Georgia Tech is 1-2 for the first time in the Paul Johnson era but is it time for Tech fans to panic for the 2018 season?
Georgia Tech is in a way, in unprecedented territory. For the first time in the Paul Johnson era, the Yellow Jackets have started the season at 1-2 after losing back-to-back games to South Florida and Pittsburgh. The Jackets have missed a bowl game in two of the last three years and now the sit in a 1-2 hole record wise with the #3 team in the nation coming into Bobby Dodd on Saturday afternoon.
It’s no secret that from here, it’s an upward climb for the Yellow Jackets. Beating Clemson seems improbable at this point, if not impossible to some fans and a loss to the Tigers on Saturday would sink the Jackets to 1-3 on the season with eight games to go. The Jackets to make a bowl game would have to win 5 of their last eight which would be asking for a lot considering the circumstances and past results.
That being said, is it too early for Tech fans to start panicking about the 2018 season? Let’s take a closer look.
According to ESPN’s FPI for the Yellow Jackets, right now the Jackets are favored in four of their eight remaining games this season. Those games are against Bowling Green (96.5%), at Louisville (59.5%), at North Carolina (62.8%) and against Virginia (70.7%). If the Jackets win all four of those games, they’ll have at least five wins on the season, putting them one win shy of bowl eligibility.
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Now, let’s take a look at the games that they are considered an underdog in the rest of the way. This weekend, ESPN’s FPI gives the Jackets a 15.0% chance to beat Clemson. They also are underdogs to Duke (35.5%), Virginia Tech (20.5%), Miami (28.7%) and Georgia (5.8%). Out of those four games, you could say that Duke could be a team the Jackets beat conceivably and historically, but the other three will definitely be hard to beat considering the Jackets play this season thus far. Virginia Tech is always a close game that can be considered a coin flip, but the Hokies do appear to be on another level so far this season. So, for now, let’s just go with the Duke game being the one the Jackets have the best chance in.
When looking at the schedule, is there reason to perhaps worry about the Jackets chances of making a bowl game this season? Absolutely.
So far the team looks much like it did a year ago in a disappointing season that saw the program go 5-6 and fall one game short of bowl eligibility. But is it time to start panicking? Not yet, and no it won’t be time either if the Jackets lose on Saturday to Clemson. Though a loss to Louisville on October 5th would mean it’s time to push the panic button.
In reality, the Jackets are going to pick up their fair share of victories. While a 2015 type season isn’t totally out of the question, the Jackets are a team that should pick up more than three wins this season based off their talent and experience. But it won’t be easy in any regard.
When talking about guarantees, the only guaranteed win(s) left on the schedule in my opinion is Bowling Green and perhaps North Carolina. Outside of those two games, the Jackets could be in a dogfight the rest of the way this season. While they most likely won’t get blown out in every loss (Clemson and Georgia have good chances of blowouts), the Jackets should be right in the middle of each game this season which means they have a fighting chance.
However, where Tech fans should be worried going forward is the defense. If the Jackets can’t fix their issues on the defense, it won’t matter how well the offense plays, the Jackets are going to struggle week in and week out.
It’s no secret that the Jackets defense is a work in progress, outside of the season opener against Alcorn State, the defense for the Jackets has been frustrating to say the least and has shown a lack of fundamentals. With the nation’s 74th best scoring defense, the Jackets offense needs to find a way to stay on the field, therefore limiting the damage the defense may cause by being on the field for too long. One major way of doing so, is eliminating turnovers to increase time of possession.
So far this season, the Jackets are averaging 33:00 minutes of offense per game which means their defensive is on the field for 27 minutes on average. For weaker defenses, 27 minutes can feel like an eternity, especially against up-tempo offenses that can move the ball and score within two or three minutes. Which is why turnovers are so important for the Jackets. So far through three games this season, the Jackets have turned the ball over a staggering eight times which means the Jackets are on pace for over 30 turnovers this season. For comparison, the Jackets turned the ball over 15 times in 2017. Giving opponents the ball an extra 30 times this season would be disastrous for Georgia Tech’s defense.
Outside of the turnovers, the Jackets offense this season has been solid so far this season putting up 32.7 points per game and rushing for 392.7-yards per game this season. The program’s 392.7 rushing yards per game currently leads the nation. Obviously, the passing game continues to be a struggle and is among the worst in the nation. It goes without saying and without going in-depth that without a considerable improvement, the Jackets offense will be handicapped in it’s true potential and explosiveness.