Paul Johnson says SEC’s superiority all about perceptions

Paul Johnson believes the SEC isn't the overwhelming beast it's made out to be. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Paul Johnson says the SEC isn't the overwhelming beast it's made out to be. (Johnny Crawford)

The same week that the top of the BCS rankings are punctuated with three SEC teams and the overwhelming shadow beast of Athens prepares to bring its football team to Georgia Tech, Paul Johnson said precisely what we’ve come to expect from him.

To capsulize his thoughts: Whatever.

Johnson, whose weekly news conferences can be relative standup comedy dotted with sarcastic jabs, was unusually low key Tuesday. But afterward, he addressed perceptions of the SEC’s Godzilla to the ACC’s Bambi, which filters down to the annual Georgia-Georgia Tech game. This subject has been one of Johnson’s pet peeves since he arrived at Tech in 2008 (and won at Georgia in his first season, after the Jackets had lost the previous seven in the series).

“It’s all perceptions,” Johnson said. “People will think what they’re going to think. There’s nothing I’m not going to do to change their mind.

“Personally, I think the conference thing is way overblown. How are you going to evaluate? Are you looking at the top two teams in the conference or are you going to take the conference as a whole? There’s four SEC-ACC games Saturday. Let’s see what happens. Who’s favored in the Clemson-South Carolina game? Who’s favored in the Florida-Florida State game? Wake-Vandy? I don’t know. But you see what I mean? Now, if we’re just talking about Alabama and LSU, that’s different.”

Johnson makes a point. While you can make a case that the SEC is the nation’s superior conference, the strength at the top – and certainly five consecutive BCS titles – exaggerates the differences between conferences from top to bottom. Not to diminish the accomplishments of Georgia during this nine-game winning streak, but even the most ardent Dogs supporter recognizes that the East Division is down this year.

Perceptions certainly play into this week. Johnson figures to milk this for all its worth to players. He’ll talk about how nobody’s giving Tech a chance, how Georgia’s already looking ahead to the SEC title game, how the Jackets have punched the Dogs in the mouth before and they certainly can do it again.

“Every coach does something,” he said, without getting specific. “You always take anything you can find or post, things that you think will get your guys ready to go.”

This is Johnson’s fourth season. Tech’s senior class is 34-17, including 1-2 against Georgia. In 2008, the Jackets won 45-42 as an underdog in Athens. In 2009, they lost 30-24 as a favorite in Atlanta. In 2010, as a 12½-point underdog in Athens, they accumulated 512 yards in offense but committed four turnovers and trailed 35-34 (on a missed extra-point attempt) until a touchdown by Washaun Ealey with 1:29 left.

The point being, there hasn’t been much difference between the two programs over the past three years.

Two years ago, Tech was where Georgia is at this week. The Dogs will pay for the SEC championship next week. In 2009, the Jackets had secured a spot in the ACC title game. The Georgia game was secondary in importance (as foreign a concept as that may be).

When asked if that played a role in the loss, Johnson said, “I don’t think that played into it at all. That was the week we had the NCAA [investigators] in here. That played into it a great deal. That played into it far more than [looking ahead to] the ACC championship.”

This year, there’s no question. This is Tech’s final game before a bowl. Johnson spent part of Tuesday reaffirming that while he thinks the Dogs are good, it’s not like Tech has been facing middle schools.

He was asked about the strength of the Dogs’ defensive line. He responded with some praise but added, “I don’t know. We’ve played some really good players. [North Carolina's] Quinton Coples is a first-round draft pick. [Clemson's] Brandon Thompson is a pretty good player. This won’t be the first good players we’ve seen.”

He was asked about Georgia tight end Orson Charles. He responded with some praise but added: “We’ve played against other tight ends who are really good. The tight end at Clemson [Dwayne Allen] is probably an early-round draft pick in the NFL.”

Johnson realizes his words won’t change perceptions. But the last thing you’re going to hear from him is any suggestion that his overshadowed program from the overshadowed conference can’t win Saturday. And, truth is, the past three meetings have affirmed as much.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

1,026 comments Add your comment

SatchelBuzz

November 22nd, 2011
3:49 pm

The team ugag will face on Saturday will be the best team they’ve played since the second week of the season.

Can’t wait!

THWG!!!

Finebalm

November 22nd, 2011
3:49 pm

You mean the year Tek was cheating they beat the Dawgs.

zgoldatl

November 22nd, 2011
3:49 pm

SatchelBuzz

November 22nd, 2011
3:50 pm

In CPJ we trust!!!

THWG!!!

Scarsdale

November 22nd, 2011
3:51 pm

Me like Georgie. Woof! Woof!

nickj0321

November 22nd, 2011
3:51 pm

Go Jackets!!! THWG!!!

Cousin Vicker

November 22nd, 2011
3:52 pm

I guarantee if Johnson ever got a job coaching an SEC school, he’d talk about how great it was to finally coach in the best conference in America. He’s an arrogant, obnoxious blowhard and when he voices his snarky little opinions, my response is the same as your one sentence second paragraph: whatever.

Finebalm

November 22nd, 2011
3:52 pm

Tek fans really think they have a great team this year. I wonder what they have been watching.

WaycrossDawg

November 22nd, 2011
3:52 pm

I would like to meet Coach Fish Fry just so I could punch him in the mouth!

Go Dawgs! 42-34 all year long! Keep it up Richt, 9 out of 10 vs. maggots!

robodawg

November 22nd, 2011
3:52 pm

“In 2009, the Jackets had secured a spot in the ACC title game. The Georgia game was secondary in importance.” That might be what CPJ says, but I’m not buying it.

FATPAUL

November 22nd, 2011
3:53 pm

Coach Johnson you have not seen a team with the size and speed UGA’s defense has! You better throw the ball or it’s going to be a long day!!!

Bill Clinton

November 22nd, 2011
3:53 pm

Tech is due.

Football Fan

November 22nd, 2011
3:54 pm

The top 2 teams in the SEC are excellent. The next two are pretty good. The bottom 8 are fair to pitiful.

The top 2 teams in the ACC are pretty good. The next two are better than average. The bottom 8 are fair to pitiful.

Outside of LSU and Bama there’s not a whole heckuva lot of difference in the two.

PMC

November 22nd, 2011
3:54 pm

No… it’s pretty much about championships.

The middle and bottom of the SEC are just as bad as everyone else.

It’s been 5 years. The SEC’s best teams ARE better than everyone else.

Blue Fox

November 22nd, 2011
3:55 pm

My biggest fear is that UGA with its 329 lb. average O-line will repeat the ‘09 performance, simply blow Tech’s under-sized D off the line with the running game and dominate the clock.

Musashi

November 22nd, 2011
3:55 pm

I like Tech’s chances, should be a great game.

YellarJacket

November 22nd, 2011
3:56 pm

We’ve got bigger fish to fry than worrying about a UGAg team that hasn’t impressed ANYBODY this year! They’ve lost to every major opponent they have faced.

Jackets 34-Leghumpers 13

PMC

November 22nd, 2011
3:57 pm

This is going to be a close, and good game. Why would anyone expect it not to be a good game?

TDone

November 22nd, 2011
3:59 pm

Finebalm, UGAG should vacate any games before the Jan Kemp episode. In addition, the NCAA investigation was in 2009, not 2008 and it pales in comparison some of the things Muttland has done over the years.

VT>GT and neither holds a candle to UGA

November 22nd, 2011
3:59 pm

Due for an @ss whoopin?

DawginLex

November 22nd, 2011
4:00 pm

Johnson had them flying under the radar until now.

These comments and others will be plastered all over the UGA locker room by Todd Grantham.

Finebalm

November 22nd, 2011
4:01 pm

Not sure Gtu has much room to talk. The last time they did anything we wipped them and they had to vacate their crap ACC title. As I recall, South Carolina wipped Clemson so the ACC title was reduced to an exhibition of losers. Maybe PJ just isn’t that smart though.

UGALY

November 22nd, 2011
4:01 pm

Uga sucks and their schedule is a fn joke. With the exception of Boise and SC (UGAG lost to) the rest of the schedule is against teams with a combined record of like 3 – 25. I mean, Vandy, KY, MISS St, Ole Miss, New Mexico Whomever, Coastal Carolina, Auburn, UF even sucks. GT will be the 3rd best team the mutts have faced. GT wins this one and LSU cleans UGA’s clock for the SEC Championship. Can’t wait to see it. THWG!

UGALY

November 22nd, 2011
4:02 pm

Hey, I gotta an idea. hand out scooters for the players to ride to the game. lmao.

Goldenrod

November 22nd, 2011
4:02 pm

There’s a NEW SHERIFF in town, and his name is Paul Johnson.

He OWNS Mark Richt and will kill the bullpups on Saturday down at Bobby Dodd!

This is OUR HOUSE and OUR TIME! We will not be denied!

GTBob

November 22nd, 2011
4:03 pm

The SEC has had a good run of great teams at the top. CPJ is right though. Top to bottom, they really aren’t any better then any of the other conferences.

DawgInDahlonege

November 22nd, 2011
4:04 pm

Goldenrod, you are an IDIOT! Do you realize after Saturday’s UGA win that Richt will be 10-1 against the wreck? CPJ is 1-2 against Richt.

Micah

November 22nd, 2011
4:04 pm

Great matchup for the dawgs. UGA is Good against Theron, has size and speed on def. Also, granthams second year facing the triple option will be helpful. Ga tech will have a tough time. 31-21 but really not that close. Tech scores on on a big pass play in first half.

SatchelBuzz

November 22nd, 2011
4:05 pm

@ Lex,…nothing disrespectful in CPJ’s comments,….just telling it like it is.

THWG!!!

Steve

November 22nd, 2011
4:05 pm

Betting line is up to 6 1/2. Looks like the folks in Vegas are betting on the Dawgs! Smart people.

Mr Charlie

November 22nd, 2011
4:06 pm

Oh no he did’nt.

tvradioguy

November 22nd, 2011
4:06 pm

TECH LOVERS: You have lost 9 or ten to Richt. What makes you think you have a chance..UNLESS you are trying to play the odds and hope UGA will clip up this week. Haha, whatever. Time for a butt kicking of epic porportions!! Get ready to be embarrassed at home baby. BTW, is it a sell out? I know it is soooo hard for you to get bodies in the seats. haha

Wes

November 22nd, 2011
4:06 pm

Paul- But LSU and Ala are in the SEC and you can’t not take them into consideration when you take the conferences as a whole. You sound like a kid with an Inferiority Complex.

JB

November 22nd, 2011
4:06 pm

The SEC winning 5 NC’s in a row is perception also I guess. It’s easy to see why Tech got 4 year probation for nothing. Johnson is arrogant. Let the ACC,big12,Pac 10 etc win 5 in a row, then crow. It’s obvious Johnson is Loyal to the ACC, and that’s fine…………But the SEC being the best the last 6-7 years is a little more than perception, and yes, we know SEC schools lose to ACC schools…

DC

November 22nd, 2011
4:07 pm

He does ahve a point Jeff….Take my Auburn team back in 2004…perception was that the SEC was good but not great…now best believe if you go undefeated in the SEC you are signed, sealed, and delivered a one way ticket to the ’ship…no need to even worry about the bcs computers..Perception has changed…

VT>GT and neither holds a candle to UGA

November 22nd, 2011
4:08 pm

What major opponent has tech faces? Don’t say clemson who ust got their @sses handed to them

lanier

November 22nd, 2011
4:08 pm

personally since they havent beaten anybody I dont see how Ga has more than a punchers chance.
have no favorite but I think Tech by 2 TDs

SatchelBuzz

November 22nd, 2011
4:08 pm

Yeah,….he did. Deal with it.

THWG!!!

Nesbitt for Heisman

November 22nd, 2011
4:09 pm

2 hot dogs, 2 cokes and your car stripped & left up on blocks

Steve

November 22nd, 2011
4:09 pm

Maybe in order for the stadium to not be half red, which it always is, Tech officials can offer a free kiss for all Tech fans attending from a UGA cheerleader since there are literally no hot women that attend Tech? I think it’s a swell idea. Also, for us attending, do we need to have on our bulletproof vest on for our walk to the car? Don’t want to get mugged or shot on that dangerous campus.

Atlanta Fish Market

November 22nd, 2011
4:10 pm

What’s this guy ordering all this fish for?

Demosthenes

November 22nd, 2011
4:11 pm

How good is the SEC? 5 consecutive championships, by 4 different teams. 1/3 of the SEC has won the MNC in the last 5 years. That’s not tops heavy, that’s a dominant conference. Anyone who sees it otherwise is a damned fool or a blind homer.

Durrty Dogg

November 22nd, 2011
4:11 pm

I was at Ga Southern doing the Paul Johnson/Peterson era. It was a beautiful thing to see! Now, Im in grad school at UGA. So I have a mixed bag of emotions going on here. Im glad I never really heard him talk at GSU. He sounds like a prick at times. All I know is, he better curve all the oh wo is me talk and win some games. My little cousin will be there next year (Michael Summers Jr.) and I keep telling him, UGA RUNS THIS STATE! GO DAWGS!!

Always a Jacket

November 22nd, 2011
4:11 pm

Richt owned Chan, not PJ. Like PJ says, not much anyone can say to convince others. Have to prove it on the field. I like Tech’s chances.

Wes

November 22nd, 2011
4:11 pm

I am sure all u tech lovers will go into hiding once UGA butt whip GT and play with or even defeat LSU/Ark/ALA in the SEC Championship game.

JB

November 22nd, 2011
4:12 pm

The game is being played at noon to protect the fans and get them out of there before dark.

SupremoDawg

November 22nd, 2011
4:12 pm

Nerds, ya’ll left the SEC cuz u couldn’t take it. Bobby Dodd was going to make a killing as an indy but ya’ll lost ur ass and came back begging to get back in a real football conference. Stick to balls that bounce inside and nets hanging from rims in that cute little b-ball conference (Couldn’t even beat us last year at your dump!) CPJ is too smart to be beat, just ask him. It’s NEVER his fault, it’s always his players. Give me my Dawgs and CMR anyday!

RxDawg

November 22nd, 2011
4:13 pm

Uhhuh…. Do we really have to defend the SEC’s level of competetion to people that just don’t want to face up to the truth again?

UGA fan in UVa Country

November 22nd, 2011
4:15 pm

Can everyone say “Bulletin Board Material”??? Overall, I have great regards for CPJ, but really? REALLY? This is not just stupid, it discredits him, moreso than his efforts……I say let’s strap ‘em on and leave it all on the field….at the end of the day, UGA 38 – 14! GO DAWGS!

Micah

November 22nd, 2011
4:15 pm

Harry potter bobble head day this Saturday.