Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, this is it. My inaugural article on the Bleacher Report. After days, weeks, maybe even months of my life spent reading other columnists boring take on college football, I have finally decided to put forth my own, probably more boring views and opinions. So read on, faithful followers, (that means you, Randi) and enjoy my brand new column on all things Georgia Tech.
The topic of my first article was something I had to think long and hard about, and about a million different ideas whirled about in this little brain of mine. Finally, I decided that maybe I should do a simple preview of the upcoming Georgia Tech - Vanderbilt game, and see if I can get a few rave reviews, or at least 2 or 3 reads.
I'll give a breakdown of the stats and variables surrounding each facet of the game, (Offense, Defense, Special Teams, Coaching) and then give my own humble opinion about who has the edge. So enjoy the article, and then sound off and tell me what you think!
Georgia Tech - Tech comes into this game against SEC foe Vandy averaging over 290 yards per game on the ground, which is 2nd best in all of Division I, behind only Nevada. This statistic in itself is pretty darn amazing, especially considering the fact that Tech has faced 4 of the NCAA's top 25 defenses in the first eight games it has played. Weapons that Paul Johnson have at his disposal are diverse and varied, from the rumbling, crushing style of Jonathan Dwyer and Anthony Allen, to the finesse and speed of Roddy Jones, Embry Peebles and Marcus Wright. And let's not forget Josh Nesbitt and all of the intangibles and toughness he brings to the table. A deadly attack, indeed.
Vanderbilt - For the lowest scoring offense in the SEC, points have certainly been at a premium this season, with the Dores' averaging only 17.6 points per game. Quarterback Larry Smith has really struggled, especially against stiff SEC defenses, with his 3 throwing TD's this season being overshadowed by 7 interceptions. On the bright side, Vandy does seem to have a budding star in tailback Warren Norman, a Stone Mountain native. He has rushed for almost 600 yards this season, with a per carry average of 5.7.
Edge: Georgia Tech. With one of the nation's top scoring offenses, Tech dominates the Time-of-Possession statistic and keeps the opposing offense off the field. For Tech to succeed on offense Saturday, Paul Johnson just needs to keep up the good work.
Georgia Tech: Whew, I had to take a deep breath before I said this, but I really think Tech's defense is improving week-by-week. Last weekend, at UVa, Wommack's besieged defense held the struggling Wahoos to under 200 total yards offense, a first this year and hopefully a good sign of things to come. Derrick Morgan continues to put pressure on opposing QB's, Morgan Burnett is 3rd in the nation with 4 picks, and Brad Jefferson has been playing like a man possessed the last two weeks.
Vandy: The Commodore's defense is certainly the true strength of their team, allowing 304 yards per game, good enough for 25th best nationally. They have honest-to-goodness SEC speed at the linebacker and in the secondary, and their D-Line has put pressure on the opposition all season. Look for linebacker Chris Marve and top NFL prospect CB Myron Lewis to be making plays all game long.
Edge: Vandy by a hair. They probably have more talent on defense, and definitely more speed, but their offense will probably make Tech's D look better than it really is. If the backers and corners from Nashville can stay disciplined, they can keep this a really close game well into the second half.
Tech: Well, after starting the season off very nicely, and then totally collapsing, and then proverbially coming back from the dead, Scott Blair is once again the starting placekicker at Tech. He is a pretty solid field goal kicker, but his kickoffs definitely leave something to be desired and he cannot be relied on for any kicks of 40+ yards. Also, the kick coverage has been very erratic, a bad sign when Vandy returned a kickoff for a touchdown last week against South Carolina. Maybe Jerrard Tarrant can provide some excitement on a punt return?
Vandy: Like I just said, tailback Warren Norman had a 99 yard kickoff return last week, and a 76 yarder earlier this year versus Army. Both were TDs. While kickoff has been good, punt return for Vandy has been abysmal, averaging 3.63 yards per return, 110th nationally. Coverages for both kickoff and punt return have been terrible for the Dores' as well. They gave up a kickoff return for a TD against UGA, and also a 55 yard punt return to Prince Miller.
Edge: I never thought I would say this, but Tech. The punt team has been great on both ends, kickoff return is decent and coverage has been slightly above-par. Maybe last week Scott Blair finally turned the corner and is worshipping at the idol of Scott Sission and Luke Manget.
Tech: We all know what a good coach Paul Johnson is, and the adjustments he makes at halftime to his wishbone offense are amazing week after week. The defense is also getting better under the simplified schemes of Dave Wommack.
Vandy: Honestly, all I can say about Bobby Johnson is that he used to coach at Furman and he won the second bowl game in Vanderbilt history last year. Vandy is a poor measuring stick for quality of coach, because I'm not sure Nick Saban himself could win consistently at a school with such academic constraints.
Edge: Tech. But not by a whole lot. Bobby Johnson has coached against Paul Johnson 6 times in the past, while PJ was at Georgia Southern and BJ at Furman. The head to head record? 4-2 in favor of the wishbone.
I'll be making the trip up to Vanderbilt on Friday night with my wife and some in-laws. Should be a good time in Nashville on Halloween, as long as Tech does what they have done very well this year, winning games against inferior opponents. Vandy isn't bad, but their offensive struggles and Tech's recent offensive domination should be enough to seal this one in the second half.
My first prognostication?
Tech goes to 2 - 0 against the SEC: 31 to 10