After a 3-0 start to the 2013 season, things have gone south for the Georgia Tech football program in a major way. The Jackets have dropped 3 straight decisions at the hands of Virginia Tech, Miami, and BYU, and with that, rumblings have begun about Paul Johnson’s job security. Fortunately, they welcome the not-so-dominant Syracuse Orange to Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, and it’s time to break down that game. Let’s go.
Jackets Offense vs. Syracuse Defense
The Syracuse defense doesn’t present a terrible challenge, but they aren’t a disaster either. The Orange are middle-of-the-pack nationally in both yards allowed per game (388) and points allowed per game (24.5), but against their 2 best opponents (Northwestern and Clemson), they allowed nearly 50 points in each contest.
Unfortunately, Syracuse is far worse against the pass than they are against the run, which doesn’t line up with the strengths of the Tech offense. Vad Lee was woeful last week against BYU (7 for 20 passing, etc.), and we saw a good bit of Justin Thomas at times. This could be a crucial game for Lee and company, as this is a no-excuses spot to produce some sizable yardage and point totals.
I wouldn’t expect anything significant through the air (do we ever?), but if Sims, Godhigh, and whoever is playing quarterback can initiate some long drives, that would help.
Jackets Defense vs. Syracuse Offense
The defense has suddenly become an issue On the Flats, as the Jackets have fallen out of the top-20 nationally in points against after the treacherous performances against Miami and BYU. No quarterback for Syracuse has even attempted 100 passes this season, however, and that could help to get things righted.
The Orange are an elite rushing team this season, averaging over 220 yards per game on the back of Jerome Smith and Price-Tyson Gulley. Both guys are upperclassmen (Smith a junio, Gulley a senior), and they’ve combined for nearly 800 yards in 6 games while averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Priority #1 will be stopping the run in this game, and after a week when BYU ran for 189 yards, it’s no longer a given.
Keep an eye on Syracuse QB Terrel Hunt, who actually ran for 92 yards on 11 carries in their win over NC State last week. Running quarterbacks have given the Jackets fits at times (as recently as last week), and that could be an X-factor.
Faint visions of an ACC Coastal Division crown are probably gone at this point, and it’s time to focus on a strong finish and some quality development for the talent that is in place. This isn’t a home game that Paul Johnson can afford to lose, however, and the whispers will become deafening if the Jackets fall here.
Stay tuned for post-game coverage, and a live game thread that will open on Saturday morning.