of the season.
Not only are the Yellow Jackets still alive for the division title, they are absolutely in play for the Orange Bowl as well even without appearing in Charlotte.
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Too bad Pittsburgh kicker Chris Blewitt, BLEW IT, against Duke last Saturday. Had he made the chip shot field goal, Georgia Tech would have needed the Blue Devils to lose just one more game, something that’s much more conceivable than them losing two considering their schedule.
One good thing for the Jackets is maybe the fact that two of Duke’s opponents (VT and UNC) are desperate for bowl eligibility at 4-5. Chances are both teams will throw the kitchen sink at Duke over the next couple of weeks, so the Jackets will have to wait and see…and oh yea, keep WINNING.
About the winning part, let’s think about what has brought about this year’s turnaround. Justin Thomas must be front and center in this discussion. With 14 passing touchdowns to just four interceptions at this point, that is a quick glimpse at how much more of a threat he is in the passing game for Paul Johnson.
Thomas has already surpassed every other one of Johnson’s QBs at Tech in their respective first year, and he boasts an outstanding 20.1 yards-per-completion, the best in the FBS.
Being such a legitimate passing threat is opening up the playbook for Johnson’s bread and butter option game plan to work, as the last couple of seasons Johnson had gone away from what he did best with Josh Nesbitt and company in his first two seasons.
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When you have a quarterback/wide receiver pair that’s as efficient as Justin Thomas and Deandre Smelter, you are forcing defenses to make crucial and mostly difficult decisions on how to defend a litany of possible plays each snap. We saw this constantly with Josh Nesbitt and Demaryius Thomas years ago, and it is becoming prevalent again. If the passing game is not a threat, the defense will stack the line and virtually eliminate the triple option play, thus killing the offense.
Not only is Thomas boasting these great passing numbers (also 7th best QB in percentage in FBS at 160.1), but he can run the ball just as efficiently. At 721 yards, Thomas is already at #5 in Tech QB history with still three regular season games left to play. Thomas’ speed is hard to ignore, and his escapability is one of his most dangerous traits to opposing defenses.
If Tech can handle its business against the NC State Wolfpack this Saturday, then a huge showdown with Clemson in Atlanta takes center stage on November 15th. Win that game too, and the Jackets get a much-needed bye week to get healthy and prepare for Clean Old-Fashioned Hate.
Can Duke lose two more games and Tech win out? Absolutely. This is the ACC and no team minus FSU is guaranteed to win every week. It does seem that it’s actually more likely that Tech wins out more than Duke dropping two.
But Georgia Tech appears to be playing their best ball at the best time, November.
Why does it matter if Tech doesn’t earn the trip the Charlotte, you ask? Well actually, it matters a lot. With the ACC’s new bowl structure, the Orange Bowl (or the Peach/Fiesta during years the Orange is a playoff site) automatically takes the second-best ACC team if the champion is in the Playoff.
It appears as of now that FSU is a lock for a Playoff spot. If Tech wins out, that means knocking off what is largely considered the second best ACC team in Clemson, and Georgia. Tech is already ranked #24 in the playoff committee’s top 25, so winning the next three would likely bump the Jackets up towards the top 10. That makes Tech the near-automatic choice for the Orange Bowl.
Who would’ve thought? Most media outlets were projecting 6 wins for Tech this season, and the preseason ACC Media Poll tabbed the Jackets 5th in the Coastal Division. A couple of websites even had the Jackets tabbed to finish 5-7! It’s barely November, and the team has a chance to hit the 8-win mark, already higher than last season’s total and most since 2011.
Thanks to a revived offense by the takeover of Justin Thomas, a defense that is improving (take away the UNC debacle), and a coach that is one of the best in the business, Tech fans have to be excited about the next couple of years.
If somehow Tech gets to a major bowl, or even an upper-level non-playoff bowl and wins, think about the momentum this program carries into Thomas’ junior and senior years.
It’s going to be a lot of fun over the rest of this month, and hopefully into December, to see what unfolds. One thing’s for sure though, nothing makes all of it sweeter more than a win on November 29th.