Paul Johnson told everybody who would listen last week that the Georgia game would not define Georgia Tech’s season. Now all he has to do is convince his players.
The Jackets won eight straight games and had a chance to finish the season with a top-5 ranking. But they blew that by losing at home to Georgia Saturday, 30-24, creating the ACC’s worst nightmare: a championship game between two teams, Tech and Clemson, coming off losses to pedestrian SEC teams. The ACC title game now matches No. 12 (Tech, which fell from seventh) vs. No. 25 (Clemson, which fell from 15th).
But the bigger issue for Johnson is making sure his players get past what just happened. This easily is the biggest defeat the Jackets must bounce back from since he took over. It’s bigger than last year’s loss at North Carolina, and the even the early season defeat at Miami.
Three years ago under Chan Gailey, the Jackets were 9-2, then collapsed and lost consecutive games to Georgia, Wake Forest (ACC title) and West Virginia (Gator Bowl) to close the season.
Asked about a potential hangover, Johnson said Sunday: “It’s always a concern. When you have a big game like that one and you come out on the wrong end, and certainly it was a game we all wanted to win and we took seriously, you have to turn the page. We talked about that for eight straight weeks [during a winning streak]. We talked about it in the locker room [Saturday] night. We have to move on. The regular season is over. We finished 10-2, and that’s better than a lot of people probably thought we could do. Now we have a chance to play for the conference championship. We’ve earned it. Now let’s go play.”
Those were the right words. We’ll find out about the actions soon enough. I’m inclined to think Tech will bounce back. Question: Are you confident the Jackets can avoid a collapse similar to the one we saw in 2006?