We are at the midway point in the season, and the two teams predicted to finish 1-2 in the Coastal Division are the two at the bottom. So which team has been more disappointing: Virginia Tech or Georgia Tech? Andrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna discuss.
Matt says Virginia Tech: Look, I won't pretend that Georgia Tech going from preseason Coastal favorite to 2-5 isn't the biggest fall from grace, because from a national expectation standpoint, it is. But my preseason ballot actually had Virginia Tech winning the Coastal. So, personally, the Hokies' underwhelming first half has been more surprising.
No one could have predicted Michael Brewer getting hurt, but Brenden Motley was not the primary reason for Virginia Tech's 3-4 record through seven games. Sure, he struggled in some games and was great in others, but the overall inconsistency of the Hokies is what has plagued them so far.
Posting just 100 total yards of offense in a home loss to Pitt is inexcusable -- despite the conditions -- but it becomes an even bigger head-scratcher when the unit looks as sharp as it did six days later in a 28-13 pasting of NC State. The ground game got off to a slow start as well, eclipsing 4 yards per carry just once through four games against FBS teams (Purdue, 4.2 ypc), before looking sharper these past two weeks.
Regardless, the most disappointing part has been Virginia Tech's defense. This was a unit that I thought had the chance to be the best in the nation, despite a 42-24 Week 1 home loss to Ohio State. Sure, the loss of All-American corner Kendall Fuller (meniscus) for the season has been a blow, but there are enough talented pieces around him to expect better than what the defense has delivered.
The Hokies rank 84th nationally in stopping the run (177.57 ypg), 48th in scoring defense (23.4 ppg) and 64th in yards per play (5.49). Sure, ranking 33rd in total defense (348.9 yards per game) and 17th in passing defense (171.29 ypg) is solid, but this unit was supposed to be more reliable. Giving up a then-season-high 35 points to East Carolina in yet another loss to the Pirates is not going to cut it.
The remaining five games may offer a reprieve or a stiffer test depending on how things shake out, but right now Duke and North Carolina look like two of the best teams the division has to offer, and Boston College's defense will at least demand that the Hokies' unit matches the test.
After all, the Hokies were projected to finish second in the Coastal, so I wasn't the only one with higher expectations for them in 2015.
Andrea says Georgia Tech: It is hard to believe we are even having a debate. Georgia Tech is not only the biggest disappointment in the ACC; Georgia Tech is quite possibly the biggest disappointment in the entire country.
Too harsh? Georgia Tech did go from No. 1 in our ESPN.com ACC power rankings to last over the span of six weeks; from preseason No. 16 to 2-5; and from preseason Coastal favorite to 0-4 in league play. Arkansas is the only other team ranked in the preseason that has managed only two wins to date.
Did the media hype the Jackets up too much, exacerbating the disappointment? From my vantage point, no. While it is true the schedule (a third top 10 opponent coming up) and a rash of injuries have conspired to hurt Georgia Tech, coach Paul Johnson points out his veterans have not exactly done their part, either.
What is the excuse for the way an experienced offensive line has performed? What is the excuse for the way a veteran defense has performed? A defense, by the way, that was supposed to carry this team until the new faces at A-back, B-back and receiver caught on?
And yet, there have been multiple opportunities for ACC wins. Georgia Tech blew a 21-0 lead to North Carolina, had multiple opportunities in the fourth quarter to come back against Duke, and allowed Pitt to go on a 14-play drive that set up the game-winning field goal last week. Three blown chances in ACC play right there.
"We've been our own worst enemy," Johnson said Wednesday. "You can go back to the Carolina game where we don't punch it in on the goal line and also let them score six of the last eight possessions. It's something we can't get over the hump, haven't been able to get it done. Again, the competition's not getting any easier, it's getting tougher. We have to kind of dig down and hopefully we can find a way if we can hang in till the end and find a way to make a play here pretty soon."
I also had Virginia Tech winning the Coastal, but after watching the Hokies struggle the last three years, their inability to get back to the top can no longer be called surprising or disappointing. Georgia Tech made us all believe it had turned a corner last year. Now, its 18-year bowl streak (tied for third-longest in the nation) is in serious jeopardy. A loss to Florida State on Saturday, and the Jackets have to win out to get back to the postseason. If they fail to do so and end up sitting at home in December, there is no other way to describe the season than disappointing.