This season will mark the 20th anniversary of Georgia Tech's 1990 national championship team. It was voted No. 1 in the nation by the football coaches poll, which was then the United Press International poll.
The question is whether Georgia Tech can be No. 1 again.
Bobby Ross needed only five seasons.
Paul Johnson has already won an ACC title in two.
First-year defensive coordinator Al Groh probably wouldn't have taken this job had he not recognized the potential for something bigger than an ACC title. A conference title, a trip to the Orange Bowl, and the recent turnover of players to the NFL should all be major selling points to potential recruits. Demaryius Thomas is evidence that receivers can flourish in this run-happy offense.
Recruiting is not what will make winning a national title difficult at Georgia Tech. The lack of a balanced offense will. And so will the rest of the ACC. The rise of other programs like North Carolina, Miami -- even Duke and Virginia -- will make it nearly impossible for any ACC team to escape the conference season undefeated. And even a perfect season is no guarantee of a national title.
Georgia Tech finished 2009 ranked ninth in the final BCS standings. It's not exactly a quantum leap from there to the top, but it's a grueling climb. Especially for an offense that doesn't throw the ball with any regularity.
And that's what Georgia Tech will need to win a national title -- an efficient passing game. The Jackets passed 168 times all season. Only Army, Navy and Air Force threw it fewer times. Alabama threw it 346. In modern day football, teams in contention for the national title have had a balanced offensive attack. Bama had about a 400-yard differential in passing and rushing yardage last year.
Johnson's quest to win a national title with his version of the spread option offense makes for an interesting study in college football.
It's not that Georgia Tech can't win with Johnson's offense. They've already proven the contrary. The Jackets don't necessarily have to pass more often, but they do have to pass more efficiently to win a national title. That's hard to do when the quarterback isn't asked to do it consistently -- even for one as talented as Joshua Nesbitt. Especially against a disciplined defense like Iowa that has more than a week to prepare. Nesbitt completed 2 of 9 passes for 12 yards and an interception.
If you have a pitcher who throws a good fastball and finally runs into a good fastball hitting team, he needs to be able to throw a curveball every once in a while if he wants to win the World Series.
These days, teams playing for the national title have a month to prepare, and elite defenses can slow Johnson's offense with a calendar like that. Against a defense that forces you into third-and-long situations, a dependable passing game does wonders. A national title contender will dare Georgia Tech to throw. And it will control the clock as well as, if not better than, Georgia Tech. Iowa had the ball for 32:23 -- about five more minutes than Georgia Tech.
No one can fault Paul Johnson for winning 75 percent of his games and running the ball for more than 4,000 yards in a season. What he does works. But you have to take a serious look at whether a one-dimensional offense can win a national title when the opposing defense has a month to prepare.
If the program has won a national title before, though, there's no reason it can't be done again. The last time Georgia Tech won it had 2,300 total rushing yards and 2,000 passing yards that season.
Georgia Tech can win a national title with a balanced offense. It already has.