Welcome to Opportunity Night.
Georgia Tech’s ability to become a national program is dependent in part on the ACC’s ability to develop elite teams and elevate itself significantly higher than it has been this season. But the Yellow Jackets never will have a better opportunity to take hold of their local rivalry.
Georgia fans don’t want to hear that. They view the Jackets’ 45-42 win last season and their ensuing hedge assault in Athens as some sort of aberration. All evidence is to the contrary.
This season has confirmed what we suspected last season: Tech is a program on the rise and Georgia is the one sliding. The Jackets are scrambling to keep their head coach, Paul Johnson. Mark Richt is not in trouble at Georgia but is expected to make changes to his staff.
Even if Tech had beaten Miami earlier this season and was entering tonight’s game undefeated, there’s a pretty good chance it would rank no higher than fourth in the polls, behind Florida, Alabama and Texas. That’s because of perceptions of the ACC. The Jackets would be sitting in that cluster with TCU, Cincinnati and Boise State, screaming for a playoff.
But let’s focus on the local landscape for now. The Bulldogs won seven straight games in this series (2001-07) before last season, and 14 of the last 17. But what happened last season at Sanford Stadium was not a fluke. If the Jackets win tonight, it also won’t be a fluke (they’re favored by 7 1/2).
The 2010 season is months away. But Georgia probably will be starting a freshman quarterback and Tech will return Josh Nesbitt and a blur of running backs in an offense that just keeps getting better. If you had to guess right now, which school do you suppose is going to be favored when the teams meet again next season?
This is Tech’s chance. It is the cliche statement game. Nationally, the Jackets certainly can make this a special season and say something about the program by defeating Clemson in next week’s ACC championship game and then winning the Orange Bowl. But closer to home, this is their chance to take charge locally.
Tonight’s game comes down to one thing for me: I don’t think Georgia’s defense can stop the Tech offense. The Jackets’ have defensive liabilities but I don’t see the Bulldogs matching the Jackets when they have the ball.
Do you agree? Weigh in and I’ll be back shortly.