(This will run in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s football preview section. It’s my game-by-game prediction of Georgia Tech’s season. I have them losing at Virginia Tech, at Clemson and at Georgia. The only win I waffled on was at North Carolina. They should win all of their home games. — Jeff Schultz)
Sept. 3, at Virginia Tech, 8 p.m.
It’s not quite a year ago, when the Jackets had the luxury of playing their first three games against non-conference dumplings Western Carolina, Middle Tennessee State and Kansas. Paul Johnson’s option offense may have trouble against what is expected to be one of the nation’s top defenses. Johnson is 1-3 against the Hokies, with his teams scoring 17, 28 (win), 21 and 26 points. Prediction: Jackets lose
Sept. 8, Presbyterian, 7 p.m.
Somewhere it is written: No BCS school ever should lose to a team called the Blue Hose. Clearly, somebody at Tech knows this because the Jackets have won the three meetings by a combined score of 147-0 (33-0, 55-0, 59-0). This will be a good week for quarterback Tevin Washington and the offense to figure some things out. Prediction: Jackets win
Sept. 15, Virginia, 3:30 p.m.
Second-year coach Mike London did a nice job turning things around last season (8-5 overall, 5-3 in the ACC) and was named ACC coach of the year. So the Al Groh hangover appears to be over. The Cavaliers’ defense stuffed the Tech offense last season (winning 24-21 in Charlottesville) and will be solid again up front. But points could be an issue. Prediction: Jackets win
Sept. 22, Miami, TBA
Everybody is waiting for the NCAA shoe to drop in Coral Gables. Johnson wouldn’t mind if it happens a week before this game, just for emotional impact. On- and off-field problems notwithstanding, the Hurricanes have figured out the Jackets’ offense. They’ve won three consecutive meetings while allowing decreasing point totals (33-17, 35-10, 24-7). Just a hunch that Johnson tries something different. Prediction: Jackets win
Sept. 29, Middle Tennessee State, 7 p.m.
It’s hard enough to get people not to laugh when you tell them, “We’re one of the best teams in the Sun Belt,” which Middle Tennessee State used to be. But last season the Blue Raiders morphed into a punchline (2-10). Tech won their meeting 49-21, scoring on a 73-yard touchdown pass 14 seconds into the game. Expect another rout. Prediction: Jackets win
Oct. 6, at Clemson, TBA
Thank goodness for the comic relief that only Clemson and Dabo Swinney can provide. The Tigers started 8-0 and climbed to No. 5 in the rankings, but then lost to the Jackets 31-17 and dropped four of its last six. Clemson is loaded with talent on offense, led by quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Andre Ellington and receiver Sammy Watkins. But the defense is young and will give up points. Prediction: Jackets lose
Oct. 20, Boston College, TBA
The Eagles started last season losing six of seven (including to Duke) and finished only 4-8. The good news is they have 19 starters back – and the bad news is they have 19 starters back. Boston College is on its third offensive coordinator in three years. So much for stability. On defense, B.C. also should be pretty strong up front, so that could give Tech problems. Prediction: Jackets win
Oct. 27, Brigham Young, TBA
After getting shutout in conference expansion, BYU went 10-3 as an independent. Don’t get too excited. The Cougars lost to the only ranked team they played (Texas) and were crushed by rival Utah 54-10. So they’re not the fling-it-and-win bunch they used to be. But BYU can make this unique claim: The defensive line includes two seniors who are former missionaries (Ian Dulan and Russell Tialavea). Prediction: Jackets win
Nov. 3, at Maryland, TBA
After going 2-10 in his first season, Randy Edsall did what any scapegoating head coach would do: He fired both of his coordinators. Edsall also led the top 10 list of “Most Overpaid Coaches” in college football by the website Lost Letterman (his $2 million salary equated to $1 million per win). It won’t get better this year. The Terrapins have a great defensive tackle (Joe Vellano) and not much else. Prediction: Jackets win
Nov. 10, at North Carolina, TBA
Larry Fedora was a solid choice as head coach – head coach at Southern Miss; offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State and Florida – but there’s a hangover on campus from NCAA probation. UNC always has talent, but the Tar Heels’ transition to a quicker, no-huddle offense will take some time. Note: This will be Tech’s second consecutive road game and won’t be easy. Prediction: Jackets win
Nov. 17, Duke, TBA
David Cutcliffe can coach quarterbacks, and he has a good one in Sean Renfree. What he doesn’t have is a defense. The Blue Devils ranked 92nd in total defense last season and 90th in points allowed (31.2 per game). But worth noting: The fact Duke that has a bye the week before and Tech plays Georgia the following week means this has the makings of a trap game. Prediction: Jackets win
Nov. 24, at Georgia, TBA
Tech’s upset in Athens in Johnson’s first season remains one of the highlights of his tenure. But the Jackets have lost three consecutive in this rivalry since, and Todd Grantham’s defense defended the option far better last season (355 yards allowed, 243 rushing) than the year before (512, 411). Prediction: Jackets lose