As the college football season inches closer, we decided to start our annual series taking a look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for each team in the ACC. Next up: Georgia Tech.
Justin Thomas and the Georgia Tech offense return to form and the Jackets can party like it's 2014 again! One of the biggest reasons the Jackets struggled a year ago was because the offense simply could not run the ball effectively, posting the worst numbers under coach Paul Johnson. Injuries at the running back position hurt, and so did injuries along the offensive line. Johnson points to the inability to get the line going as perhaps the biggest issue they had. Meanwhile, the defense could not stop the run and was not nearly as opportunistic in creating and scoring off turnovers. But this season, the line is better and stronger. Thomas is better and stronger. And so are his backs and receivers, allowing them to control the ball and the majority of their games. Defensively, the Jackets shore up the defensive line and are much better against the run (and at sacking the passer). The resurgence allows them to surprise Clemson at home -- both teams go into the game Sept. 22 on five days' rest -- and close with a big win against Georgia, while making it back to the ACC championship game. They might not win the ACC title, but they will make it into a New Year's Six game. Again.
The hopes Johnson has for his offensive line never materialize, and the Jackets struggle to control the line of scrimmage and run the ball again. An ineffective run game essentially makes Thomas ineffective, and the same problems that plagued the Jackets in 2015 come back to haunt them again. Meanwhile, the defense cannot seem to find any answers with their front seven, and the completely rebuilt secondary struggles with big plays. The nonconference schedule allows the Jackets to go 3-1, but they struggle to post a winning record in ACC play with games against Clemson at home, at Pitt, at North Carolina and at Virginia Tech. Georgia Tech misses a bowl game for a second straight season, and Johnson finds himself on the hot seat again.