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Know The Foe: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

After getting absolutely depantsed by BYU last season, the Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech will try to get revenge in Provo this year. Can BYU follow up with another impressive victory over a BCS league school?

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DANGER: Tech also knows how to DANCE
DANGER: Tech also knows how to DANCE

One of last season's brightest memories of a somewhat inconsistent season came in Atlanta, where a BYU squad snapped a two game losing streak, held the fearsome, dynamic rushing attack of Georgia Tech to a measly 117 yards, and flat out administered a good ol' fashion butt-whoopin, beating the Yellow Jackets 41-17, a score that would have been even more lopsided had Tech not scored via an interception return and a kickoff return. Many BYU fans have already preemptively played a check mark in the W column for the two school's rematch this season in Provo, but are we perhaps a titch too confident? Can the Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech avenge last season's embarrassment, or will the Cougars collect another belt notch against a BCS foe?

Who knows, it's August. But we'll attempt to dig a little deeper into what the Cougars are up against below.

I know how Georgia Tech did against BYU, but why don't you recap how their entire season went?

There are a couple of words that you could use to describe the 2012 Georgia Tech campaign. "Inconsistent" might be one. "Frustrating" could be another. Perhaps "Bipolar". You get what I'm saying.

Tech started off the season blowing a very winnable game on the road against then #16 ranked Va Tech (we didn't know yet that Va Tech was aggressively mediocre). They also took a good Miami team to overtime before losing, and gave Florida State everything it could handle in the ACC Title Game (which the Yellow Jackets slipped into because UNC and Miami were bowl banned). A few different bounces, and the Yellow Jackets might have been a 9 win team, well within the "Also Receiving Votes" crowd of a top 25 poll.

But in addition to getting clobbered by BYU, Tech also was destroyed by Middle Tennessee State (at home!), and lost to archrival Georgia by 32 points. Scanning those box scores would make you think that Tech wasn't very good at all. But this was a team that also hung 56 points on UVA (winning by over 30), hung 42 on a decent Duke squad, hung a ridiculous 68 on UNC (so they gave up 50...doesn't matter still won), and beat a very talented, if equally disinterested, USC team 21-7 in the Sun Bowl to finish with a 7-7 record.

Couple of bounces from being 9-3. Couple of bounces from not even making the postseason. I guess technically that averages out to being an "okay" season?

Whoa, they scored 68 points against a real college? In football? Should we be worried about their offense?

Yes. When they are clicking on all cylinders, there are few offenses in the country, even in the SEC, that are more dynamic, more potentially explosive, and more terrifying to opposing defenses as the option attack of a Paul Johnson Georgia Tech team. Granted, they're not always clicking on all cylinders (as those who watched the BYU/GaTech game last season can attest to), so they're certainly not invincible like 95 Nebraska or anything. The Yellow Jackets are going to run the ball though, and they're going to do it well.

It's kind of weird to get tangled up in returning starter box scores, since so many different players will carry the ball for Tech. The triggerman for the office will be returning sophomore Vad Lee, who saw playing time last season as a backup. Lee's 596 throwing yards last season won't set anyone's box score on fire, but remember, he isn't exactly playing in the Air Raid. Lee was a strong rushing threat last season, and has the potential to be a more capable passer out of the option offense than perhaps some other quarterbacks Tech has trotted out over the past few seasons.

Other ball carriers include the returning David Sims (612 yards) and Robert Godhigh (429 yards) and junior B.J. Bostic (212 yards), who should probably slide in as "starters", although Zach Laskey (team-best 697 yards), Tony Zenon (193 yards), Synjyn Davis (142 yards) should all get carries, and are capable of picking up a significant load if needed. The Tech backfield really does have nearly an embarrassment of depth, which should help mitigate the lack of it at wide receiver, where walk-ons may need to be called to contribute. When the factor in the fact that an offensive line with four returning starers, paced by left guard Will Jackson, who is capable of producing at an All-ACC level when healthy. This unit has the potential to be very, very good, or at least, good enough to make a lot of good teams in the ACC sweat.

Yeah, that's all well and good, but there is a reason this team lost 7 games last year, and it wasn't because they couldn't score. Tell me about the defense.

Maybe the biggest change on the defensive side of the ball isn't with a player at all, but on the coaching side. Tech has added former Yellow Jacket Ted Roof, formerly of Penn State and Auburn, to help patch up the leaky defense as the new defensive coordinator. Roof isn't likely to singlehandedly drive this unit from train wreck to superior, but his previous record does give Tech fans hope that he can at least help stop the bleeding.

The weak link to the Yellow Jacket defense appears to be their line, even though it includes senior end Jeremiah Attaochu, who had 10 sacks last season and could be an All-ACC player this year. The squad will be moving to a 4-3 defense this year, and mismatched personnel and low depth outside of Attaochu could make run defense a trickier proposition.

Tech returns Brandon Watts (77 tackles, 8.5 for loss) and junior Quayshawn Nealy (79 tackles) at linebacker, and Jemea Thomas (86 tackles) and Louis Young (32 tackles) at corner, and senior Isaiah Johnson (87 tackles) at safety, but could potentially have depth issues elsewhere if anybody gets hurt. Georgia Tech has the advantage of bringing back a lot of experienced talent, the question will be whether that talent can take the next step of consistency to bring this unit up. If they can, and everybody stays healthy, there could be some significant improvements.

Do you have any #hot #GeorgiaTech #trivia #takes?

I have a few! Many of you probably already know that Tech holds a critical place in college football history, beating hapless Cumberland College in the biggest blowout in the history of the sport, 222-0, in 1916. The head coach of the merciless Yellow Jacket squad? Some guy named John Heisman. There's a trophy named after him that you might have heard of. The reason for the beatdown? Cumberland had beaten Tech's baseball team 22-0 the year before, under the allegation of using ringers. The moral of the story? Don't mess with John Heisman.

In terms of famous graduates, Tech can claim former President Jimmy Carter, Jeff Foxworthy, Joe Rodgers Sr (the co-founder of Waffle House), EDSBS pen name Orson Swindle, and a slew of astronauts and other scientific luminaries that would be more significant to me if I majored in something useful, instead of Political Science.

In terms of sports, Tech can lay claim to Calvin Johnson, Tashard Choice in football, baseball's Kevin Brown, Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek, and Chris Bosh. That's not a bad list.

Are you saying that Georgia Tech is going to be better this season?

Some of the proverbial smartest guys in the room seem to think so. While preseason prediction maestro Phil Steele only has Tech as 3rd in their division, he did beg their potential as a surprise team, and as somebody who could make a return trip to the ACC Title Game. USA Today's Paul Myerberg lists Tech as the 35th best team in the country, and also believes they could be a sleeper in the ACC. You never know until you play the games, but on paper, Georgia Tech looks to be a lot better than teams like Houston, UVA or Nevada, schools that the BYU fanbase apparently thinks have a better chance to beat the Cougars than the Yellow Jackets. In the words of my good friend Admiral Ackbar, I think THAT'S A TRAP.

Should we start printing GEORGIA TECH ACC CHAMPS t-shirts yet? No. One big obstacle Tech has is their schedule. They might skip FSU during the regular season, but they have road games against Clemson and Miami, play what should be a good UNC team and Va Tech, and of course, travel to BYU AND play Georgia (who may have the most explosive offense in the entire country this season) to end the year. It feels weird saying a team that plays not one, but TWO FBS squads this season as having a tough schedule, but there you go. Getting to 8 wins this season would not be something to look down on.

How do you see this game going?

BYU does have some big advantages. First, the game is going to be in Provo, which is always a tougher place to play when you're traveling from the East. Georgia Tech draws the Cougars after an exceptionally tough stretch: UNC, Va Tech, @ Miami. There is a good chance they'll be a little beaten up, or at least emotionally drained, after those three games, and BYU might be able to pounce early in the game. The Cougars previous opponents, by comparison, are MTSU and Utah State, squads that could still beat the Cougars, but not nearly as daunting.

The key to stopped an option based attack is playing very disciplined, assignment driven football, and tackling well in space. BYU should be able to do those things well, just like they did during last year's game. I'm not sure the Cougars are as well equipped to battle in a 55-50 type game, but if they're able to stake out an early lead, they could still squeeze out a victory, albeit one with likely a much smaller margin than last year.

I still think BYU will win this game, although if it wasn't at home, or at a different part of the schedule, I wouldn't feel bad about taking the Yellow Jackets. I encourage fans to overlook this game at your own risk. The Jackets are still more than capable of breaking off a few big plays and changing the game in a hurry, but I think I'll take BYU to win by 5.