MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – This is all you need to know about the relative cushy start of Georgia Tech’s schedule: For the second straight week, the Jackets’ game is being broadcast on ESPN3.com.
But maybe this is a good thing. The Jackets, who crushed Western Carolina 63-21 last week in the season opener, take a slight step up tonight against Middle Tennessee State. It’s not another FCS opponent but it is a Sun Belt team.
Theoretically, in the college football food chain, the Blue Raiders should be lunch. But they have caused fits for ACC teams before – wins over Maryland in the last two years, a near-upset of Al Groh’s Virginia team in 2007 – and some have tabbed this as an upset special. I guess that’s possible, but if the Jackets (11-point favorites) blow this game, it doesn’t project well for the ACC season.
The first five games on the Jackets’ schedule represent a general tick upward in perceived strength of opponents: Western Carolina, Middle Tennessee State, Kansas, North Carolina, North Carolina State. That’s probably good, given the Jackets’ youth. But personally, I like to see programs challenge itself a little more (while recognizing that others in the ACC and SEC do the same thing).
OK, a few items before turning it over to you:
• Tech quarterbacks Tevin Washington and Synjyn Days combined to throw for 365 yards and three touchdowns last week. Those numbers were a bit inflated. Two long Jackets touchdowns basically came when receivers stiff-armed defenders away and took off down the field. But it was still a positive sign for one of the nation’s worst passing offenses last season. Stephen Hill (four catches for 181 yards, two TDs) even was named ACC receiver of the week.
• Coach Paul Johnson has not yet pulled the redshirt off of touted freshman quarterback Vad Lee. If Washington and Days look strong today, the chances of Lee not playing this season go up significantly. So that’s something to watch.
• The Jackets had six fumbles (two lost) against Western Carolina. Five of those came on the quarterback-running back exchange. That’s one area Johnson has wanted to clean up after Tech ranked among the most fumbling teams in the nation last season.
That’s it for now. I say Tech wins this by two touchdowns. Back in a bit.
By Jeff Schultz