Hello. Are you up for a little history lesson tonight?
Georgia Tech will battle more than just the No. 4 team in the nation when it meets Virginia Tech in a key ACC Coastal Division game. The Yellow Jackets will try to reverse a trend that began, well, during the Lyndon Johnson and Bobby Dodd administrations.
Tech last defeated a top 5 team at home in 1962. The Jackets were unranked when they stunned coach Bear Bryant and No. 1 Alabama, 7-6. Little did they know that would be Tech’s last home upset of one of the nation’s elite for a while. Ready? Tech has gone 0-17-1 at home against top 5 teams since. The most recent meeting was a 14-10 loss to Notre Dame in 2006 at Bobby Dodd Stadium. (The lone tie, 3-3, in the 18-game streak came against Notre Dame in 1980.)
The flip side is Tech has beaten top 5 teams on the road more recently. The last coming only four seasons ago at No. 3 Miami, 14-10.
Here’s the list of Georgia Tech home games vs. No. 5 teams since 1962. Apologies for revisiting inglorious history. I’ll get to something more positive in a minute.
1962 Alabama (1) W 7-6 1964 Alabama (2) L 7-24 1971 Auburn(5) L 14-31 1973 USC (1) L 6-23 1974 Notre Dame (2) L 7-31 1976 Pittsburgh (3) L 14-42 1979 Alabama (2) L 6-30 1980 Notre Dame (1) T 3-3 1981 Georgia (3) L 7-44 1982 Alabama (4) L 7-45 1983 N.Carolina (5) L 21-38 1983 Auburn (5) L 13-31 1987 Auburn (5) L 10-20 1996 Florida St.(3) L 3-49 1997 N.Carolina (5) L 13-16 2000 Florida St.(2) L 21-26 2003 Georgia (5) L 17-24 2004 Miami (4) L 3-27 2006 Notre Dame (2) L 10-14
OK. That’s enough about the past. Let’s talk about tonight. I believe Georgia Tech has a real shot at an upset. The biggest reason is quarterback Josh Nesbitt. As I mentioned in a column earlier in the week, Nesbitt has not only rushed for 290 yards and five touchdowns in the last three games, he has completed 22 of 33 passes for 486 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He gives a run-dominated offense a dangerous passing option. Barring turnovers, that means this game is competitive.
The other big factor, obviously, is Tech’s ravaged defense. But the Jackets largely have been shredded by stronger passing teams, like Miami and Florida State. While Hokies quarterback Tyrod Taylor is good, he has not proven to be nearly on the level of Miami’s Jacory Harris or Florida State’s Christian Ponder.
When I spoke with Jackets coach Paul Johnson earlier in the week about the defense, he touched on all the familiar themes: “We’re not paying fast. We’re making too many mistakes. Sometimes we’re just getting beat but more times than not we’re our own worst enemy. So we have to simplify things and make sure guys understand what we’re trying to do. Any time there’s doubt in a guy’s mind, it’s hard to play fast.”
Does Johnson believe Tech will have to rely on its offense to outscore opponents the rest of the season?
“I don’t think so,” he said. “We may have to win some games like that. But we may have to win some, 10-7. You just never know which one it’s going to be. We’ll get it fixed. If I saw something I didn’t think we could fix, I’d be more worried.”
So that’s it. I’ll be back in a bit to start the live blogging but feel free to weigh in with your pregame thoughts.
The question of the night: Can Tech change history.
A couple of photos to help you get your game face on . . .