Tag Archives: Paul Johnson

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

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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Must Win Games in Week Three? You Betcha

South Carolina finds themselves in a must win situation, and would Steve Spurrier rather be playing anyone than Georgia?

South Carolina finds themselves in a must win situation, and would Steve Spurrier rather be playing anyone than Georgia?

There is still yet another weekend of September games on the schedule, but already in week three, some teams and coaches are feeling the heat. For some coaches, they’re fighting for their job. For some teams, their chance to spoil the college football playoff party as a dark horse may be dependent on a key early season victory, and for some, they’re neither here nor there, but need a win in the worst way to keep a season from spiraling out of control before it ever really gets started.

For starters, there are a few teams with a chance to make big time statements and propel themselves into the playoff discussion, while a loss this week would probably drop them too far behind the pack to be able to recover, either due to the depth of their fall, or the arduous task that would lie in front of them asking them to not lose another game all season.

#14 Georgia Tech at #8 Notre Dame– This one I went back and forth on as to just how important it is to each team, and finally decided, that if either one wants to make the playoff, they can’t lose this game. And that has more to do with their schedules the rest of the way than it does how far a loss on Saturday might drop them. The odds of either team running the table from Saturday going forward aren’t good, which is what it would require for either to get back into the playoff race. Georgia Tech faces what could amount to be one of the most daunting schedules in all of college football, and while the Irish slate isn’t as difficult, the presence of Clemson, USC and Stanford means Notre Dame would really like to have some margin for error as they head into the cooler months of the season. So while both teams potentially could recover from this loss, both teams know that their best shot at being in the college playoff conversation in November is probably dependent on getting out of September without a loss. With the ACC and the Independent Irish on the outside looking in when it comes to playoff prognostications, every win over a highly ranked foe is critical to obtain, and they can’t afford to let those opportunities slip away.

Stanford at #6 USC- Last year Stanford saw their streak of double digit win seasons snapped at four, all the more impressive considering they’d never posted back to back double digit win seasons in their school’s history. Many felt that was an aberration for David Shaw and the Cardinal however and several pundits predicted the Cardinal would be right back in the playoff mix, and even potentially dethrone Oregon in the Pac 12 North. Then the season began and the Cardinal were physically dominated by Northwestern in one of the more stunning outcomes to date during the 2015 season. While Stanford can afford to lose to USC and still win the Pac 12, they absolutely cannot afford to lose this game and still have any shot at making the college football playoff. It says a lot about where Stanford has come as a program that that is the level of expectation no only in Palo Alto, but nationwide. But a second loss in three games to start the year will have them re-evaluating those expectations very quickly.

Temple at UMass- No, I’m not crazy. And no, I’m not implying Temple is a threat for the college football playoff. However, with their dominant victory over Penn State, and then subsequent win on the road at American Athletic Conference favorite Cincinnati, along with a loss by Boise State to BYU, Temple suddenly has a very legit opportunity to be competing for one of the New Year’s Six bowl games. Yes, Temple, they of 4 bowl games in 67 years of existence. That Temple. But to do so, aside from the Notre Dame game, Temple simply can’t slip up. At all. Every game becomes a must win game for the Owls. But what a story that would be. And they’ve already navigated what most would have considered two of their three toughest tests. Until Temple loses, expect to see them on this page every week from here until the end of the season.

On the opposite end of the spectrum of teams fighting to stay in the race for a national title, you have the coaches fighting to keep their seat from scalding their rear ends as they put for sale signs in their yard. Often times, once the whispers start getting louder, the writing is on the wall. And early season struggles for a coach who came in with the seat anywhere from lukewarm to blistering more often than not lead to a change at the top for the program.

South Florida at Maryland– Randy Edsal was not brought to College Park to go 7-6. Considering that the man he replaced at Maryland won more than 7 games in 6 of his 10 seasons as the head coach, Edsal can’t afford to begin his tenure with five consecutive seasons of failing to top the 7 win mark. After losing in embarrassing fashion to Bowling Green (who, as I’ve championed all along, as a very underrated and explosive offense) Edsal could find himself in real trouble if they slip up again to a weak Bulls program. The Big Ten schedule did Maryland no favors, so if the Terps fail to make a bowl this year and have losses to Bowling Green and South Florida on the resume, Edsal might need to start preparing his.

Illinois at North Carolina– Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels have seen a decrease in their number of wins in both his second and third year on the job, not exactly the direction you want your program to go. 2014 was supposed to be the big turnaround, and it became the biggest disappointment. But with so many starters back on both sides of the ball, and what promised to be a highly explosive, borderline unstoppable offense in Chapel Hill, many, including myself, tabbed Carolina as a sleeper this year. Then the offense slept the entire way through the South Carolina game and had us wondering why we put any faith in the Tar Heels. Illinois may be 2-0, but after the firing of Tim Beckham in August and the uncertainty with that program, along with a lack of talent, losing at home to them is unacceptable for any coach of any program that thinks of themselves as being relevant in college football. The Heels still have a favorable ACC schedule, and have yet to begin conference play, so those goals will still be out there. But it’s going to be awfully difficult to focus on those tasks with what promises to be a whirlwind of rumors and whispers surrounding the future of the program. Couple that with the seemingly never ending cloud of NCAA investigations, and a loss to Illinois could be the straw that breaks the camels back in Chapel Hill.

Virginia Tech at Purdue– This game is far more important than I think many casual observers probably think. Whispers about the future of Frank Beamer and whether or not it was time to hang it up at Virginia Tech have begun to get louder and louder in recent years. Especially as the hallmarks of “Beamer Ball”, his special teams units, have fallen drastically to the point they are no longer a strength, they’re a legit weakness. With a mere 23 wins and no top 25 rankings over the past three years have the program at a potential crossroads. Beamer and the Hokies suffered a bad break when quarterback Michael Brewer went down, but that injury may not be enough to save Beamer if the Hokies suffer to another 5 or 6 loss season. Much like the situation at North Carolina, the schedule is still favorable for conference play, and the Hokies will still control that aspect of their destiny, but losing to a Purdue team that entered the year considered among the worst among all power five conference teams would turn the whispers into full fledged open conversation, and the 2015 Virginia Tech season will be more about what the future of the program holds and less about what they can accomplish this year.

Speaking of Purdue, the Boilermakers went 13-13 in what amounted to the final two seasons Danny Hope was on the job. In the two ensuing seasons they went 4-20 while being rendered for the most part completely uncompetitive. How patient will Purdue remain? The Big Ten schedule for Purdue is disastrous, with only the home games against Indiana and Illinois really seeming to be winnable at this point, so the thoughts of sneaking into a bowl game seem slim, at best. That said, if the team can be competitive in the Big Ten, even if they go 2-6, but can come away with a victory over a team like Virginia Tech, it might be enough to give Darrell Hazell a fourth year on the job. With the Hokies still having all sorts of concerns at quarterback after the Brewer injury, this is one Purdue can get, and at home, needs to get, if Hazell is going to stick around.

Western Kentucky at Indiana– There are many, yours truly included, who just don’t understand how Kevin Wilson still has a job at Indiana. I think we’ve had him on the hot seat for successive years now, and yet, here he is, despite never finishing .500 or qualifying for a bowl in four years on the job. With games against Wake Forest, Rutgers, Maryland, and Purdue still on the schedule, Hoosier fans have a glimmer of hope that this will be the year they return to a bowl game, for what would be just their second postseason appearance over 22 seasons. But after narrowly escaping against Southern Illinois, no game can be chalked up as a W. But if Indiana is going to make a bowl, which this time HAS to be the only way Kevin Wilson gets to back for another year, they absolutely must win a home game against Western Kentucky.

Rutgers at Penn State– With the Kyle Flood allegations and suspensions, Rutgers has officially become the biggest dumpster fire in college football. Just don’t tell that to Penn State fans. Getting blown out by Temple and then struggling to beat Buffalo isn’t what Penn State does. Ever. But it’s what this Penn State does. The Nittany Lions are 4-7 in their last 11 games, including losses at home to Illinois, Maryland and Northwestern, and then the opening week embarrassment at the hands of Temple. Even more disconcerting is the development, or the lack thereof, of Christian Hackenberg. While scouts drool over his physical attributes, his play has worsened since his freshmen year. Many fans wonder aloud how he fared so much better as a freshman under Bill O’Brien than as a junior under James Franklin. These fans will not settle for this. If they cannot take advantage of the mess that is the Rutgers football program and they fall to 1-2 to start the year, the heat on James Franklin, even in just his second year, will ramp up exponentially. One could look to a rather soft conference schedule as a beacon of hope, but, Rutgers is supposed to be the soft part of that schedule. If they can’t take care of business this week, the ball might begin to get rolling on James Franklin.

When a quarterback regresses to this level from his freshman year, confidence in the head coach begins to wane.

When a quarterback regresses to this level from his freshman year, confidence in the head coach begins to wane.

And finally, there are those who are fighting to salvage a season. No, there is no real job security issue with the head coach, and they were never a threat for the playoffs, but their 2015 seasons have not gotten off to the start they expected, and a loss this week could have them well behind the eight ball as we ramp up conference play.

#11 Clemson at Louisville– Personally I take great joy in seeing the Cardinals 0-2. It’s nothing against Louisville, well, it is now, but I love seeing Bobby Petrino fail. I especially love to see how he’s failed. The Cardinals are still talented enough on defense, and Petrino is still smart enough of an offensive mind that this team can still play spoiler in the ACC Atlantic Division. However, an 0-3 start could prove disastrous, because after Samford, Louisville has to play N.C. State and Florida State on the road. 1-5 is a problem anywhere, for any coach, of any program.

South Carolina at #7 Georgia- After the unimpressive win over North Carolina, and the twice as unimpressive loss to Kentucky, South Carolina looks in real trouble. The fact that Connor Mitch is out, potentially for the season, puts an even bigger damper on the inauspicious 1-1 start. The loss to Kentucky by South Carolina takes a bit of the pressure off of Georgia. In years past, an early season loss to the Gamecocks would leave the Bulldog Nation scoreboard watching the rest of the year in hopes of still recovering to play in the Georgia Dame for the SEC championship. With Kentucky already having handed South Carolina a division less, it takes some of the impetus off this game for Georgia. But staring an 0-2 start in the division in the face, it magnifies it ten fold for the Gamecocks. With a road schedule that includes Missouri, Texas A&M and Tennessee, a loss to Georgia suddenly makes the thought of South Carolina missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 2007 a real possibility.

Furman at Central Florida– Over the last five seasons, Central Florida has reached unprecedented and unexpected heights. They’ve christened their new on campus stadium by winning 47 games over that stretch, three times amassing double digit figures in wins as well as winning a Fiesta Bowl and finishing the year in the top 10. 2015 has been much different. It started with a shocking loss to Florida International. That was followed by a dreadful performance against Stanford where the Knights weren’t even remotely competitive. Hopes of returning to the postseason are already on life support, but a loss to Furman would pretty much end them all together. Additionally, rumors continue to swirl about the future of George O’Leary and how much longer he plans to remain the head coach and whether or not he moves on to an administrative role. An 0-3 start, including losses to FIU and Furman might be the most persuasive voice in his ear. Any hopes of salvaging the 2015 campaign rest on righting the ship this Saturday.

Texas Tech at Arkansas– This may not be as much about Arkansas as it is the SEC. The Hogs suffered some off-season attrition, and some of the pre-season prognostications were probably a bit over zealous. However, they still shouldn’t lose at home to Toledo. Now they get to welcome Texas Tech into town, and while the Red Raiders aren’t receiving a lot of love nationally, they have scored 128 points in two games. Of course, they always score points. But the Red Raiders would love nothing more than to earn some national respect while also pouring some salt in the wounds of the SEC from last week. And that’s why this is so dangerous for Arkansas. Texas Tech is coming in with no pressure looking to prove a point. Arkansas takes a gander at their upcoming schedule and one could reasonably ask, if they lose this game, where does their next win against an FBS opponent come from? That’s a scary proposition, and when you’re 1-2 having lost at home to Toledo and Texas Tech, you’re not exactly brimming with the confidence necessary to take on the SEC schedule that awaits. A loss this weekend to the Hogs could be disastrous.

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I Was Flat Wrong

You all know how much I love being wrong. Oh, wait, that must be someone else. I hate being wrong. I hate it more than just about anything. I hate being wrong so much I’ve become very good at not being wrong. No, that’s not me being arrogant, it’s just that in most cases, I try not to open my mouth and say anything unless I know for certain that I am right, or feel very, very strongly about my opinion and have something factual to put behind it. It’s also because even if I am wrong, often I can still convince the other party that I’m not. This I deem both a phenomenal gift, but an even deadlier curse. Anyway, I digress.

When it comes to Paul Johnson…..

Yes, Paul, it's all gravy now. You got me. I was wrong. Way wrong.

Yes, Paul, it’s all gravy now. You got me. I was wrong. Way wrong.

I was flat wrong.

No two ways about it. Shove this crow down my face, I have earned it. Boil it, fry it, stew it, whatever you want to do it, I’ll take it. And I’ll take it with a smile on my face. See, I do HATE being wrong. But I like winning a little bit more than I like being right. This is a trade-off I’m okay with.

I’ve been calling for Johnson’s job for over two years now. I think the Labor Day game against Virginia Tech and the atrocious in game strategy is when I decided I didn’t want him around anymore. And once I came to that conclusion I went looking for other reasons to validate such a stance. And I found them. Oh, boy did I find them. I found plenty. From his gruff personality, to the way he sometimes treats his players, and even the media, to his in game decisions on 4th down, to his recruiting, I found plenty of reasons he should not be the head football coach at Georgia Tech. The horrible quarterback play at an offense so dependent on a good quarterback, and the only one that he ever had that could run the offense beautifully was a guy he didn’t even recruit. The defense, it could never excel under Paul Johnson (which I’ve explained my theory on this). And then there was the record. The record that reeked of mediocrity. The same mediocrity that got Chan Gailey fired. Oh, sure, we were still the second best program in the Coastal, which, if you had told me would be the case when he was hired, I’d been on board. But today, being a superior program to Miami just doesn’t have the same pizzazz it once did.

After getting beat by Ole Miss in the bowl game last year, and subsequently seeing the starting quarterback transfer to James Madison, I thought, there’s no way he comes back after 2014. Absolutely no way. And that’s perfectly fine by me.

Then we struggled to beat Wofford.

After that we needed a late game comeback to survive Georgia Southern.

Yep, Paul Johnson has to go. The Virginia Tech win was a nice surprise, and the record was pretty, but I was still skeptical. And Virginia Tech and their inability to score a touchdown against Wake Forest later on this year proved such skepticism was alright.

But then came Miami, where we physically dominated the Miami Hurricanes, a team with supposedly far more talent, and far more athletes. I started drinking the kool-aid. I started thinking, hey, we might be on to something here.

Then the Paul Johnson led Yellow Jackets that I expected when the year began returned. In August, I honestly thought we’d struggle to win five games and make a bowl, and I thought our only shot at avoiding last place in our division was to beat Virginia. My expectations were low.

I was at Bobby Dodd Stadium for the debacle against Duke where the body of Justin Thomas was replaced by Reggie Ball. I watched against North Carolina as the 1999 Georgia Tech defense re-emerged and watched as they sat helplessly by as our ACC championship hopes that I had been tricked into believing were a real thing, seemed to vanish.

Something happened after that North Carolina game though. Paul Johnson proved his worth as a coach.

Four weeks. Four wins. None by fewer than 22 points. In back to back ACC road games the Jackets hung 56 on an opponent, doubling up Pittsburgh, and doing even more than that against North Carolina State. In between, a thoroughly dominating 35-10 victory against Virginia. Still though, even at 8-2, the season felt empty. The loss to the two squads in blue from the state of North Carolina stung. We still had Clemson and Georgia left, 8-4 was still very possible. In fact, needing Duke to lose twice to win the division, 8-4 seemed far, far more likely than going to Charlotte to play Florida State.

And Paul Johnson kept coaching. Did the injury to Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson help? Well, it didn’t hurt. Regardless, any time you whip Clemson 28-6, you feel good about yourself. Add to that, a 9th win, when I wondered if we would even get to six, no complaints here.

That afternoon Virginia Tech rose from the ashes, took advantage of a shocking miss by a reliable Duke field goal kicker and suddenly, suddenly there was a chance.

A week before Thanksgiving North Carolina went out and endeared themselves to Tech fans everywhere, absolutely steam rolling Duke, sending the Jackets to Charlotte for the third time in the past seven years. Not exactly bad for a guy I wanted fired.

There was still the matter of the Georgia game though before that. And in the second half, much like against Miami, Georgia Tech took a bigger, more talented, more gifted physically football team, and whipped them. Yes, the game went into overtime, yes it was a thrilling contest. But in the second half of that football game, the Yellow Jackets physically dominated. They did what well coached teams who play hard, play physical, an execute did. They whipped a physically superior bunch.

So this Saturday night, in about 33 hours, Georgia Tech will take on another physically superior football team. Will the results be the same? Who knows.

But whatever the results are, if you’d told me in August we’d be playing unbeaten, and defending national champion Florida State for an ACC championship, with an Orange Bowl pretty much already ensured at 10-2 (and I’ll just ignore that somehow, that it would require an act of God, we actually still have a fleeting chance at playing for the national championship), having beat Virginia Tech, Miami, Clemson, AND Georgia, I’d have called that beyond a dream season. In fact, that goes so far beyond anything I could have dreamed up, I probably would have suggested you admit yourself into a mental institution.

But beyond that, regardless the results Saturday night, Paul Johnson proved me wrong.

I think I want you stay. I’m sorry. Forgive me, please?

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Coaching Carousel About to Get Rolling

Pack Your Bags:

Will Muschamp, Florida- Other than Brady Hoke, is there a more dead in the water coach than Muschamp? His only saving grace was going to be Treon Harris and the ability to still win a very watered down SEC East. Now that Harris is suspended indefinitely, the Gators are once again the team that couldn’t do anything against Tennessee’s defense, and the team that will struggle to make a bowl game. Add to that, a second backup quarterback is getting in fights with freshmen defensive linemen, and the Gators program is one giant mess. Being Florida, the list of potential replacement will be long, and full of top flight coaching talent. Personally, I think Doc Holiday is who they should go after. Either way, unless Florida wins the division, which with Driskel at the helm simply won’t happen, Muschamp is gone. He might be gone regardless. The program is in flux, and it’s not winning. That’s a bad thing if you’re a head coach.

Brady Hoke, Michigan- As mentioned, he’s the only one on Muschamp’s level right now. Like Muschamp, Hoke went 11-2 in his first year, and like Muschamp has overseen a steady nosedive ever since. Their yardage differential in conference play has gotten worse by about 55 yards per game in each of the last two seasons, and one can only shudder to think what it will be in 2014. Getting dominated by Minnesota was bad, being Rutgers first conference win, even worse. On top of that there is the bizarre handling of Shane Morris’ injury. Hoke won’t be back. Muschamp at least has ways he can save his job, potentially. Hoke? He’ll be lucky if Michigan doesn’t lose 10 games this year.

Bobby Hauck, UNLV- You would think taking a program to just their second bowl in two decades, and first in 13 years, as Hauck did a year ago, you’d reap some rewards. And Hauck did. He’s still there. Hauck went 6-32 in his first three years years at UNLV, a mark that gets you fired just about anywhere, but he was retained for a fourth year and the program was rewarded with a trip to the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Unfortunately, that was a mirage. They’re winless to begin 2014, and the most competitive they’ve been was a 14 point loss to Northern Illinois. They’ve scored more than 17 points just once in five games, while allowing 33 or more every single time on the field. They’re not just losing, they’re completely uncompetitive. Losing 33-10 to San Jose State alone should be considered fireable, but when that’s the second most competitive you’ve been in a game all season long………

Have a Good Real Estate Agent On Speed Dial:

Kevin Wilson, Indiana- It’s put up or shut up time in Bloomington, and to date, it’s still hard to tell which Indiana is going to do. There was the terrible loss to Bowling Green in week three that was followed by the huge win in Columbia against a ranked Missouri team. Do the two cancel each other out? Probably, and the win might even carry more weight. But that win only carries weight if Indiana, in the very, very least, makes a bowl game this season. At 3-2, with Iowa, Michigan, Penn State, Rutgers and Purdue among those on the remaining schedule, if Indiana can’t get the necessary six wins to be in the post season, there’s no way Wilson is brought back for a fifth year. Seventeen starters returned from last year year’s team, if he can’t get it done in 2014, he’s not going to get it done.

Tim Beckman, Illinois- Illinois has faced two quality opponents (Washington and Nebraska) this year, and allowed 44 plus points to both of them in games they were never even remotely competitive in. They’ve also allowed 34 to Western Kentucky, 35 to Texas State and 38 to Purdue. There’s not an FBS team they’ve played that hasn’t put at least 34 points on the board against them. The Purdue game is the most damning, as the Boilermakers are just plain bad this year. Losing by 11 at home to Purdue is not something you can afford to do when trying to convince people that in your third year you have the program moving in the right direction. A 5-7 season likely grants Beckman another year, but if finish the year losing 8 in a row, or 9 of 10, I’m not sure he gets that fourth season.

Larry Fedora, North Carolina- This was supposed to be the year the Tar Heels took the proverbial next step and became legitimate ACC contenders, or at least, champions of the Coastal division. Instead, they’re a punch line. The Tar Heel basketball team would likely yield fewer points to East Carolina and Clemson than did the football team, and in a year of heightened expectations, that isn’t acceptable. To be fired, Carolina would have to go in to full on implosion mode, but with Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Virginia, and Miami as their next four opponents, and only the Yellow Jackets being in Chapel Hill, full on implosion isn’t too far-fetched. If North Carolina is 2-7 when they begin their final three games of the season, all games they could potentially lose as well, the cries for Fedora’s job will ring louder than the victory bell Duke will be ringing for a third straight season.

Al Golden, Miami- It’s too early in the year to throw dirt on his grave, but he’s a lot closer to packing his bags than he is renewing that country club membership. Miami hasn’t won double-digit games in over a decade, Golden was supposed to fix that. Instead he’s lost two of his first three ACC games, in the process getting clubbed for a second straight year by Louisville, and losing to Georgia Tech for the first since 2008. They still have to play both Virginia schools on the road, and Florida State still comes Sun Life Stadium. At this point, Miami will be clawing to finish .500. Of course, it’s still possible they win this division. Possible though, doesn’t mean likely.

Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia- At 3-2, the Mountaineers are one win away from equaling last year’s total, so they’re showing a great deal of progress, especially when you consider their losses were respectable showings against Alabama and Oklahoma. But when you consider the program hadn’t lost more than 4 games in a season for seven consecutive season before Holgorsen’s taking over as head coach, “improvement” may not be enough. West Virginia fans are mad they ever fell far enough that finishing .500 was indicative of improvement. Obviously the change in conference had a lot to do with that, but TCU seems to have adapted quite nicely in this, their third season in the Big 12. Unfortunately for West Virginia, their home conference schedule drew Oklahoma, Baylor, TCU, and Kansas State, the toughest teams in the league. So the road schedule is where the majority of their winnable games lie. Finding three more wins on this schedule is tough, and without them, finding Holgorsen here in 2015 seems equally as tough.

Paul Rhoads, Iowa State- I’ve been championing Iowa State as a team that’s better than their record indicates, but at 1-4, at the end of the day, you are what your record says you are. Rhoads won seven games his first year in Ames, and then proceeded to lose seven in each of the next three seasons before slipping to 3-9 last year. As they enter the second half of the season, 3-9 seems a lot more likely than 6-7. Having Kansas, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Texas and Toledo left on the schedule though does leave hope that they can find six wins, but it’s a flickering hope that’s fading fast. Winning all five of those is beyond daunting, but not as daunting as beating Oklahoma or TCU seems at this point. Rhoads isn’t packing his bags yet though because there is still hope. Lose at home to Toledo on homecoming though, and the hope is gone.

Bill Blankenship, Tulsa- The only reason I don’t have him as effectively gone is that I don’t have as much access to people in the know with the Tulsa program to know exactly what the mindset is over there. What I do know is he’s taken a team that was 11-3 two years into his reign, and just two years ago, and turned them overnight into a 3-9 squad. He’s turned that 3-9 squad into a team who has started this season 1-4, the only victory coming over a Tulane team who has only managed to beat SE Louisiana to this point. Tulsa lost by 29 to Florida Atlantic, and by 25 to Colorado State. They’re not even competitive with the solid mid major programs anymore. It’s becoming more and more apparent that the success achieved in 2012 was due far more to Todd Graham than it was Bill Blankenship. Memphis, Central Florida, and East Carolina still remain on this year’s schedule, making returning to a bowl less and less likely. What is likely is a return to 3-9, or worse. If that happens, the Golden Hurricane will be searching for a new coach. If they don’t win at Temple, and at home against South Florida in the next two weeks to get back to 3-4, I’d wager Blankenship is as good as gone.

Norm Chow, Hawaii- Does this need explanation? 3-9, 1-11, and now, 1-4. Yes, they were competitive against Washington, Oregon State and Colorado. But Northern Iowa was competitive against them, and they lost by two touchdowns to Rice. Chow was brought in because of his offensive prowess. His offenses have averaged 21.2, and 27.4 points per game. This season, they’ve scored 16 or less in three of their five games. They play three of their next four at home. If they don’t go at least split their next four, the writing will be on the wall. Really however, they need to take three of the next four.

Renew the Country Club Membership One More Year:

Randy Edsall, Maryland- If the Terps really wanted to make a change, it would have been done prior to moving into the Big Ten, so for Edsall to be fired, Maryland would have had to absolutely fall apart this year. That hasn’t happened. But Ohio State’s dominating victory at Byrd Stadium showed just how far Maryland is from really being competitive in the conference. With Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan State still on the schedule, getting more than 7 wins this year seems a very tall task, so Edsall will enter next year with a warm seat and expectations of improvement.

Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech- The way things look, not only can Johnson renew that membership for another year, he can go ahead and put himself down for several. Much to the chagrin of many Tech fans, myself included, it appears Paul Johnson is safe, and getting safer. Suddenly, this team who struggled with Wofford and needed a miracle to beat Georgia Southern (a far better team than initially credited for) is in complete control of the ACC Coastal division. At 5-0, barring a complete collapse, Johnson has assured himself of returning for at least one more year. If he wins the division, he probably buys three more.

Mike London, Virginia- No coach needed a fast start more than Mike London. At 4-2, with narrow losses to two ranked teams (at the time BYU was ranked, and with an all stars candidate quarterback) Virginia has shown the marked improvement that they had to show to give London any chance at keeping his job. However, he’s not out of the woods yet. The schedule does him no favors. Four of the next six are on the road, and all but one are divisional foes that were picked ahead of them in the pre-season. The only non divisional opponent is Florida State. In other words, even a bowl isn’t a guarantee at this point. While I don’t foresee them collapsing to that degree, finishing around 6-6, or 7-5 is still very, very possible, and that’s only going to buy London one more year. On the flip side, it’s also almost equally as likely they finish 8-4 or 9-3, and that, that would buy him a good deal of rope.

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Potential Bad Weather Doesn’t Bode Well for Georgia Tech

The monumental task the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are facing as they open up the 2012 season is probably about to get even harder. The forecast calls scattered thunderstorms throughout the evening in Blacksburg (stop me if you’ve seen this script before) that could greatly impact the season, ACC, and division opener for the only two teams to ever win the ACC Coastal division.

The Yellow Jackets entire tonights game trying to erase the memory of last season’s melt down towards the end of the year where a 7-2 Yellow Jacket squad, poised to play in its second ACC title game in three years lost three of it’s last four games, including one to Virginia Tech, essentially wrapping up the division race.

Many will say the turning point in Georgia Tech’s season last year came against Virginia Tech, in a game Georgia Tech, then ranked 20th in the nation, led 26-21 late in the third quarter. However, an egregious personal foul committed by Yellow Jacket linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu extended a Virginia Tech drive that should have already been over. The result? The Hokies scored 16 unanswered points and held the Yellow Jackets to just one yard over their final three drives in coming back for a 37-26 victory in Atlanta.

Clearly, the first task for Georgia Tech tonight will be to slow down Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas. Thomas blistered the Yellow Jackets defense a year ago, as the Hokies racked up 476 yards of offense, the highest amount surrendered by the Jackets all season. Of those 476, 209 came through the air, on just seven completions. Somehow Georgia Tech must find an answer.

That answer may not come so much from Al Groh finding solutions on his defense, though he does have six starters back and reason for optimism, but rather what the Hokies do not return on the offensive side of the football.

Yes, Logan Thomas returns to run the show, but Danny Coale and Jarrell Boykin, who combined for 121 receptions, over half of the teams total, do not. It’s not as though there’s a complete void behind those two though. Marcus Davis averaged 17 yards per catch last year as the third option. At 6’4 228 lbs Davis poses serious matchup problems for the Georgia Tech secondary, which was supposed to be returning essentially four starters. However, two expected starters will not play tonight for the Jackets. Cornerback Louis Young is serving a suspension, and safety Fred Holton is injured. Some young, and inexperienced players in that secondary will be thrown to the fire. Where over the summer it appeared that perhaps the Yellow Jacket secondary would match up well with the new receiving corps in Virginia Tech, that advantage no longer looks so much in Georgia Tech’s favor.

One glimmer of hope however, and one that cannot be understated, is the amount of inexperience along the Virginia Tech offensive line. The starting unit only brings back center Andrew Miller from last year’s team that rushed for 187 yards per game while allowing just 17 sacks. Fitting in four new starters to open a season rarely works well, for anyone. Georgia Tech must find a way to take advantage of this.

A lot of whether or not Georgia Tech can make the most of the greeness of the Virgina Tech front five will rest on T.J. Barnes, the 345 lb senior nosetackle that people keep waiting on to deliver. In all fairness it’s not just Barnes, the entire defensive line has been an underachieving unit ever since Derrick Morgan left campus to go play in the NFL.

Last season Georgia Tech allowed 179 rushing yards on a 4.9 yards per carry average in league games, a number that must be reduced significantly for this team to come close to reaching its goals, and to have a chance to beat Virginia Tech tonight. The defense did generate 22 sacks, which while not eye popping, isn’t terrible. Unless you take into consideration that 11 of them came in two games Western Carolina and North Carolina. 11 sacks in the other 11 games? Now that, that is indeed terrible.

Georgia Tech’s defense has more experience than the Virginia Tech offense, for sure, but can it capitalize on that? Can it find a way to slow down one man wrecking crew Logan Thomas? If it can, Georgia Tech will absolutely be in this football game in the fourth quarter. If….

If… as always seems to be the lead story with Georgia Tech, the offense clicks. The Jackets offense is based heavily on timing and perfect execution as opposed to superior talent, so one would think it’s an offense that would sputter at the outset of a year and then pick up steam as the season wore on. Quite contraire.

After their 768 yard outburst against Kansas in the third game of the 2011 season, Georgia Tech’s offense proceeded to post totals, succesively, of 496, 413, 386, 296, and finally 211 yards against Miami as each week the offense was less and less productive. So perhaps getting the Hokies early isn’t so bad.

Georgia Tech does have one huge advantage on the offensive side of the ball, and it’s the return of four starters on the offensie line. In addition, Paul Johnson likes his depth up front so much that you can expect a steady rotation along the offensive line, which in effect, theoretically should help the offense wear down an opponent as the game goes on.

Benefitting most of course from the offensive line will be A-Back Orwin Smith, who despite battling injury problems as the year closed, still racked up nearly 1,300 all purpose yards and averaged over 10 yards a carry.

Of course, it’s not really the running game that overly concerns Georgia Tech people, it’s the lack of a passing game. Tevin Washington completely less than half his passes last season for just 11 touchdowns while throwing 8 interceptions. All this while he had high NFL draft pick Stephen Hill outside.

With Hill gone, a new threat must emerge, and fortunately for the Jackets a couple options present themselves. Sophomores Jeff Greene and Darren Waller, along with junior Jeremy Moore give Tech three targets that all stand 6’3 or taller, so there are some intriguing options.

The other question will be how short is Washington’s leash? Redshirt freshmen Vad Lee is, as is often the case with the backup quarterback, perhaps the most popular Georgia Tech player in the blogosphere. Washington’s first struggles with have the Yellow Jacket faithful clamoring for Lee.

The biggest issue facing the Georgia Tech offense tonight however is simply though, the other teams defense. Last year Georgia Tech allowed just 13 sacks. However, five of those sacks came courtesy of the Virginia Tech defense, a defense that brings back nine starters. Worse for Tech, of the 41 sacks registered by Virginia Tech a year ago, those responsible for all 41 will be back on the field this Friday night as well.

If there’s any shred of silver lining it’s that the two new starters will be at safety, a position of great importance when defending the option. If you remember in 2009 against Virginia Tech, it was Paul Johnson’s adjustment on how to block the Hokies safeties that ignited his offense. The safeties must be disciplined against the option, or they can quickly allow big plays, and few offenses in the country of put up big plays like Georgia Tech has under Johnson.

Sophomores Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett will man the safety spots for Virginia Tech, and both got a good deal of playing time a year ago. However, it’s a lot different when the lights go on for a nationally televised season opener that essentially could have your season decided before you even play your second game.

The last factor, and quite possibly the wildcard in all of this, is the aforementioned weather. Georgia Tech’s offense is heavily predicated on ball handling, and deception. Slick ball handling while playing with a wet football on a wet surface can be disastrous.

Georgia Tech will have to be careful with the football, especially Tevin Washington. Running an option offense in downpour conditions is far less than ideal. One advantage an offense may typically have in such conditions is that because of the poor footing, knowing where they are going and forcing a defense to react puts the offense in better shape. However, the key to defending Georgia Tech’s offense is just the opposite. You don’t read and react, you play you responsibility. So in many ways, the defense, they too know exactly where they need to be, so that potential edge is wiped out for the Yellow Jackets.

When all is said and done, Georgia Tech fans should feel good if this team goes up to Blacksburg and is still in the game in the fourth quarter. The Hokies stellar defense, the weather, and that Logan Thomas guy, not to mention the Lane Stadium environment, make it seem like the result is enevitable.

Then again, that’s precisely when Paul Johnson’s squad likes to surprise you.

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