Could Tech end its bowl skid against the preseason No. 1?

Give this genius a month to prepare and ... he'll probably lose. (AP photo)

Give this tactical genius a month to prepare and ... he'll probably lose by two touchdowns. (AP photo)

If, on Labor Day morning, you’d have known Georgia Tech would be facing USC in a bowl, you’d have guessed that everything would have broken right for the Jackets. As it happened, Tech had a rough season, which is why it’s again headed to El Paso and not, say, Miami. But spare a thought for the Trojans, who have been the greatest flop in almost half a century.

Ranked No. 1 in preseason, USC finished its regular season 7-5. Not since Ole Miss in 1964 has a preseason No. 1 wound up unranked, and back then the Associated Press poll included only 10 teams. Today it has 25, and you still won’t still find the Trojans until you sift through the “also receiving votes” category. They’re 12th on that not-exactly-stellar list — behind the likes of Vanderbilt, San Diego State and Arkansas State.

So there’s your Sun Bowl matchup: A team that has gone from No. 1 to No. 37 in the time it takes to say, “Lane Kiffin can’t coach a lick,” against a sub-.500 opponent. You wouldn’t think there’d be muchat stake, but again you’d be wrong.

USC has no reason to try hard on Dec. 31. Georgia Tech does. Not since Dec. 21, 2004, have the Jackets won a bowl, and that was so long ago that Chan Gailey was the coach and Reggie Ball, then a sophomore, was the game MVP and the team Tech beat (Syracuse) was so mortified by losing 51-17 that it fired coach Paul Pasqualoni eight days later.

Since then, nada. Tech has lost to opponents great (West Virginia, LSU and Iowa) and small (Utah twice, Fresno State, Air Force). That seven-year skid strips the luster from the Jackets’ string of 16 consecutive bowl appearances, and the past four losses have come under Paul Johnson. On the list of bowl-winning Tech coaches, Johnson ranks behind Mac McWhorter, who led the Jackets to victory in the 2001 Seattle Bowl as a one-game fill-in for George O’Leary.

This can’t-win-a-bowl thing has rankled Johnson for a while, and it has also gotten to his players: Tech’s seniors made “Win a bowl” one of their preseason goals. As of Halloween, there was no guarantee the Jackets would qualify for one. But they beat Duke on Nov. 17 become bowl-eligible, and then they lost to Florida State in the ACC title game to dip to 6-7, requiring an NCAA waiver to book passage to El Paso. But they got it, and off they’re going.

Of the Trojans, Johnson said Wednesday: “They were ranked No. 1; they had the Heisman frontrunner (quarterback Matt Barkley), and they’ve got the Biletnikoff winner (receiver Marqise Lee). They’re a talented team. Like I told somebody else, we’ve had a pretty good trifecta.”

Well, yes. Tech just played Georgia and Florida State, two gifted aggregations, losing to the former badly and the latter honorably. Can’t say the Jackets aren’t used to playing NFL-ready opposition.

“They’re very talented, but we’re not scared of them,” cornerback Louis Young said. “They’re 7-5. They’ve showed they can be beaten.”

They have, repeatedly. There’s a chance the Trojans, who figured to be spending the holidays in more scenic places, will sleepwalk through the Sun, and there’s no chance the Jackets will. This hasn’t been the season they envisioned, but tying Miami and North Carolina for first in the Coastal Division and playing for the conference title helped ease the pain. Beating USC in a bowl would be a nice New Year’s tonic.

On talent, the Trojans should win easily. But on talent, the Trojans shouldn’t be 7-5. For the first time under Johnson, Tech enters its bowl with more to prove than its opponent, and sometimes the lesser bowls come down to who plays harder.

There’s also this: Monte Kiffin, father of the lamentable Lane, has announced his resignation as USC’s defensive coordinator, for good reason. The Trojans rank 63rd nationally in total defense — that’s 10 spots below Tech, which fired coordinator Al Groh at midseason — and were overrun by Oregon on Nov. 3. The Ducks managed 62 points and 426 rushing yards, including 321 by Kenjon Barner.

If Tech can do nothing else, it can run the ball. It’s doubtful that the Jackets’ defense will shut down Barkley and Lee, but if the Tech offense can score early and control the clock, this could be one of those scoring lollapaloozas Tech occasionally wins. (To wit: Tech 68, North Carolina 50.) It would be utterly in keeping with this bizarre year if it ended with the Jackets breaking their bowl drought and finishing 7-7 by beating a team that was supposed to be unbeatable.

By Mark Bradley

181 comments Add your comment

Dog kicker

December 19th, 2012
5:28 pm

Mark Bradley

December 19th, 2012
5:32 pm

y3ll0wjacket

December 19th, 2012
5:34 pm

I’d take it! And I think you’re right that things seem to be lining up for just that bizarre of an end for a very unusual season.

old dog

December 19th, 2012
5:34 pm

To Hell with Tek, today,tomorrow and every other day!

jacket backer

December 19th, 2012
5:42 pm

Thanks to Kiffin, we have a chance…..Hope we show up inspired and shock some people…..Stranger things have happened…Excited about CBG and the hoops team!

Go Jackets!

captaindave

December 19th, 2012
5:45 pm

What, no gushing UGA column rehashing a game almost three weeks old?

Paul in NH

December 19th, 2012
5:46 pm

For GT to beat USC they have to score early and often

Really old dog OR

December 19th, 2012
5:54 pm

Are you the one who thinks your a DWAG?????????????????

DMAN

December 19th, 2012
5:57 pm

Tech aint no Ducks,what a joke!Kiffin gonna hang 60 on you nerds.

Dallas Cowboys

December 19th, 2012
5:59 pm

Was about to give old dog a thumbs up for spelling,then I saw tek…never mind…bet his mommy is embarrassed…..GT wins this one by 7

Dallas Cowboys

December 19th, 2012
6:00 pm

And Nebraska hangs 50 on you liberals…

Festus

December 19th, 2012
6:03 pm

In this part of the world USC is the University of South Carolina and Trojan has something to do with birth control. Lane is such a nice young man. How could this happen? I want more pictures of Lane’s wife and the girl who was on the motorcycle with Petrino. Football is just jocks running into each other.

Duke LaCross

December 19th, 2012
6:05 pm

The fleabags blow. If they were playing Iran, I would have a turban on.

Stinger 2

December 19th, 2012
6:10 pm

Thanks for your kind and nice thoughts Mark. I hope you are right. Ken Suguria noted yesterday that USC has a great defense and we know GT does not. That dims my hopes for the Jackets to pull of an upset.

Southeastern Losers

December 19th, 2012
6:10 pm

I hope it’s a Vad Lee repeat vs UNC, but if not at least TW has enough sense to SPIKE the ball….

Ramblin Black Jacket

December 19th, 2012
6:30 pm

They can’t win with TW behind the center. Sorry to say it, but it is what it is. USC defenders will eat the little man up. TW isn”t big or fast enough to run that offense against the big boys.

Skeptic

December 19th, 2012
6:34 pm

A column uploaded at 1715 (5:15 PM for you Democrats)?

Boy, this ought to trigger some pileups on 400. A multitude of The Great Unconcious staring at their iPad at 80 mph.

SC Jacket

December 19th, 2012
6:59 pm

Wow MB, a whole article without mentioning that UGA played the greatest game ever and deserves to be in the Super Bowl if the Falcons don’t make it? It has been almost a week since you reminded all of us about the team that lost to 2 of their only 3 ranked opponents this season. 2012 should always be remembered as the year UGA had the talent, schedule, and good fortune to have a chance to play for the National Title their deluded fan base feels they will win every year. The weak schedules of 2011 and 2012 for UGA are over. CMR is solid person and good coach. Too bad his players did not grab the ring when it was there for the taking.

Mike

December 19th, 2012
7:01 pm

TW isnt the problem. Its the offense itself. Vad Lee hasnt done any better against anyone that can actually play defense. Has Johnson beaten anyone decent who had more than a week to prepare for him? I cant remember it if he has. At least at Tech anyway. Monte Kiffin’s D may have had issues this year, but they also played in a much better league + finishing the season with #1 Notre Dame. I’m pretty sure he knows how to play the option. Its a good bet USC’s defense will be more prepared to play it than people think.

Mike

December 19th, 2012
7:08 pm

@SC Jacket – how does having to play Nick Saban’s Alabama squad qualify as “there for the taking”? You dont want to hear about UGA? Then maybe we should get a coach that can actually stay on the field with a good UGA team. Johnson has gotten mauled the last two years. At least Gailey was competitive with the good UGA teams. But that wasnt good enough, so he got fired. Then Tech swallowed a bill of goods they got sold after Johnson beat the worst UGA defense in memory. Now the only way we can hope for a win against them is to hope their defense collapses again. As long as UGA is playing good football, which they are, Johnson wont have a chance at competing with them.

ahsoisee

December 19th, 2012
7:16 pm

There is no way Tech will beat USC.

davidinloganville

December 19th, 2012
7:25 pm

Southeastern Losers

December 19th, 2012
6:10 pm

I hope it’s a Vad Lee repeat vs UNC, but if not at least TW has enough sense to SPIKE the ball….

of course he can, on 4th down like the great Reggie, Reggie,Reggie, Reggie,Reggie, Reggie,Reggie, Reggie,

Skeptic

December 19th, 2012
7:29 pm

This bowl season is just another level of assimilation into the Borg–just about every game is on ESPN, although not Tech in the Sun Bowl. Resistance is futile if you expect bowl games on OTA channels anymore. In spite of that, the most eager to be assimilated–and milked like a cow–love to characterize Tech folks as star trek nerds. Interesting.

So long, New Year’s day wall-to-wall football

Guess I’ll go hunting instead

1990_Champs_GT

December 19th, 2012
7:33 pm

A loss to USC would be ok, as long as it means CPJ goes back to the minor leagues after 2013!

Put in Timeout by Ken Suguira,Filtered by Mark Bradley, Banned by Bill King, Chip Towers & only slightly loved by Jeff Schultz.

December 19th, 2012
7:39 pm

Anything could happen. Tony Dungy thinks A. Murray is a first round worthy QB.

I dropped my fried twinkie

December 19th, 2012
7:40 pm

Telling Jokes again I see.

Wet Willie...keep on smiling

December 19th, 2012
7:54 pm

Tech may win because USC doesn’t want to even be in the game.

Pitbull

December 19th, 2012
8:07 pm

Tech couldn’t end its bowl skid against Georgia Southern.

And Pitbull

December 19th, 2012
8:19 pm

couldn’t end his skid marks with new underwear.

Pitbull

December 19th, 2012
8:24 pm

Rumor has it that Tech is so disappointed with its football program that it is going to beat its Johnson (Paul that is).

flexbone 45

December 19th, 2012
8:26 pm

@Mike- Duke and North Carolina, both of which had a decent season, had a bye weeks to prepare for Georgia Tech. 2009, the year tech won the ACC championship, Tech beat Clemson in the regular season and championship game; not only did they have twice the amount of preparation (two weeks of preparation including the regular season practice and week prior to the championship game), but they had already seen the offense live in the regular season.

Also, considering Vad has played no more than two series after the North Carolina game, which was the most prolific the offense has looked this year, it’s difficult to say he’s had a realistic opportunity “to do any better.”

Pitbull

December 19th, 2012
8:34 pm

El Paso is the new Boise.

PS: Don’t drink the water.

gasman

December 19th, 2012
8:39 pm

Jon Koncak

December 19th, 2012
8:41 pm

I just spit my drink all over the table from laughing when I saw this article title.

OLD TECHIE

December 19th, 2012
8:46 pm

I don’t em beating lame kitten, but I would love it if they did.

OLD TECHIE

December 19th, 2012
8:47 pm

I meant SEE EM

cc

December 19th, 2012
8:52 pm

USC will hang 50 on Tech….and then shut it down in the fourth quarter. Plus, any team than has more than six days to prepare against that crap of an offense has no problem with it.

dry dirt road

December 19th, 2012
8:54 pm

I don’t think they could end the skid. They won’t be fielding much of a team. No offense, no DC, no AD, “Buzz” without veins in its wings as opposed to the BD years yj with veins in its wings partially symbolic of veins in arms of athletes from their muscles pushing them out. Also not much of a team because of tremendous fan criticism and not support, and not grabbing flu shots during a medically sponsored breast cancer month, preferring to wear pink instead. I remember when I went to Tech during the BD years of ‘69-’73 and I had center veins in my upper arms sticking out, and I wasn’t even on a team, I just worked out alot. BTW, I don’t have them anymore.

Calhoundawg

December 19th, 2012
9:04 pm

This headline is a pitiful attempt to make Georgia Tech football relevant for a day or two. Some may ask, “Can Georgia Tech win this football game?” I ask, “Who cares?!!”

God Bless you, Coach Richt. God Bless Georgia. Go Dawgs !!!

Buzz2011

December 19th, 2012
9:11 pm

GT will take out the Trojans and
Nebraska will handle the Dogs easily…

Buzz2011

December 19th, 2012
9:13 pm

Dawgs play in the SEC championship next year against ?????
and lose again…..What a joke the Dogs still whining over a game
3 weeks ago. The Tide would take the Dogs 9 out of 10 times played..

you can't fix stupid or bulldogs

December 19th, 2012
9:17 pm

Five yards short of NC…Its those darn IFs that get UGA every year….Best team between Feb. 1 and Aug 1 every year…please drink the koolaid dawg fans……ROLL TIDE… ROLL TIDE

gt4ever

December 19th, 2012
9:18 pm

Ken in Alpharetta

December 19th, 2012
9:25 pm

USC is not NC. tech OL will not be able to handle USC front seven. USC players will not want to lose to a 6-7 “bowl” team. tech loses BIG.

JB

December 19th, 2012
9:27 pm

@SC Jacket,
Wow! an article about GaTech and all you can do is talk about UGA. LOL!!

GSUStud

December 19th, 2012
9:28 pm

As much I and most other people hate USC, I must admit that Ga Tech does not even belong on the same field as USC. USC might as well be playing Idaho State Tech College. Ga Tech will get embarrassed again this year. Ga Tech should never have requested a waiver to play in a bowl game…and now with a 6-7 record. Sad, very sad.

MT

December 19th, 2012
9:29 pm

The Tide would take the Dogs 9 out of 10 times played..

The Dawgs take the Jackets 10 of 10 times played. Gurley just scored again….

Tech and vicarious living.

Ken in Alpharetta

December 19th, 2012
9:29 pm

techies have a love affair with UGA. They just don’t know it or won’t admit it. Or it could just be the wannabe syndrome.

Pitbull

December 19th, 2012
9:50 pm

I would like to see Georgia Southern move up to the BCS and join the ACC in its Coastal Division. They would win the Division every year and beat Tech in the pprocess.

Tech on the other hand should move down to the FCS.

As for Southern Cal…if Tech lost by three touchdowns to MTSU in their own stadium, I doubt they will even score on Southern Cal.

Lank Kiffin is a sleaze under pressure. He will run up the score.

GT65..

December 19th, 2012
9:54 pm

Time to run the table..get it done!