The annual battle of the Techs is once again poised to decide the early frontrunner in the ACC's Coastal Division. Tyler Duke of SB Nation's From The Rumble Seat joins us to answer a few questions about the game and the Yellow Jacket program in general.
GC: We aren't Georgia, but do Georgia Tech fans consider this a pretty big rivalry?
TD: Most Georgia Tech fans do consider the Techmo Bowl a pretty big rivalry. Virginia Tech and Clemson are the two conference teams that usually give us a great game, but since Virginia Tech is in the same division as us, I think it's considered the bigger rivalry. Until 2012, the winner of this contest had gone on to the ACC Championship game every season.
GC: Is this a make or break season for Paul Johnson?
TD: In my opinion, this is a make or break season for Coach Johnson. I think he needs to get at least two wins out of the four big games (Virginia Tech, Miami, Clemson, Georgia) on the schedule. The criticism has slowly began increasing because of the inability to win those big games in the last few seasons, but he has a change to stop that criticism for the time being with a big win on Saturday.
GC: How was Georgia Southern able to nearly pull the upset?
TD: Well...I don't think anyone really knows that question. It was a dominating first half performance for the Yellow Jackets as they looked to be on the way to a blowout at halftime. The Eagles inexplicably came out and dominated the second half. Their new option offense gave Georgia Tech fits, and the offense stalled on almost every drive. Oddly, it seems that the defense struggles with the option after Wofford and Georgia Southern successfully ran it. It's hard to know if the second half was an indicator of Georgia Southern making adjustments and being as good of a football team or if the Jackets just got complacent. Either way, it's definitely a cause of concern.
GC: Is Justin Thomas a big upgrade over Vad Lee?
TD: I do believe that Justin Thomas is an upgrade over Vad Lee. It's not a big one yet, because Thomas is still pretty inexperienced and has made some mistakes. In terms of ability, Thomas is much faster than Lee and any other QB that we've had since implementing the option offense. His quickness and agility allows him to make runs that Lee and any other QB couldn't make in this offense. His arm has also been pretty good. He has struggles with overthrowing his receivers. but he does have the ability to throw the ball downfield effectively which has seemed to be a struggle every season in the past. If Thomas can clean up his reads and pitches, and become more accurate with his arm, he could be a very dangerous threat in this offense.
GC: What's going on with the Yellow Jacket defense?
TD: It hasn't been pretty. The young defensive line has been pushed around at times by inferior opponents. The linebacker core has shown an inability to get off of blocks in the run game. The secondary has inexplicably blown coverages and allowed deep passes in key situations. Every unit has been fairly disappointing. The only generic offense we've played against was Tulane, where we shut them out in the second half. That's about the only positive to look at through three games.
GC: The schedule looks pretty reasonable until the end. What are the expectations of the fans for this season?
TD: The expectations are all over the place. There are those who are extremely concerned with how the teams has played thus far and believe it could be a very ugly season that results in six or seven wins and a bad bowl game. There are also those that believe a win is a win and any judgement should be passed until the team faces a good opponent like Virginia Tech. So it's hard to grasp expectations up to this point, but I believe we'll have better judgement on it after this weekend.
GC: Give me three players to watch for on the GT roster?
TD: DeAndre Smelter: Smelter is an NFL-caliber receiver who already has 238 yards and three touchdowns this season. He has good size and quickness to beat you deep when the defense is creeping up on the run.
Roderick Rook-Chungong: The redshirt sophomore defensive end is seeing his first action in college football this season and looks very promising. He's a guy that is capable of getting pass rush and is also all over the field in the run game. Look for Rook to make a big play on defense on Saturday.
Zach Laskey: The senior B-back is the heart and soul of this Georgia Tech offense. He's a dependable, bruising, and downhill runner who can power his way in the end zone and pick up crucial yardage on big third and fourth down conversions. Expect Laskey to get the ball at least 15 times on Saturday, and expect it to be very hard to stop him for a loss.
GC: What's your prediction for the game?
TD: I'll have to be a homer on this one too, and I've been saying all year that Georgia Tech finally gets out of the slump and beats Virginia Tech this year. I'm going Georgia Tech 28, Virginia Tech 24 with a late fourth quarter winning drive put together by Justin Thomas for the second straight game. It should be a good one.