I know it's hard to believe, with all the coaching news the past two weeks, that there is a bowl game coming up - but, believe it or not, there is.
We'll get to previewing and taking a closer look at the Yellow Jackets in the coming days, but for now, here is a Q&A I did with From The Rumble Seat, a pretty awesome Georgia Tech blog.
A few days ago, I answered some questions for them and you can read that Q&A here.
Our Q&A after the jump...
Block U: Georgia Tech surged to a 6-0 start, yet has struggled to a 2-4 finish. Was there a reason for this – or did the schedule just improve?
FTRS: All schedule. We played teams in the absolute bottom of college football statistics and did what we needed to do against them. Once the conference schedule arrived, we were faced with more struggles and better talent. No surprises there.
Block U: Likewise, the offense has been pretty erratic between wins and losses. In the eight games the Yellow Jackets have won, they averaged 43 points. In their four losses, only 17. Why the discrepancy?
FTRS: Well, the teams that handled Tech had a rushing attack to compliment their relatively strong defenses. If an opponent can create a small lead early and keep Georgia Tech's offense off the field with a time of possession attack, they have a good chance of defeating the Jackets in 2011. Miami, UVA, and Virginia Tech were the three best rushing teams Tech faced in 2011 and they exploited Tech's undersized defense with power running games. We have yet to find a consistent passing attack since the departure of NFL receiver Demaryius Thomas in 2009 so playing from behind is definitely not our forte. But watch out if Georgia Tech gets the lead because there is nothing more frustrating for an opposing offense than a "Paul Johnson Death March."
In victories, Tech has mounted 19 drives of 4 minutes or longer. The average Paul Johnson drive in 2011 victories lasted 2.8 minutes the meaning games were shorter and opponents had less opportunities to score.
Block U: Describe Georgia Tech’s defense.
FTRS: Georgia Tech plays the 2-gap 3-4 defense of Al Groh but features a relatively undersized defensive line. The size issue has led to several power running steams simply steamrolling our front seven. The defense has improved fundamentally since 2009 but not statistically.
The secondary is young and inexperienced but Tech fans are really excited about their future. All four starters are new in 2011 and unfortunately one of the more talented corners, Louis Young, will miss the bowl (academics, we think). The primary reason Tech fans are excited about the secondary is because this is the first time since Jon Tenuta that our secondary has played as a complete unit. They're making plays as a unit rather than star individuals shining amongst a bunch of misfits. For example, we're finally seeing a lot of successful bracket coverages, excellent reads on interceptions, and stellar post interception blocking (2 INT touchdowns).
Block U: Utah played Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl only a couple weeks after Paul Johnson left for Georgia Tech. Has his development of the option changed with an increase in talent, or is it essentially the same basic system he ran with the Midshipmen?
FTRS: It is identical X's and O's system with bigger, faster skill position players and bigger linemen. Paul Johnson had zero NFL draft picks from Navy from 2001-2007. In 3 NFL Drafts, Tech has seen 4 offensive players drafted including a first round wide receiver and both feature fullbacks drafted. Johnson never had that level of talent at Navy so it's only logical that his teams can compete against a higher level of competition week in week out. Now, opponents not only have to deal with the triple option in a week's preparation, they also have to deal with a much more talented offensive unit.
Block U: The Utes are familiar with option-oriented football. As I mentioned, they played Navy in the ‘07 Poinsettia Bowl and, up until this season, met the Air Force Falcons annually. Generally, it seems they overplay the run game and force these option teams to really beat them through the air. In last year’s win over the Falcons, Air Force quarterback Tim Jeffferson threw for 201 yards – his highest total of that season (was a career high at the time). How’s the Yellow Jackets’ passing game – is it going to be a threat?
FTRS: The passing game has been sporadic for Tech in 2011. Stephen Hill is the highlight wide receiver that has caught 23 of Tech's 71 completions...Let's not beat around the bush. When Tech plays Utah on December 31st, it will have been 84 days since the last Georgia Tech touchdown pass. That is probably a school record not worth looking up. Our starting quarterback has struggled in the second half of the season. He has not found a rhythm, overthrowing open receivers and when he does find open receivers, they've managed to drop wide open touchdowns. It's a low point for this offense. Tech fans don't like talking about it...sadness...
Block U: What were expectations heading into this season and were they met?
FTRS: Coming into the season you may have seen us say "wow, on paper we look like we may be able to sneak 9 or 10 wins out" but we felt that wasn't going to happen. In the same manner, many media "experts" thought it would be a success if we made the 6-win limit. We thought success was 8 wins, meaning we took care of the easy OOC schedule and beat a team or two that we weren't supposed to beat (I.e. Clemson)
Block U: I’m sure Tech fans would love to forget the ‘05 Emerald Bowl. Do you guys see this as your chance at revenge or has the bloodlust of that game lowered over the years?
FTRS: You guys started our bowl game losing streak and we're ending the streak with you. It's called the Football Circle of Life. Get ready to lose.
Block U: Prediction?
FTRS: Tech 35 Utah 20