Monthly Archives: October 2015

Falcons/Saints, It Runs Deep

It may be underrated nationwide, but make no mistake about it, the rivalry between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints is as nasty as any in pro sports, maybe sports period. Put quite simply, there may not be two fan bases that hate each other more than the Falcons and Saints.

What started as an innocuous rivalry between two awful franchises who essentially knew that their best chance for satisfying victory every season lie with each other, has developed into a full on 365 day a year cacophony of vitriol, disdain, and pure disgust.

For each person they have a different reason and story for when the hate truly blossomed from a healthy dislike mixed with a tiny bit of compassion into a full-blown disgust for anything relating to the other. I know the very date for me, I know the very place I was sitting, I know the very company I was with, and unfortunately, ESPN likes to constantly remind me of it on a regular basis. Not to mention, so do Saints fans.

You could add up my hatred for the Busch boys, for Jim Leyritz, for the Yankees, the Gators, and the Cowboys, and you’re still essentially putting Pluto next to Jupiter when you compare it to the level of contempt held for the Saints.

I had my hatred for this team, this city, and this state confirmed a couple of weeks ago. I decided to dine at Just Loaf’n. I went due to the fact that there was a scout mob for it, and I’m a cheap bastard. Additionally, in a cruel, cruel twist of fate, and quite possibly God’s cruelest joke on me, cajun food is my absolute favorite cuisine. It’s really not fair.

But I digress.

In any event, I walk into this little restaurant and proceed to the counter to make my order. I’ve never had a muffaletta so I decided this place had the look of something resembling authentic cajun food, so that’s what I ordered. Of course they have no muffaletta bread. So, still trying to stay in the spirit of true cajun food, I order the alligator po’ boy. And of course, they didn’t have any alligator.

So here am I at the counter, my first two options not available, and I’m thinking to myself, “this is why I hate New Orleans”. And if any of you have seen me in a drive through, or at a restaurant when a waiter to comes to take my order, you know I absolutely hate making on the spot decisions about food when I feel rushed. So, it’s safe to say, at this point, I’m not in a very comforting situation. So I make a hurried decision and go with the basic shrimp po’ boy. I’m flustered at this point, so I just out of natural reaction, hand my card over to the lady behind the counter.

Forgetting to use the scout mob. Which was the only reason I’d have set foot in what is turning out to be a truly God forsaken place.

But it gets worse. Upon paying for my food, which was twice what I was expecting, I turn to the right, by the counter, and see one of the most awful creations in the history of man.

This should be illegal in Georgia.

This should be illegal in Georgia.

At this point, I’m like, “Okay God, I get the message, never step foot in New Orleans. I hate it. It hates me. We’re on the same page here”. But no, my punishment wasn’t over yet.

After the less than memorable meal, well memorable in that the special “cajun fries” tasted like they’d been reheated in a microwave, I went to the gas station next door to procure a Mountain Dew.

On Monday morning, while going to work, with said Mountain Dew in my bag, I noticed that my bag seemed to be leaking, and I couldn’t understand why. That is, until I opened and realized everything in my bag (and if you know me, you know I CANNOT STAND when my magazines get crinkled, much less wet, or soiled) was submerged in Mountain Dew. The plastic top to this particular Mountain Dew was punctured, and while laid on its side in my bag, the contents of the bottle poured into my bag, creating a small pond that goldfish could have happily survived in. If only because I assume swimming in a sea of Mountain Dew is a pretty awesome thing.

It took a matter of seconds to remember where I got this Mountain Dew.

Fuck New Orleans.

And while the Saints do have their ring, and I am happy for like one Saints fan on this planet for that happening, though, the joy is tempered the longer we go without one, we still have more wins in this rivalry (49-43), the longest winning streak (10) and the most lopsided victory (55 points). We’ve also won three of the last five and are fresh off a sweep.

So, keep your bounty gate tainted ring New Orleans. When we get one, and we will, you can shut all the way up.

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But before I conclude, I leave with you my 15 favorite games from this underrated, under appreciated tale of two cities.

  1. 1991 NFC Wildcard Game: Atlanta 27 New Orleans 20 in New Orleans – Denying the Saints their first playoff win another year, IN New Orleans?
  2. 1973: Atlanta 62 New Orleans 7 in New Orleans – most lopsided margin of victory in series history
  3. 1991: Atlanta 23 New Orleans 20 OT in New Orleans – It denied the Saints a share of the 2nd best record in the NFC, and set the stage for our beating them in the Superdome just one month later in the playoffs
  4. 2010: Atlanta 27 New Orleans 24 in New Orleans – Overtime games in this series will be the death of me, but overtime wins in their building give me life
  5. 1995: Atlanta 19 New Orleans 14 in Atlanta – Jessie Tuggle, “The Hammer” with an interception near the goal line to seal it. My first in person experience of the Falcons/Saints rivalry
  6. 2002: Atlanta 37 New Orleans 35 in New Orleans – New Orleans, meet Michael Vick
  7. 2008: Atlanta 34 New Orleans 20 in Atlanta – New Orleans, meet Matt Ryan
  8. 2004: Atlanta 24 New Orleans 21 in Atlanta – I was there for this one too when Vick found Crumpler in the endzone late for the game winning touchdown
  9. 1980: Atlanta 41 New Orleans 14 in New Orleans – Beating those guys by 27 in their building during the 1980 magical season? Yeah, c’mon with it.
  10. 1981: Atlanta 41 New Orleans 10 in New Orleans – Following that up by beating them by 31 the next year
  11. 1982: Atlanta 35 New Orleans 0 in Atlanta – second largest margin of victory in series history
  12. 1981: Atlanta 27 New Orleans 0 in Atlanta – the first of consecutive home shutouts against the Saints
  13. 2005: Atlanta 34 New Orleans 31 in New Orleans  – Blowing the lead with 46 seconds left hurt, going down the field to reclaim it with :04 left was exhilarating.
  14. 2012: Atlanta 23 New Orleans 13 in Atlanta – national television defensive dominance of Payton and Breezy boy
  15. 2014: Atlanta 30 New Orleans 14 in New Orleans – Osi waving goodbye to the Saints while strolling into the endzone in their building to finish off the sweep? Give me more of that please.

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Filed under Falcons, NFL, Personal

Retract of a Retract, Paul Johnson MUST Go. No, Really

The last few weeks have put me back on the fire Paul Johnson train, and really, I never should have gotten off. I was blinded by the bright lights and shiny objects that were distracting us from the truth of this program while we beat Georgia and won the Orange Bowl.

Most defenses of Paul Johnson begin with bringing up the ACC championship in 2009, the two victories against Georgia (one of which occurred in 2008), and the trio of 9 win seasons culminating in a top 25 post season ranking (Two of which came in 2008 & 2009) during his tenure.

That’s wonderful. Except this is college football, where once the players under the old coaching staff leave, they must be replaced by those of your choosing. You cook and buy the groceries in college football. Being able to make gourmet meals out of what someone else brought into the kitchen is nice. But then what? What do you do when you have to buy the groceries and then make the meals? Being the sous chef in someone else’s kitchen is one thing. Running the show yourself is a different ballgame.

And what we’ve found is Paul Johnson does a fabulous job of taking someone else’s ingredients and preparing them in ways far superior to what his predecessor managed to accomplish. We’ve also found that when Paul Johnson buys the ingredients himself, he can’t prepare anything above a mediocre meal found at Applebee’s.

The numbers, simply put, do not lie. When Paul Johnson arrived at Georgia Tech he inherited a pretty talented roster thanks to Chan Gailey’s ability to recruit due to his NFL background and the fact that Tech was one of the upper echelon programs in the ACC. For the first two years of his tenure with guys like Demaryius Thomas, Jonathan Dwyer, Josh Nesbitt, Roddy Jones, Derrick Morgan, Mario Butler and Morgan Burnett, everything was roses, or oranges, as Tech not only snapped a seven-year losing streak to Georgia in year one under Paul Johnson, but also won an ACC championship in year two as they compiled a 20-7 overall record and went 12-4 in the ACC, with the victory over Clemson in the ACC championship game.

But something happened after that. Those players that Gailey recruited were leaving. The cupboard was bare of the talent brought in by Gailey and Paul Johnson was going to have to rely on his own players going forward. To say the results have taken a nosedive off the cliff would be a slight understatement.
Just consider his numbers since beating Clemson in the 2009 ACC Championship game (which, really, doesn’t actually even count anymore, just to throw even more fuel on that fire) in Tampa.

Overall Record: 41-33

Record vs ACC: 25-15 (two ACCCG losses to Florida State)

Record vs FBS Opponents: 34-32

Record vs Power 5 (ND/BYU): 29-31

This does include the first six games of the 2015 campaign, which, with any reasonable look at the next six games and at best one could see Georgia Tech going 3-3 in those games, with the distinct possibility of going 0-6 being a legitimate fear. But yep, you’re reading that right. Against the big boys of college football, the teams that really matter, Paul Johnson, since winning the ACC championship with Chan Gailey’s players, including the Orange Bowl loss to Iowa that season, is two games under .500 against Power 5 teams and BYU and Notre Dame.

And lets not forget who some of these losses came against. There was the loss in 2010 to a Kansas team that is the definition of atrocious program, and finished 3-9 that season. Both BYU losses came against a Cougars team that wound up 8-5. And of course there’s the real kicker, the blowout loss to Middle Tennessee State in 2012. And no, this wasn’t a Middle Tennessee State team that was a mid major school having a banner year. The Blue Raiders went 8-4 that season and lost to Louisiana Monroe and Arkansas State.

And the rivals?

vs Miami: 1-4

vs Virginia Tech: 1-4

vs Clemson: 2-4

vs Georgia: 1-4

And these numbers of course INCLUDE the 11-3 record in 2014 that looks more and more like an anomaly. Can you imagine what these numbers would look like if for giggles we just ignored them (which, you should ignore the outlier when analyzing statistics) and took them out of the equation? Well, imagine no more.

Overall Record: 30-30

Record vs ACC: 19-13

Record vs FBS Opponents: 24-29

Record vs Power 5 (ND/BYU): 21-28

Not to mention, wipe out the only wins against Georgia, Virginia Tech and Miami.

If you look back at Georgia Tech’s recent coaching history, all of it since Bobby Dodd, actually, you can see that Johnson really doesn’t compare all that favorably to the better names on that list. In his first seven seasons Johnson has had three six loss campaigns. Only William Alexander and Bud Carson have more, and once the Jackets drop their sixth game this year, Johnson will tie Carson for the second most six loss seasons in school history. And he’ll have done it in just 8 years on the job by accomplishing the feat in half the seasons he’s been on The Flats.

But perhaps even more noteworthy is to look at when the six loss seasons occur. Bill Curry lost six or more games three times while he was at Georgia Tech, but remember he went 2-19-1 in his first new years getting the program out of Pepper Rodgers’ wishbone offense (that’s what we have to look forward to once Johnson is finally let go, but that’s an entirely different animal to approach altogether), giving him 2 six loss seasons in his first two years while inheriting someone else’s players and installing his system. Curry won 29 games over the next five seasons (not a remarkable record, by any means) and only had 1 six loss season over his final five years.

Bobby Ross came in to inherit what Curry had left behind and the Jackets promptly went 5-17 in his first two years at the helm. They wouldn’t lose six games in a season again under Ross.

We’re just going to skip Bill Lewis because, well, can’t we just skip the Bill Lewis era? Let’s move onto his replacement, coming into a giant mess. George O’Leary inherited a team that had just gone 1-10, winless against Division 1-A (FBS) competition the year before. O’Leary would start his career at Tech by going 11-11. And having the only six loss season of his tenure.

Chan Gailey arrived in 2002, and as many coaches are prone to do, came with his own system. While using his predecessor’s players, Gailey lost six games in each of his first two seasons. He only lost six in a season once in his final four years at the helm.

And that brings us to Johnson. Johnson comes in, takes over Gailey’s players and wins 20 games. Remarkable. It certainly showed Chan could recruit. The problem is, whereas most coaches start to see more success once they have their players in their system, at leas the successful coaches do, Johnson has done the opposite. He’s reversed the trend. The more of his players he got, the worse the program became. Johnson’s six loss seasons have come in year 3, 5, and 6. And his fourth is going to come in year 8. That would be 4 six loss seasons in six years. The six years after the two transition years where you expect most coaches to struggle the most.

And yet, people will vehemently defend the employment of Paul Johnson. It’s astonishing, really.

One argument people will make is that the 2014 season was one of the greatest seasons in school history. Well, if you consider one of the 25 best seasons in school history to be that big of an accomplishment, then okay. After all, there was no conference championship and there was no national championship. 11 games were indeed won, by playing 14. The winning percentage of the 2014 team was only the 24th best in school history. I’m sure some of Heisman’s, Alexander’s and Dodd’s, even Ross’ and O’Leary’s teams could have benefited from playing an extra game against a patsy to bolster the record. So, you know, the whole double-digit win thing doesn’t really do much for me.

Seven different times Georgia Tech posted a higher winning percentage than it did in 2014 AND won a major bowl game. Take into account two bowl losses and that number moves to nine. And that does NOT include the national championship seasons of 1917 and 1990. So even if you REALLY stretch it out, even with your best argument, 2014 barely makes it into the top ten of Georgia Tech seasons. So, lay off the kool-aid like Johnson had the most amazing year the school has ever seen.

And we can also conveniently ignore the fact that 2015 is shaping up to be one of the worst years in school history. Should Tech manage two more victories and finish 4-8, that will be the 100th best winning percentage in school history. That would mean only 14 years were worse. I think that kind of cancels out 2014. Never mind that I’m not sure I even see two more wins on this schedule. So, if your argument is centered around how great 2014 was, you can stop there.

Others will point to the three trips to the ACC championship game. I’m just going to say right now, if you, in any way, use the 2012 season to argue why Paul Johnson should be here, you probably should never speak about the game of football again; Except to say, “I don’t know anything about football.” Yet, in a season where we only made the conference title game because TWO teams in front of us were ineligible, and a year in which we had to seek a special waiver to make a bowl game because we finished the year 6-7, with only five wins against FBS opponents, people will point to our “bowl streak” and our two trips to the ACC title game in the past three years as reasons Paul Johnson should stay. I suppose fans like that actually deserve the mediocrity of Paul Johnson.

The difference in the mindset of the fan bases in Athens and Atlanta is amazing, when you think about it. Georgia Tech goes 11-3, follows it up with a 2-4 start, and fans are still beating the Paul Johnson drum like Mark Richt beats Paul Johnson. Meanwhile in Athens, despite a 4-2 start following a 10-3 season and top ten final ranking, fans are once again calling for Mark Richt’s head. Baffling, isn’t it?

Maybe Paul Johnson is the genius after all. He manages to be mediocre year after year, yet he takes advantage of the insecurities and inferiority complex within the Georgia Tech athletic department that result in their willingness to hand out silly contract extensions to any coach who ever does anything remotely good.

What happens at Georgia Tech is the Georgia Tech athletic department becomes that guy who is love struck by someone he ultimately can do much better than. And finally, just as that guy decides he’s got to break the news to her that he’s going to have to move on from the relationship, Paul Johnson becomes that girl that gives you the best sex of your life and the next thing you know, you’re at Shane Company’s newest location in Kennesaw buying an engagement ring.

This isn’t to bash Paul Johnson, or to say he’s the worst thing to ever happen to Georgia Tech. He’s a fantastic chef who can take someone else’s ingredients and do amazing work with them. But when asked to buy his own groceries, the meals he turns out are pedestrian, at best. Occasionally he’ll stumble upon something great that makes you give him a second chance running the restaurant. At this point, it’s time to cut bait and find someone who can consistently produce a better product, it’s just that simple.

Even if Johnson somehow wins 3 of the final 6 games this year, the bowl streak would come to an end. Even more interesting would be that over the last six seasons of his tenure at Tech, Johnson will have amassed 44 wins.

Chan Gailey’s career win total at Georgia Tech before being fired after six seasons?

44

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Filed under Coaches on Hot Seat, College Football, Fire Coaches, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

College Football Rankings 10/8

There’s a familiar face at number one, and no, I do not care that they lost to Ole Miss because for an evening they forgot that even though St. Nick is their coach, they are not supposed to freely hand out presents to opponents.

The Big Ten is better than most thought, thanks in particular to the outstanding defense being played by Michigan and Northwestern. Remember when the SEC was known for defense? I’m just saying…

I still need to see LSU be more than one dimensional, but, as long as their quarterback doesn’t throw it to the other team, they’re going to be a contender.

Oklahoma is definitely reminding us that it’s not just Baylor and TCU in the Big 12.

With FSU and Georgia Tech looking more disappointing by the week, having survived Notre Dame and with South Carolina has utter dog meat right now though, while I don’t think Clemson is one of the five best teams in the nation, I can’t see a scenario where they miss the playoffs. They seem to be over their “Clemsoning” days. But, relapse is a dangerous part of addiction recovery.

1 Alabama 4-1
2 Utah 4-0
3 Baylor 4-0
4 Ohio State 5-0
5 TCU 5-0
6 Clemson 4-0
7 Oklahoma 4-0
8 LSU 4-0
9 Michigan State 5-0
10 Michigan 4-1
11 Texas A&M 5-0
12 Northwestern 5-0
13 Stanford 4-1
14 Florida 5-0
15 USC 3-1
16 Georgia 4-1
17 Notre Dame 4-1
18 Florida State 4-0
19 Ole Miss 4-1
20 Duke 4-1
21 Mississippi State 3-2
22 Texas Tech 3-2
23 North Carolina 4-1
24 Iowa 5-0
25 Oklahoma State 5-0
26 UCLA 4-1
27 Houston 4-0
28 Oregon 3-2
29 Memphis 5-0
30 Louisville 2-3
31 Toledo 4-0
32 West Virginia 3-1
33 Kansas State 3-1
34 Boise State 4-1
35 Wisconsin 3-2
36 Boston College 3-2
37 Navy 4-0
38 Cal 5-0
39 N.C. State 4-1
40 Temple 4-0
41 Cincinnati 3-2
42 Arizona State 3-2
43 Auburn 3-2
44 BYU 3-2
45 Miami 3-1
46 Pittsburgh 3-1
47 Washington 2-2
48 Syracuse 3-1
49 Arizona 3-2
50 East Carolina 3-2
51 Georgia Southern 4-1
52 Arkansas 2-3
53 Missouri 4-1
54 Indiana 4-1
55 Tennessee 2-3
56 Kentucky 4-1
57 Central Michigan 2-3
58 Ohio 4-1
59 Tulsa 2-2
60 Virginia Tech 2-3
61 Illinois 4-1
62 Nebraska 2-3
63 Bowling Green 3-2
64 Western Kentucky 4-1
65 Iowa State 2-2
66 Appalachian State 4-1
67 Northern Illinois 2-3
68 Georgia Tech 2-3
69 Minnesota 3-2
70 Louisiana Tech 3-2
71 Marshall 4-1
72 Texas 1-4
73 Air Force 2-2
74 Penn State 4-1
75 Maryland 2-3
76 South Carolina 2-3
77 Colorado 3-2
78 UConn 2-3
79 Oregon State 2-2
80 Western Michigan 1-3
81 Arkansas State 2-3
82 Buffalo 2-3
83 Southern Miss 3-2
84 Virginia 1-3
85 Vanderbilt 2-3
86 San Jose State 2-3
87 Louisiana Monroe 1-3
88 Akron 2-3
89 Middle Tennessee St 2-3
90 Purdue 1-4
91 Washington State 2-2
92 Utah State 2-2
93 UNLV 2-3
94 Ball State 2-3
95 Nevada 2-3
96 Colorado State 2-3
97 Kent State 2-3
98 UT San Antonio 1-4
99 SMU 1-4
100 San Diego State 2-3
101 Wake Forest 2-3
102 Hawaii 2-3
103 Louisiana Lafayette 1-3
104 South Alabama 3-2
105 South Florida 1-3
106 Rice 2-3
107 Texas State 1-3
108 Old Dominion 2-3
109 Fresno State 1-4
110 Army 1-4
111 Rutgers 2-2
112 Tulane 2-2
113 New Mexico 3-2
114 Troy 1-3
115 Eastern Michigan 1-4
116 Miami Ohio 1-4
117 Florida Atlantic 1-3
118 UMass 1-3
119 UTEP 2-3
120 Florida International 2-3
121 Central Florida 0-5
122 Kansas 0-4
123 North Texas 0-4
124 Idaho 1-4
125 Charlotte 2-3
126 Georgia State 1-3
127 Wyoming 0-5
128 New Mexico State 0-4

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Desperation Time for Big Name Programs

Nicely done Paul, looks like last year's charade means we're just going to let the programs slide into mediocrity and worse just...slide.

Nicely done Paul, looks like last year’s charade means we’re just going to let the programs slide into mediocrity and worse just…slide.

Here we are, only a few days into October, and already, several big name schools have their fingers hovering perilously close to the panic button, and with good reason. The upside to having fifty gazillion bowls is that pretty much anybody with a pulse will make one. The downside of this though? If you don’t, then you’re in trouble. Real trouble. Obviously different schools view different levels of success for job security, but there’s one basic rule of thumb across the board just about everywhere; If you don’t make a bowl game, you’re going to be fired.

Obviously this is not taken literally, every single season, at every single school, but making a bowl game is I guess somewhat equivalent to the Mendoza Line. If you aren’t playing in a bowl, then you’re not just merely mediocre, or slightly below average, you’re just plain awful.

In the lower tier of programs in the country, consistent trips to the postseason aren’t necessary to remain employed, but consistently ending seasons without a trip to such a wonderful winter vacation spot such as Mobile will have you looking for a job.

But at other schools, you get one pass, if that, and if you start making a habit of not playing in a bowl game (a habit meaning it happens more than once during your tenure) you will be run out of town faster than Matt Williams after a year of unmet expectations. And this is where things get tricky with these teams. When they have this blip, is it really just a mirage, a series of unfortunate events that so imperfectly aligned that the postseason was beyond their grasp? Or is it the signs of deeper problems, and much more the beginning of the end, if not THE end already?

This is why it’s best for coaches to simply avoid this predicament altogether. Don’t miss a bowl and don’t let the questions begin to amass. But some big time coaches and some big time schools are dangerously close to opening Pandora’s Box of questions about the future of the program.

Georgia Tech has the third longest active bowl streak in the country, at 18. But barring a complete miracle, it won’t extend to 19. High school recruits of today have never seen Georgia Tech not play in a bowl game. It’s something Tech can sell to kids, but not much longer.

Everyone knew the schedule was going to be tough, but after their flukish run last season, and early season domination of patsies, it was thought they would not only be able to successfully navigate the rough waters to another winning season, but that they would be in the thick of the conference race, and possibly the national title picture. Week by week they’ve taken themselves out of consideration for all three. The Notre Dame loss squelched all talk of the playoffs. The loss at Duke the following week put the brakes on talks of an ACC championship, and then this past weekend’s loss at home to North Carolina, in which a 21-0 lead was choked away, pretty much put the kibosh on bowl possibilities.

Tech sits at 2-3, which, at first glance doesn’t appear to be a death sentence. But then you have to remember this team hasn’t beaten an opponent better than Tulane to this point. You consider that if you look at their schedule, there is only one game left on it right now where they can feel like they’d be the favorites. And that is for a trip to Charlottesville, where despite recent success, it’s been a house of horrors. They have to host Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech. They must still travel to play to Miami. They have to go play at Clemson this week. And oh yeah, Florida State and Georgia come calling. Do you see four wins on that schedule? Didn’t think so. Four losses? That’s easy to come up with. What’s frightening for Tech is that 2-10 is as likely at this point as a trip to a bowl game.

The irony in all of this is that the streak should have ended in 2012, but an NCAA waiver allowed a sub .500 Yellow Jacket team that truly didn’t win the division but played in the ACC title game due to the off field transgressions of conference bad boys Miami and North Carolina to play in a bowl anyway. Tech played well against Florida State in the conference title game, and then went and beat USC in the Sun Bowl, finishing 7-7 and keeping some heat off of Johnson. 2013 wasn’t much better, another 7-6 year, another loss in a bowl game. It was obvious at this point that Johnson needed to go. The sooner the better, because the rebuilding process following Johnson will be a long and painful one.

Then, much like this year, in 2014, came back to back losses to those basketball schools in Duke and North Carolina. The ax was ready to drop on Johnson. And then something miraculous (or not, depending on how you want to look at it) and Tech caught fire, won the division, beat Georgia, nearly upset Florida State in the ACC title game and ran all over Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl.

Well done Paul Johnson, you pulled the veil back over our eyes for a moment and kept attention away from the real ugly truth at Georgia Tech. The program was ultimately, at its core, in real trouble. Many, myself included, praised Johnson after last year. I even apologized for being “wrong” about him. No, I was right. I let him convince me I was wrong.

And it looks like this year on the flats, we’re going to finally see how right I originally was. Clemson is the toughest game left on the schedule, so it’s unfair to say it’s a must win, that a loss to the Tigers completely buries the Jackets. But, they’ve used their mulligans, and they could really use some breathing room, not mention some confidence. Going up to Clemson and getting a win, which Tech has had a knack for back when Clemson was mastering the art of Clemsoning, would help. But, these aren’t those same Tigers, and these aren’t the Jackets you can believe in to go win a game like this.

Georgia Tech isn’t the only Tech however in the ACC coastal in deep trouble. Virginia Tech and Frank Beamer, another program on a precipitous decline, is staring at a similar fate. From 2004 thru 2011 the Hokies won double-digit games every single year. That’s eight consecutive 10 win seasons. That’s quality work. But over the last three years they’ve only won 22 games. They’ve lost in each of the last two years to Boston College, they’ve been beaten by Cincinnati, and with their loss two weeks ago, they’ve lost in successive seasons to East Carolina. They’ve only even played six games over the past three plus seasons as a ranked team. Again, after eight consecutive seasons of 10 plus wins.

The Hokies, like Georgia Tech, cannot lose more than three more games the rest of the way. And they have to play aforementioned Boston College on the road, just like they have to travel to play Miami and Georgia Tech. They also still have N.C. State and Duke to play at home. Just like with Georgia Tech, the only game left on the schedule that you can say with confidence they could be favored in is against Virginia.

The sharp decline of the program already had many wondering how much longer Beamer would last, especially since special teams, long the calling card of this regime, had become an all out weakness of the Hokies. This year, with it looking more and more likely that a bowl isn’t going to happen, it’s looking more and more likely that this could be Beamer’s swan song.

While Georgia Tech has a game that they can lose and still back their way into a bowl game, a home loss to N.C. State to drop to 2-4 might get the vultures circling in Blacksburg.

Michael Vick, Marcus Vick, DeAngelo Hall, now Bill Cosby? Might be getting what's coming to ya, Hokies.

Michael Vick, Marcus Vick, DeAngelo Hall, and….. Bill Cosby? Might be getting what’s coming to ya, Hokies. I shudder to think what happened in this room after Beamer left it. 

Speaking of Beamer and the Hokies, wouldn’t The Battle at Bristol lose some of its luster if Virginia Tech were to find themselves coming off a season without a bowl game? Yeah? Well, what if both Virginia Tech AND Tennessee were coming off seasons without making a bowl? Don’t look now organizers, but that very well could be what takes place.

While the final five games on Tennessee‘s schedule look very, very winnable, and thus, completely missing out on a bowl game doesn’t look as likely with the Vols as it does with the two Techs, it can’t be ruled out. Kentucky is better. Maty Mauck could be back for Missouri by the time they meet, South Carolina could be fighting for their post-season lives in their own right, and Kentucky could be actually playing for something at the end of November. So if you’re Tennessee, you would like a little wiggle room.

The problem is, as they too sit at 2-3, they’ve got a very angry Georgia team coming to Knoxville this week, and then after that they have to travel to take on the Alabama team who has made this Georgia team so angry. 2-5 looks very, very possible. As mentioned, the schedule eases up enough to think that at 2-5, Tennessee could still finish 7-5. However, you have to look deeper than just the ease of the schedule. You have to look at the psyche of this program. Tennessee has lost six or more games in seven consecutive years. Yes, you read that correct, Tennessee hasn’t won more than seven games in a season since 2007.
So how much life do you think will be left in this team if it starts 2-5? Lane Kiffin bolted after a year. Derek Dooley didn’t finish his third season. Butch Jones is in his third season. Rocky Top could be about to explode….. again.

Mentioned in looking at the schedule Tennessee closes with was of course the old ball coach and South Carolina. There are two programs Spurrier likes to beat more than anyone; Georgia and Tennessee. When looking at what South Carolina has left, there is virtually no way they can survive losing to Tennessee and still make a bowl game. As bad as the remaining schedule looks for Georgia Tech, it’s even worse for South Carolina.

The Gamecocks can only afford three more losses to still make a bowl game. The problem? There are currently four teams ranked in the top 11 left on their schedule. Sure, I suppose it’s good news that three of them are at home, but home is where this team lost to Kentucky.

A bit of irony? The last time South Carolina didn’t make a bowl was 2007, as mentioned earlier, the last time Tennessee didn’t lose at least six games.

Shifting to the SEC West, Auburn isn’t in full-fledged panic mode yet, but they are one road loss in the next two weeks away from going to defcon one. With Ole Miss, Georgia, Texas A&M and Alabama as four of their final five games, Auburn does not want to enter the final five games of the season anything less than 5-2. Knowing they must win one of those four to reach a bowl game, after pre-season expectations (wildly placed, and not by yours truly) of contending for a national title would be a lot of pressure on a fragile team. Which is why Auburn is getting a bye at the right time.

Because these next two games, at Kentucky, and at Arkansas, are absolutely must win games. And neither looks like a gimme. Conference road games are always tough. But when you need overtime to beat Jacksonville State at home, and only led San Jose State by 7 at home late in the fourth quarter, is there any reason to believe you have any kind of chance on the road against SEC opponents?

Auburn is talented. More talented than their next two opponents. But, they’re also far more talented than both Jacksonville State and San Jose State, and it didn’t mean that much. The problem for Auburn, much like at Georgia Tech, is the very real possibility of finishing the season with 8 or 9 losses. If Auburn stumbles against Kentucky in two weeks, the question becomes, aside from Idaho, will they win another game this year?

I only mention Texas because, well, I have to. They are still one of the biggest brands in the country, even if the on field product has deteriorated to the point it’s unrecognizable. Texas can only afford to lose two more games and still squeak into a bowl game. And both Baylor and Oklahoma still loom on the schedule.

Granted, Texas showed some life against Cal and Oklahoma State, two top 25 teams, but all that progress seemed to get erased with the shellacking at the hands of TCU on Saturday. The schedule outside of national title contenders Oklahoma and Baylor isn’t all that daunting, though no trip to Morgantown is fun, and Kansas State is a very underrated team. The problem is the losses to Cal and Oklahoma State due to shoddy special teams play that pretty much make all of these games must win games for the Horns to make a bowl game. Because, let’s face it, there’s absolutely zero reason on this planet to think they’re beating Oklahoma or Baylor at this point.

Making matters worse seems to be the discord in the locker room that spilled out on to social media this week. The situation in Austin, Texas is messy. There’s a new AD in charge, and Charlie Strong looks more and more like a dead man walking. And if he is, Texas could be staring down the barrel of a season spent threatening to lose double-digit games. Thank God for Kansas, right?

Speaking of former Big 12 powers, someone should tell Mike Riley he’s not in Corvallis anymore. Nebraska finds themselves in as precarious a situation as just about anyone on this list. They sit at 2-3, and with their two most winnable games both being on the road, the margin for error is slim, at most. Missing bowl games doesn’t sit well with the folks in Lincoln. At all. Winning 9 games a year didn’t sit well with them, so imagine bordering on losing that many in a season.

The schedule is also much tougher than it looked a few weeks ago. Northwestern is good. Really good. Iowa is a lot better than expected. Granted, they must come to Lincoln, but that’s where BYU has already won, after losing their starting quarterback, and Southern Miss made a game of it. This is a team that was curb stomped for three quarters by Miami, today’s Miami, not the Miami you grew up hearing about, and who lost to a team who fired their coach in August before the first game was even played.

Yes, there are serious concerns in Lincoln right now. But, on the bright side, as alluded to, they get their toughest opponents all at home. Iowa and Northwestern might have established themselves as the favorites in the division, though neither possesses an offense that looks like it could bury Nebraska and leave them with no chance. Wisconsin has shown they don’t have a pulse offensively against a semi competent defense, and the Spartans of Michigan State seem to be missing that special something at this point of the season. So, with the glass half full, there’s reason to think Nebraska has a shot to win all four of these games, and, ultimately, win out and play for the division title.

But they lost to Illinois.

And there is the glass half empty. It’s also conceivable they lose all four and miss the post-season. It’s conceivable that they not only lose all four, but that they get stymied by the Minnesota defense on the road as well, and the Huskers finish 4-8, at best.

Just a a few short years ago it would have been preposterous to suggest that as we approached the middle of the college football season that programs like Auburn, Texas and Nebraska would be facing such daunting tasks just to make it into a bowl game. Such is the nature of college football though. Two of the most respected coaches in the game, Spurrier and Beamer need to pull rabbits out of a hat to try to salvage their seasons. It’s just the cyclical nature of the game. Not every program, or every coach can stay on top forever. If you’re a Tennessee fan though, you’re starting to wonder if you’ll ever get on top again, or if the karma from firing Phil Fulmer and hiring Lane Kiffin is seeing to it that you never regain your place among the SEC elite. And if you’re a Georgia Tech, you’re kicking yourself for becoming a prisoner of the moment and being blinded to the reality that you knew existed.

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