Predicting Georgia Tech’s season: Fast start, tough finish

Demaryius Thomas, Jonathan Dwyer and Morgan Burnett helped lead Georgia Tech to the ACC championship, but they're all in the NFL now. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Demaryius Thomas, Jonathan Dwyer and Morgan Burnett helped lead Georgia Tech to the ACC championship, but they're all in the NFL now. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Here’s another sneak peek at a column that will appear in print in this Sunday’s special AJC College Football Section. The 34-page section will preview Georgia State, Georgia Tech and UGA seasons, the SEC and ACC, top games, Heisman candidates and more. Today, we look at Georgia Tech’s schedule, predicting the Yellow Jackets’ season, game by game. Previously posted: Mark Richt feels Georgia is poised for a bounce-back season.

Paul Johnson has won more games in his first two seasons than any Georgia Tech coach in history. It’s just the ending that he’s having trouble with. Despite going 20-7 with an ACC title, Johnson’s Yellow Jackets have been thumped in consecutive bowl games by LSU (38-3 in the Chick-fil-A) and Iowa (24-14 in the Orange).

Endings also could be the issue this season. With the way the schedule lays out, it’s conceivable the Jackets will win their first eight games before hitting a wall (at Virginia Tech, Miami and at Georgia among the last four opponents). The other question: Will losing four top players — Demaryius Thomas, Jonathan Dwyer, Derrick Morgan, Morgan Burnett — to the NFL have a significant impact?

Here we go . . .

Sept. 4, South Carolina State: Smaller programs schedule these games to give their players the “experience” of playing a BCS conference school. Wonder how often the trip (and the money) actually seemed worth it. South Carolina State is 20-5 in the last two seasons but was slammed by Clemson, 54-0, in 2008 and South Carolina, 38-14, last season. This won’t be any different. Prediction: Jackets win.

Sept. 11, at Kansas: The Jackets defeated Kansas in the 1947 Orange Bowl. There shouldn’t be much of a hangover. This match-up looked more daunting years ago when the Jayhawks went 12-1 in 2007, but they slid to 5-7 last year, leading to the exit of the combustible Mark Mangino (also accused of verbal abuse of players). New coach Turner Gill will do a nice job. But he might’ve best summed things up when asked who the fastest guy was during spring practice: “Me.” Prediction: Jackets win.

Sept. 18, at North Carolina: Coach Butch Davis annually has one of the nation’s top defensive teams again but that hasn’t done much for the bottom line. He’s 11-13 in the three ACC seasons. Optimism is high in Chapel Hill, but another anemic offense could leave the Heels in the Meineke Car Care Bowl again. They just can’t score enough to beat the Jackets. Prediction: Jackets win.

Sept. 25, North Carolina State: Tom O’Brien has done worst than Davis in his three seasons (16-21, 9-15). The difference: He has beaten UNC three straight seasons. That will buy you some love (and time) in Raleigh. Besides, he inherited a kind of a mess from Chuck Amato. It says here the Wolfpack will be better than some people think this season, but they’re too weak up front defensively to stop Tech. Prediction: Jackets win.

Oct 2, at Wake Forest: It took a gutsy call in overtime – a one-yard run by quarterback Joshua Nesbitt on fourth down, which set up a touchdown run – for Tech to escape with a win over Wake last season. But as good a coach as Jim Grobe is, the Demon Deacons’ roster is devoid of experience and talent. Their win totals the last four seasons: 11-9-8-5. It won’t take overtime this season. Prediction: Jackets win.

Oct. 9, Virginia: There’s an upside for Al Groh to getting fired at Virginia. OK, so he went 5-11 in the ACC in his last two seasons, and recruiting dropped off a cliff. But now he gets to punch Virginia in the nose from the other sideline. The Cavaliers are bad, really bad. They’ll likely finish behind Duke in the Coastal Division. New coach Mike London won at the FCS level (Richmond), but he has little to work with now. Prediction: Jackets win.

Oct. 16, Middle Tennessee State: This is what Paul Johnson doesn’t want to do before the Middle Tennessee State game: Phone Ralph Friedgen for advice. Maryland has lost to the Blue Raiders the last two seasons. MTSU has a nice program for the Sun Belt. But if the Jackets struggle here, forget about the difficult final stretch because it won’t matter. This needs to be a tuneup game. Prediction: Jackets win.

Oct. 23, at Clemson: The Jackets won two meetings last season (regular season and ACC title game) by a total of eight points. Nonetheless, coach Dabo Swinney’s contract was bumped up from $800,000 to $1.8 million. The extra million should ease the pain of losing C.J. Spiller to the NFL but it won’t help the team. Don’t be surprised if the Tigers take a step back, although having quarterback Kyle Parker back (after he declined to sign a baseball contract with Colorado) helps. This likely will be a pivotal game for both teams in the ACC. Prediction: Jackets win.

Nov. 4, at Virginia Tech: The Hokies aren’t imploding. But they went 27-5 (.844) in their first four ACC seasons and 11-5 (.687) in the last two, so clearly the conference has caught up to them. Consecutive losses to Tech and North Carolina (at home) were telling. But this season they get the Jackets in Blacksburg and following a bye week following the Duke game, and an offense led by quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running backs Ryan Williams and Darren Evans (out last year with a torn ACL) should be potent. Prediction: Jackets lose.

Nov. 13, Miami: The Hurricanes looked like a BCS bowl team at times last season (wins over Oklahoma and Georgia Tech) but a young team looking for an identity at others (losses to North Carolina and Clemson and a 31-7 blowout to Virginia Tech). But Miami, led by QB Jacory Harris and a solid and aggressive defense, is solid, even if coach Randy Shannon inexplicably hasn’t completely won over the fan base. This could be your ACC champion. Prediction: Jackets lose.

Nov. 20, Duke: Don’t take this as a suggestion Duke is going to the ACC title game, but coach David Cutcliffe has won almost as many games in the last two seasons (nine) than the Duke program had won in the previous eight (10). With touted sophomore quarterback Sean Renfree, the Blue Devils will be just good enough to scare you. But no – no upset here. Prediction: Jackets win.

Nov. 27, at Georgia: Paul Johnson pulled off an upset “Between the Hedges” in year one and then, at 10-1, laid an egg at home against the 6-5 Bulldogs last season. So predictions seem futile. But here goes: The game goes to the home team. Dogs’ defense improves enough under Todd Grantham to slow the option and Georgia wins a low-scoring game. Prediction: Jackets lose.

Previous posts:

Contest unveiled: Here’s your chance to ‘Sack Schultz’: Just pick the winners

Richt believes Georgia is poised for a bounce-back season

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

178 comments Add your comment

Glory Glory

August 27th, 2010
3:18 pm

First.

And Tech SUCKS

Georgia Tech and Zombies!!!!!

August 27th, 2010
3:19 pm

What do Georgia Tech “fans” and UGA fans have in common??

Both are OBSESSED with any and all news coming out of Athens, GA.

Tim Tebow's Tears

August 27th, 2010
3:21 pm

Tech won’t lose to UGA. Bank on it

Animal Control Officer

August 27th, 2010
3:23 pm

Agree with all except Miami and ugay

Tim Tebow's Tears

August 27th, 2010
3:24 pm

I wonder what Washaun was doing up at 5am? Probably studying. Yea that’s it.

Animal Control Officer

August 27th, 2010
3:24 pm

What do Georgia Tech fans and UGA fans have in common you ask?

Neither go to uga

Glory Glory

August 27th, 2010
3:25 pm

Chances are, Joshua “don’t call me Josh, cause I’m a big boy now” Nesbitt will get a nice skull-thumping early in the season. Then you Nerds will get a sneak preview of how Tech will fare with ONLY PJ’s recruits.

And it’s going to be hillarious!!!!

GT Alum

August 27th, 2010
3:27 pm

Nice quote by Gill. Being faster than his players was never something Mangino had to worry about.

Tim Tebow's Tears

August 27th, 2010
3:27 pm

Haha dilusional UGAy fan Glory Glory with a bold, yet misinformed prediction. The great thing about the system is anyone can do well in it. Remember Jaybo getting key 3rd down conversions 2 years ago? Enough said. Loser

JACKETNATION BABY

August 27th, 2010
3:27 pm

VT blanks sheep and Beamer will cry once again, boo hoo, Foster won’t know what the blank is going on…and Miami talks a big game, great recruits like ugay, but will choke for the 5th out of 6th time we have played them

chuckster

August 27th, 2010
3:27 pm

NO WAY that GT beats Clemson in Death Valley this season. GT has had their number since the butt-whipping a few years ago when ESPN College GameDay was at Clemson, but the Tigers have much more talent on the roster. It’s the Jimmys and the Joes, not the x’s and the o’s…

PJFAN75

August 27th, 2010
3:28 pm

Will UGA even have players left by the Thanksgiving? Been averaging an arrest a week for a while now.

Timmy

August 27th, 2010
3:28 pm

Robert Hall,

why can’t your program just accept your impending victory of the Fulmer Cup with dignity and pride? Oh that’s right…if you had any, you wouldn’t have recruited all of those thugs to begin with. Richt may be a great guy off the field, but let’s face it: he takes the Barry Switzer approach and turns the other cheek to what his players do.

Mettenberger of UGA

August 27th, 2010
3:28 pm

Tell him if he needs tips on beating the tar out of a woman, give me a call. And tell him not to worry, it’s only worth a 1 game suspension.

Tell Zack Mettenberger to stay away from bars and wild woman.I am TRUE REDNECK. Moron UGA fans, got to love them.

Georgia State Runs Your City

August 27th, 2010
3:29 pm

5 short years fromnow, Atlanta will be much more associated with Georgia State football, and nobody except you snobby little geeks at Tech, will give a damn about Tech football.

Keep telling people how you are superior, and how your academics are so hard, and that if you don’t aspire to be a socially awkward engineer that you fail at life. The recruits will take note, and allwho wish to have the Downtown Atlanta experience will go to State.

TO HELL WITH GEORGIA TECH

Chan Gaily

August 27th, 2010
3:30 pm

Miss me yet?…you will trust me

Burdell

August 27th, 2010
3:31 pm

Anyone else notice the irony of posts #1,2 and 4 (all by glory obviously) on an article written about Georgia Tech football?

Too funny. Only time will tell how the Jackets will fare this season…and it’s getting close folks. Less than 8 days until toe meets leather!!

GO JACKETS!!!

Timmy

August 27th, 2010
3:32 pm

LOL Georgia State football? That’s going to work well…just like Georgia State basketball is such a big hit. Seriously…you reside right in downtown in a black city and no one wants to come to your basketball games. It’s not going to be any better in football. At best, you end up like Tulane – playing in a pro city and an empty dome against teams nobody cares about.

GT runs over your Cow town

August 27th, 2010
3:33 pm

GA State will never be on the same level as the Jackets. Wishful thinking Rednecks. But that was a good laugh. Socially awkward engineer? Umm Engineers are pretty intelligent but not awkward. BTW, they make good pay.

Dawg House

August 27th, 2010
3:34 pm

HA!!!!!

You Tech morons act like Tech didn;t recruit ANY of the players that have found themselves in trouble…..

go take a look at Scout.com, and you will notice that every single player, each had an offer from Tech as well as UGA.

Double edged sword when you want to talk about how UGA recruits “Thugs” (if “thug” is defined as vehicle violations and underaged drinking). That’s a debate you don’t want to start, because you will lose.

GT Alum

August 27th, 2010
3:34 pm

Schultz, how can you pick the trembling chihuahuas over Tech? Don’t you know your the official Dawg-hater and Jacket-lover for the AJC?

GT Alum

August 27th, 2010
3:36 pm

Georgia Tech and Zombies!!!!! -

Ironic that you make that comment on a blog posting about Tech’s upcoming season where the first 2 comments are from puppies.

wasssssssup

August 27th, 2010
3:36 pm

Enter your comments here

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Destin Dawg

August 27th, 2010
3:38 pm

this is an article about GT”s upcoming season and all the Techies are talkiing about ??? the great Bull Dawgs… I LOVE it… Go Dawgs !!!!

Timmy

August 27th, 2010
3:38 pm

Dawg house,

The difference is that there thug activity was encouraged by UGA…even your own [former] athletic director indulged in it. They knew they would fit right in.

RE: Zombies Moron

August 27th, 2010
3:39 pm

Whose article is this? Tech’s, right? What are you doing here? How is it that UGA fans are here for the first couple postings? Oh, I see, working the night shift at the Waffle House today. Great hashbrowns though…

Burdell

August 27th, 2010
3:40 pm

Destin Dawg— lay off the Friday PM post-golf cocktails and re-read the comments…they are all from Dawgs…dolt.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Destin Dawg

August 27th, 2010
3:45 pm

hit a car in a parking garage ???? happened to me in a church parking lot.. news must really be slow… hardly a “hit and run”… no injuries. no alcohol, no drugs/ weapons …. dumb for sure.. but nothing really bad ???

GT Alum

August 27th, 2010
3:45 pm

Destin Dawg, maybe that’s because 3 of the first 4 posters on here were puppies trying to stir something up. Who’s obsessed with whom?:

The Varsity, Downtown Atlanta

August 27th, 2010
3:46 pm

Dear Tech Tailgaters…. all 7 or 8 of you.

Please refrain from leaving your empty asthma inhalers in our upper deck parking lot before your home games. Also, we will not be providing security escorts to get you safely from our parking lot to your “stadium”. You are going to have to deal with the muggers yourselves this year. Finally, please do not add extra sugar to your frosted oranges. We all know you nerds love getting a nice sugar buzz, but last time y’all did this one of you stuck your bare chest against the building’s window, scaring a group of girlscouts on their way to the World of Coke.

Thank you for cooperating… you stupid geeks.

The Varsity

GT Alum

August 27th, 2010
3:49 pm

Destin Dawg, you’re right, it’s stupid, but it’s not like it’s seriously going to impact his career or the TCs season. But, with how many UGA (sic) players have been arrested, investigated, suspended, kicked off the team, etc, every incident is now an excuse to pile on. Not saying it’s something I would engage in, but is it really all that unexpected or unfathomable?

Burdell

August 27th, 2010
3:50 pm

Desitin Dawg–too many PBRs on the public course today?

Give me a break. Glory/Zombies/RobertHall is the ONE that is obsessed…how many handles can one guy try to hide behind?

Burdell

August 27th, 2010
3:51 pm

Schultz can access the IP addresses…please Jeff do tell…

@WreckBuZZ

August 27th, 2010
3:51 pm

You know, I’ve finally come around to the Dawg fans way of thinking. UGA DOES have a an advantage on the depth chart

GEORGIA TECH
Arrested: Robert Hall

GEORGIA
Arrested: Washaun Ealey, Zach Mettenberger, Montez Robinson, Trent Dittmer, Dontavious Jackson, Tavarres King, Josh Parrish, Jordan Love

GT Alum

August 27th, 2010
3:52 pm

I hope we do well this year. I am sick and tired of losing. We don’t get the players like other schools, and it makes me sick. I think we will do well because our schedule is easy. South Carolina State, Kansas, UNC, NC State, Wake, Virginia, Middle Tenn State, and Clemson. We have a very easy schedule. We should be fine. I mean if we had to play a real schedule we would be hurting. I think PJ has things under control. GOOOO TECH

Burdell

August 27th, 2010
3:54 pm

Robert Hall = charges dropped

But don’t let facts get in your way….

KC in Smyrna

August 27th, 2010
3:54 pm

Jeff, 9-3 is acceptable the way you laid it out. My thoughts are slightly different. If GT runs off the first 8 games, I doubt we’d finish up 1-3. Momentum is a beast. Nesbitt won’t allow 8 straight wins to crash and burn like that. This is his chance to put his name next to Joe Ham’s. 8-0 start, and we are going BCS again.

GTman

August 27th, 2010
3:59 pm

GT and Zombies – What a loser! We don’t give a s%#T about what comes out of Athens and I never waste my time on UGA blogs. Apparently you do care what is happening at GT.

VT game will be tough, but we beat Miami at home with no problem and we get the pups again this year in their house. Paul Johnson will once again refuse to take some hedge after the victory because “he’ll be back to put another ars whoopin on the dawgies in 2 years”.

THWG

GT Alum

August 27th, 2010
4:00 pm

I wish Nesbitt would be more accurate with his passes. He is not a real QB. He is just a big guy who runs a lot. We need more toughness on D. Like I said earlier, I am so thankful for our WEAK schedule.

wreckbone

August 27th, 2010
4:00 pm

I don’t think we will lose both of those ACC games. I admit, before I was not wanting to see the tough games. But with PJ at the helm, bring on, the stiffer the competition the better!

All you SEC folks talking smack about the ACC. Well looks like we got some teams now that may be pretty good. Time will tell.

And uh te fact that Ga State will have game sin the ga Dome does not propel their program to the heights of the BCS conferences. You my firend are wrong, Tech football will become more relevant. Especially if there is ever a playoff system for college football! UGA may have beaten Tech quite a bit since I’ve been a fan (’90). If that happens UGA does not want to see Tech in a football playoff!

Realist

August 27th, 2010
4:01 pm

How will Paul Johnson handle the heat if the Jackets lose the final four games of the season

GT Alum

August 27th, 2010
4:02 pm

Actually, most strength of schedule predictions for this season have Tech’s schedule being tougher than UGA’s (sic). And it would seem that’s the general perception, too. All the analysts are talking about how tough a schedule GT has to end the season, but how the Dawgs’ schedule is squeezably soft.

GT Alum

August 27th, 2010
4:03 pm

GT man – Let’s not piss off the pups. They did kick our trash last year. I mean we would of won if we could have caught the last pass. We need to be careful about what we say. The pups look good this year. Let’s trash talk after we beat them at their house this year.

Destin Dawg

August 27th, 2010
4:04 pm

Burdell that’s dumb name to hide behind…. we’ got rained out at Raven @ Sandestin… maybe martini’s later PBR.’s were 40 years ago…..

DawginLex

August 27th, 2010
4:08 pm

I don’t know about Miami Jeff. Coaching is just not there in my book.

I see 10-2. UNC could beat GT but I believe they are about to implode with the NCAA.

VT is my sleeper NT pick. Gotta take care of the potato boys first.

The mike bobo 17 interception idiot will have to take all the boise state stuff off of his ‘73 Pinto if that happens.

Unicorn

August 27th, 2010
4:13 pm

GT is like a Unicorn. They are mystical but still not relevant.

Destin Dawg

August 27th, 2010
4:15 pm

I think GT will only lose 2 and of course UGA will be one… so that should put ‘em in ACC championship vs. FSU?? Go jackets in all but one !!!!!!

clint castleberry

August 27th, 2010
4:16 pm

Glory, Glory to the dawgies….Glory, Glory to the dawgies….Glory, Glory to the dawgies, the CHAMPS OF CELL BLOCK 3.