Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Head coach: Paul Johnson
2014 Record: 11-3; 6-2 ACC
2014 Bowl: 49-34 Win over Mississippi St. at Charlotte Orange Bowl
2015 Returning Starters: 6 offense, 6 defense
Odds to win 2016 CFB Championship: +9000
Odds to win 2015 ACC Title: +550
Regular Season Wins: Over 7 (-175); Under 7 (+145)
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Georgia Tech was surprisingly good last season mostly due to the brilliance of QB Justin Thomas. He’s now a junior and a must-watch for college football fans as the Yellow Jackets try to make a run at an ACC title.
The Yellow Jackets’ 2014 season ended in triumph as the team defeated Mississippi State at the Charlotte Orange Bowl, and the team ended up finishing with an 11-3 record, greatly exceeding expectations. The Yellow Jackets ranked No. 8 in the country for surrendering just 5.1 points per trip inside the 40, and the real area the defense has to fortify is its run stopping. It gave up 25.7 points and 411.3 yards per game last season.
Georgia Tech lacks depth on the front defensively, but its first team is pretty strong with senior All-ACC Adam Gotsis and KeShun Freeman both anchoring it well. Freeman earned various Freshman All-America honors. Jabari Hunt-Days was academically ineligible last season but should make a big difference at tackle now, also having bulked to a robust 295 pounds.
The Yellow Jackets lose All-ACC LB Quayshawn Nealy and it leaves a big hole in the middle of its defense, which the team is hoping to plug with senior Tyler Marcordes who had 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks last year. The secondary is strong with seniors at S and CB, and also features D.J. White who made two game-saving takeaways against Virginia Tech and Georgia. The ‘D’ can be solid.
Offensively, Thomas really is simply going to have be be amazing again. Georgia Tech’s top three RBs are all gone, but Thomas rushed for 1,086 yards last season.
The OL is going to be very good with four starters and a lot of others with experience back in the fold. Its strength will make the backfield more successful obviously, and Marcus Allen has the chance to be elite at B Back. Coach Paul Johnson said of him, “(he) sees it as a last hurrah, his last chance, (and) he embraced it and went after it full force…can he hold these other guys off…we’ll see.”
Those other guys come in the form of Marcus Marshall, Mikell Lands-Davis and Patrick Skov, all of whom are in the mix to get some of the carries. Georgia Tech lost over 2200 yards to graduation and that quartet of players is going to find ways to usurp all that production. The OL wills it to be so.
On special teams the Yellow Jackets are expecting more from junior K Harrison Burker who was a bit inconsistent last year. He did hit a 53-yarder against Georgia to force OT, but he also missed five within the 40. Junior punter Ryan Rodwell attempted just 32 punts last season, but he is back again.
The excitement is still running high in Atlanta after last season’s 11 win triumph. But building on that may be tough. The team needs to rebuild some critical areas, not the least of which is that RB turnover. Thomas still is just a sophomore, though, so the Yellow Jackets need to make sure to continue to put a good OL in front of him as they currently have.
Defense is the biggest concern due to a lack of major athletes on the roster, but playing smart defense could be enough to allow the Yellow Jackets to contend in the ACC.
It just seems 11 wins like last year is a bit much to ask, and 5dimes doesn’t set the bar nearly so high with the O/U set at 7. The Yellow Jackets face Notre Dame on Sept 19 but if it can get past the Irish the chance is there to start the season 5-0 before facing Clemson on Oct 10. Florida State comes to Bobby Dodd stadium on Oct 24. Don’t sleep on Georgia Tech.
Prediction: 9 Wins