When Paul Johnson took over the helm at Georgia Tech before the 2008 season many in the sports world felt that his style of play would not work at a major Division 1 program.
Many experts would say, "He won at Georgia Southern and he won at Navy, but they do not play the same kind of talent that Georgia Tech plays week in and week out."
My, how the experts were wrong! Johnson installed the triple option at Georgia Tech and rolled to a 9-4 season, including a victory over in-state rival Georgia. Johnson had promised the Yellow Jacket faithful that they would beat Georgia, and he held true to the promise.
Going into 2009 the Yellow Jackets have had a full year to gain experience running the triple-option and expectations are through the roof. Here is a look at their 2009 schedule. It looks very promising.
Sept. 5—Jacksonville State
The Gamecocks will enter Bobby Dodd stadium looking for an upset. Unfortunately for them they will be the first victim of Coach Paul Johnson's triple-option attack. Last year, they were no match for the Jackets losing 41-14. This should be no problem for Tech: GT 63, JSU 14.
The Tigers are coming off a disappointing 7-6 season in which former coach Tommy Bowden resigned and new coach Dabo Sweeney led the Tigers to a bowl berth. Offensively the loss of WR Aaron Kelly, RB James Davis, and QB Cullen Harper will hurt. They do return the explosive RB CJ Spiller and WR Jacoby Ford.
With eight starters returning on defense, the Tigers should be able to play with anybody in the ACC. Will Dabo bring the Tigers back to the Promised Land? Not this year. Same result as last year: GT 21, Clemson 17.
Sept. 17—@ Miami
Coach Randy Shannon is hoping his young players will be able to hold it together this year after letting it fall apart down the stretch last season. No longer is there a QB controversy as QB Robert Marve left the school. QB Jacory Harris will have his hands full to start the season as they open up with FSU, GT, VT, and Oklahoma.
All those teams will have outstanding defenses that will pressure their inexperience in the O-line. It is not going to be pretty, as the defense was atrocious against the run and that is Tech's bread-and-butter: GT 42, Miami 10.
Sept. 26—North Carolina
The Tar Heels have improved under coach Butch Davis, going from 4-8 in 2007 to 8-5 in 2008. The defense returns nine starters and is sure to be the strength of the team. The offensive lost WRs Brandon Tate, Hakeem Nicks, and Brooks Foster.
If the Tar Heels plan on improving this season, Davis needs to find someone for QB T.J. Yates to throw the ball to. The Tar Heels dominated the Jackets 28-7 in Chapel Hill last season. Not this year: GT 24, NC 10.
Oct. 3—@ Mississippi State
First year coach, Dan Mullen, takes over at a school that has struggled for quite some time. Mullen will look to implement the spread offense into a program that has not been known for producing QBs or WRs.
It will take him a few years to get his kind of athletes into the program and it will take him a few years to see any results. Tech won big in Atlanta last season 38-7, and it won't be any different this year: GT 49, Miss. St. 3.
Oct. 10—@ Florida State
There is one sure thing after all the problems this program has faced this offseason and that is Christian Ponder is their QB. Coach Bowden, O-Coordinator Jimbo Fisher, and D-Coordinator Mickey Andrews have their hands full trying to gain control of team that has been filled with turmoil the last couple of years.
With that said, they will try and build on a 9-4 season with a team that is not that deep and plays erratic. Tech won in Atlanta 31-28 in 2008. This year it will not even be close: GT 42, FSU 24.
Oct. 17—Virginia Tech
In 2008, Beamer's Boys won a second consecutive ACC Championship with a 10-4 record. The Hokies return all their skill position players on offense and will be led by QB Tyrod Talyor. They surely put some points on the board in 2009.
The defense will have some questions, but let's face it, Virginia Tech always plays great defense under D-Coordinator Bud Foster. This game will provide the front-runner in the Coastal Division crown. Last season the Hokies won in Blacksburg 20-17. This year in Atlanta it is sure to be a defensive battle once again: VT 24, GT 23.
Oct. 24—@ Virginia
Al Groh had one of the most troubling years in last season's 5-7 team. Several players were either arrested, suspended, or dismissed from the team. After being ranked in the bottom 10 in the country in offense, Groh replaced O-Coordinator Mike Groh with Greg Brandon to instill a new offense that hopes to put the ball in the end zone.
The defense will be so-so with their strength being in the defensive backfield. If they can find some linebackers who can play, they should improve drastically. Virginia was able to pull the upset of GT in Atlanta 24-17 in 2008. In 2009, Tech will get revenge: GT 31, Virginia 20.
Oct. 31—@ Vanderbilt
The question now becomes, “Has Vandy finally arrived?” Head coach Bobby Johnson led the ‘Dores to their first winning season since 1982 and even won their bowl game. Can the ‘Dores repeat their success in 2009?
Even though they return 18 starters, they will play 12 straight weeks with no bye. In the SEC that will be an almost impossible task to accomplish. A tired Vandy defense won't be able to stop the triple-option: GT 24, Vandy 20.
Nov. 7—Wake Forest
Wake Forest is truly in rebuilding mode after losing seven starters on defense and only returning one receiver with starting experience. We will really get to see just how good QB Riley Skinner is this year.
If the O-line holds up and the new receiving corps catch the ball, Skinner could lead the Deacons to another bowl. If it doesn't, it could be a hard pill to swallow for Wake's faithful. Georgia Tech is just too good in this one: GT 38, Wake Forest 27.
Nov. 14—@ Duke
After losing 10 starters from a year ago, Coach Cutcliffe is actually excited about 2009. It looks as though Cutcliffe is starting to get some football players to come to the basketball school.
If he can find some replacements, he might get Duke over the hump to six victories. Last year Tech shut out Duke 27-0. This year Duke scores once: GT 42—Duke 3.
After starting last season as the preseason No. 1, Georgia disappointed many by going 10-3 and not even winning the SEC championship. This season there is no preseason hype—just a lot of people who do not expect anything from the dogs.
Coach Mark Richt is replacing three skill position players in QB Matthew Stafford, RB Knowshon Moreno, and WR Mohammed Massaquoi. In steps fifth-year QB Joe Cox, RB Caleb King, and All-Freshman everything A.J. Green.
On defense they lose six starters. They get back DT Jeff Owens, who with DT Geno Atkins will form an excellent D-line for D-Coordinator Willie Martinez.
The Jackets won a shootout in Athens last year 45-42. For the first time in nine years, the Dogs will be the underdog in this one. Can they stop the triple-option? Expect another shoot-out: Georgia 38, GT 35.
If Virginia Tech stumbles along the way, I expect the Yellow Jackets to go to the ACC Championship game as the representative from the Coastal Division with a 10-2 record (7-1 in the ACC).
There is one thing that the Yellow Jacket faithful can be sure of: Johnson will continue to bring in players to run his offense until it is a fine-tuned machine. That being said, fans should expect that in a year or two, their beloved team will be competing for a national championship.