Georgia Tech showed up to play a football game Saturday night, wearing just its normal white road uniforms and gold helmets. Success, it seems, is dictated less by a program’s costumes than it is the athletes and the direction they’re moving in. Go figure.
We’ve seen for weeks how Tech and Georgia are moving in opposite directions. It hit home more than ever Saturday. The Jackets were not great at Vanderbilt. They actually found themselves trailing in the second half, 31-28, to an inferior team that had been averaging 8.7 points in its six losses. But Tech’s offense couldn’t be stopped. In the end, it pulled away. It’s what good teams do.
Georgia, meanwhile, hung with Florida for nearly a half, then self-destructed. It’s what bad teams do.
The differences between Tech and Georgia don’t stop there.
One team is 8-1 and may go to a BCS bowl. The other team is 4-4 and needs two wins just to qualify for Shreveport.
The Jackets have the confidence to come back in games, even when they’re not at their best. The Bulldogs lack confidence and resolve. Why? Because they’re soft, either mentally or physically, or possibly both.
The Jackets, to their advantage, are a reflection of their coach. The Bulldogs, to a disadvantage right now, are a reflection of theirs.
When Paul Johnson sees something he doesn’t like in a Georgia Tech game or a practice, he tells you, sometimes in short, stinging verbal jabs. (Saturday: “I’m disappointed in the way we started. We missed some tackles and that just killed us. They hit a ton of big plays.”) We assume Mark Richt sees many things he doesn’t like. But it sure would be nice to hear and see him breathe a little fire once in a while. Peel paint. Make everybody believe you’re as angry as they are.
Johnson has not been to an ACC championship game yet, but nobody doubts him. Richt has won two SEC championships, but doubters are increasing in large numbers.
Johnson has a defensive coordinator (Dave Wommack) that every Georgia Tech fan would like to drop from a roof top. But there’s a belief that the head coach will mandate improvement or make a change, friendship and loyalty notwithstanding. Richt has a defensive coordinator (Willie Martinez) that every Georgia fan would like to drop from a roof top. But there’s a concern that Richt will do nothing because he has done nothing before.
Georgia Tech has a quarterback, Josh Nesbitt, who is beginning to master his team’s option offense and has developed into a nice passing threat (two touchdown passes against Vanderbilt). Logic says he will be even better as a senior. Georgia doesn’t really have a quarterback. Richt’s plan was to use Joe Cox as a bridge to Aaron Murray and/or Zach Mettenberger next season. Cox might’ve been OK if he wasn’t surrounded by chaos. But he’s not going to make a bad team better. And now why should we assume either freshman will be ready next season?
Georgia has a wide receiver, A.J. Green, who has “NFL star” stamped on his forehead. He is 23rd in the nation in receiving yards (732) with 44 catches, six for touchdowns. Georgia Tech has a wide receiver, Demaryius Thomas, who for some reason nobody is talking about. Playing one more game, but in a run-dominated offense, he is ahead of Green and eighth in the nation in receiving yards (823) with 34 catches and five touchdowns.
Johnson calls every play in the Tech offense. The Jackets rank 17th in yardage and 12th in scoring in the nation. Mike Bobo calls most plays for Georgia, with Richt monitoring. The Dogs rank 97th in yardage and 73rd in scoring.
Tech is redefining the pecking order in the ACC, this year beating Florida State and Virginia Tech, last year beating Florida State and Miami and nearly winning in Blacksburg. Georgia has fallen to a distant fourth (maybe) in the SEC, behind Florida, Alabama and LSU.
In two seasons, Johnson has built a program. He is winning games. In the same two seasons, Richt has manufactured black jerseys, black pants and black helmets, while his program is in decline. He is losing games. Not difficult to tell which school is making the fashion statement.