Throughout August, we will be counting down the top 25 teams (as listed here)
going into the 2009 season. Today, travel to beautiful Atlanta, GA, which boasts the Georgia Dome, bad traffic, five Waffle House establishments, and a college with the best-looking, insect-related mascot in FBS college football.Â That’s saying something.
While the ACC’s ability to compete with other BCS conferences remains somewhat in question, there’s no question that this year’s race within the conference will be wide open.Â Though most publications go the safe route and pick Virginia Tech, there are really a handful of teams that could win the league; Georgia Tech is very quietly one of them.
The media drumbeat isn’t all that loud for Tech, primarily because Paul Johnson‘s arrival meant the beginning of a new era (or old era, depending on your point of view) of offense mostly robbed of any flashiness.Â However, despite predicted awkwardness in transitioning to the triple option in ’08, Johnson led the Yellow Jackets to a 9-4 record, which may have been the best coaching job all last season.Â Yes, his offense may seem boring and predictable, but unlike Chan Gailey‘s version of a boring and predictable scheme, it has an identity… and IT WORKED.
The Yellow Jackets will have their work cut out for them in navigating a schedule filled with quality opponents.Â But Coach Johnson proved in his first year that his offense can win games with the right personnel, and you’d have to think that the trend could continue in 2009.
Hello, Paul Johnson.Â The former Navy coach took over and switched the offense to a flexbone format led by Josh Nesbitt, who answered the call in a major way, passing/rushing for roughly 1,500 yards and 9 TDs from scrimmage.Â Then-sophmore RB Jonathan Dwyer benefited greatly from the shift in philosophy, rushing for nearly 1,400 yards and 12 TDs, but most importantly, averaging 7.0 yards per carry.Â The team, as a whole, reaped the rewards and put together a 9-4 season, including wins over Clemson, Florida State and Georgia (for the first time in seven years) and a trip to the Chic-Fil-A Bowl.
The team’s only losses came against Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia and LSU in the bowl game.Â So much for a throwaway, transition season, huh?
Much attention will be paid to quarterback Josh Nesbitt, but most people would agree that the true playmaker on offense is junior RB Jonathan Dwyer.Â For lack of better terms, Dwyer is a bowling ball with eyes — measuring out at 6’0″, 228 lbs — who figures to make yet another stride toward becoming a household name.Â But he’s not the only weapon.Â Paul Johnson will probably try and improve upon his team’s measly FIVE TD passes in 2008, meaning more looks for Demaryius Thomas.
Defensively, junior safety Morgan Burnett, who achieved All-American honors in ’08, figures to be a leader on defense, as well as a potential Jim Thorpe Award finalist.Â Beyond that, listen for names like Derrick Morgan, Sedric Griffin, and Dominique Reese, who should prosper at CB from the ACC’s lack of gamebreaking receivers. The question about this team headed into ’09 is its offensive line.Â We’ll see which names emerge.
In short, the tone for Tech’s season will be set over a three-week span starting on September 10th, when the Yellow Jackets host Clemson, travel to Miami, and then host North Carolina.Â But the schedule doesn’t quit there.Â Tech has schedule with depth in ’09, also traveling to Tallahassee, hosting Virginia Tech, traveling to Virginia, and hosting Georgia to close out the year.Â It will be no picnic getting back to nine wins.
Most of this team’s questions remain on the defensive side of the ball.Â Tech needs to find answers at the interior line in order to stop opponents in a conference that know how to run the football.Â If it can do this, then the sky’s the limit.Â This team has the pieces to win the ACC.
Georgia Tech has a certain charm to it now that it’s running the triple option.Â It is also a change of pace from every other team in the ACC, which absolutely makes it a thorn in everyone’s side.Â Look for the Yellow Jackets to have their best season since 1998.
Game Highlights Set To Young Jeezy