(Old journalism training: Lead with your best stuff.)
Two games into its ACC title defense, Georgia Tech improbably lost to Kansas last year, setting the tone for a 6-7 season that concluded with a loss in the Independence Bowl.
Maybe lower expectations and residing miles from the spotlight will help this season.
The Jackets, picked to finish only fourth in the Coastal Division in a preseason media poll, have a schedule that should — should — allow them to start at least 3-0 this season. They open tonight against Western Carolina at Bobby Dodd Stadium, then travel to Middle Tennessee State on Sept 10 and return home against Kansas (grudge match!) a week later. Then comes eight straight conference games, starting with North Carolina.
Season projections? Hard to say. The Jackets have talent but their young and inexperienced. There are three new starters on the offensive line, four new starters in the secondary and a new starting quarterback (Tevin Washington) operating the option offense.
But if this team can avoid the listless, spaced-out moments we witnessed a year ago, it would be an improvement over last year’s underachieving bunch.
Tonight also is the team’s first chance to vent its emotions (on the field) for the first time since the NCAA stripped the program of its ACC title for obstructing an investigation into impermissible benefits given to two players.
“I want to see us play hard, I want to see us execute,” coach Paul Johnson said when asked about tonight’s game (against his alma mater). “You know, there’s just a lot of areas. Just being ready to play and playing with an attitude that we’re looking for.”
Anyway, this one shouldn’t be close. Western Carolina never has beaten an ACC team (0-26). The Jackets are 41-1-3 all-time against Southern Conference teams, including 4-0 against WCU.
Mostly worth watching tonight is the play of quarterbacks Washington and Synjyn Days and the defense (in its second season under Al Groh).
That’s all I’ve got for now. This game can be viewed only online at ESPN3.com and heard on the radio at 106.7 FM (with the sultry tones of my pal, Wes Durham). Don’t know how much I’ll do in the way of live blogging but you can comment here on the actions and I’ll provide occasional updates and answer your questions when I can break away.
Until then, it’s college football time! Back soon.
By Jeff Schultz