(Will Josh Nesbitt begin 2010 better than he ended 2008?)
Well folks, this is it. A season's worth of bad advice and bold predictions have all come down to this. Oh, and the actual football was important too.
Tuesday night, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will strap it up for the first time this year and the final time this season with the objective of holding aloft a giant trophy full of oranges when the night is through.
Iowa presents a stern test—perhaps as stern as any the Jackets have faced yet. And there are those who believe that the spread option is easily beaten when its opponent is given such ample time for preparation.
So without further pomp or ado, let us begin our dance, one last time.
Figure out what's working on offense early, and stick with it.
Clemson did a heck of a job taking away Jonathan Dwyer and the option dive read early in the ACC title game, so the Jackets just countered by going outside. There, on the edge, they made Clemson make mistakes and got big yards for it.
Moreover, that opened the dive for Dwyer, who finished the night with 110 yards and a pair of scores.
It's often held that the dive is meant to get defenses moving instinctively toward the middle of the field, thus softening the edges for big plays from Tech's speedy A-backs. The ACC Championship game proved it can run either way.
Iowa stacks up well inside, so maybe going to the outside might be the best option. Maybe after a month of practices and two years of listening to how their offense will never be good enough to be worthy of a big-time bowl performance, the Jackets will come out hungry enough to dominate the line of scrimmage and rip off big yards on the ground.
What's important for Tech is figuring that out quickly, and moving ahead accordingly.
It's been maligned all year, so maybe I'm going out on too thin a limb, but I'm going to say look for a big game from Tech's secondary.
Ricky Stanzi, Iowa's error-prone-then-heroic quarterback will play in the Orange Bowl, a reality the Jackets have been game-planning for since they started bowl practice.
Stanzi can be an impressive signal caller—he can also make serious mistakes.
Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Dave Wommack will likely be dialing up some early pressure to try and rattle Stanzi, too. Remember, in all the talk about Iowa having extra time to prepare for Tech's offense, we forget that Wommack has had a month to ready his troops to beat an offense ranked 93rd in the country.
Jerrard Tarrant, Mario Butler, Morgan Burnett... those guys can be ballhawks when they want to, even if their coverage skills leave plenty to be desired. If they can have a big day, (three interceptions) Iowa should be in real trouble.
Paul Johnson gets a cool $200,000 if Tech wins this game. Even genius has a price, it would seem.
Finally, a score
Well, the moment has finally come.
I'll make you a deal: This one comes straight up, with little explanation and no frilly language.
Iowa is the best defense Georgia Tech will face this year. There dont have a lot of stars, but there is speed, there is size, there is talent and there is a knowledge of how to be tough defensively in big moments, a trait not easy to breed. In short, the Jackets will have their hands full.
But (there's always a 'but' with me, I assure you) the questions being asked of Iowa are much harder to answer than those of Georgia Tech. Offensively, defensively, pick your poison.
I'm a firm believer in quarterbacks being the key to victory, and I just can't bring myself to pick Ricky Stanzi over Josh Nesbitt.
I think this will be a good game for awhile. I think Georgia Tech will need to put Iowa away through three quarters, because frankly, the Hawkeyes are blessed in the final frame.
And so I think the Jackets will get the job done, because Paul Johnson is one of the best, and the memory of an embarrassing Chick-Fil-A Bowl still haunts this team more than a year later.
It's close early, but Georgia Tech takes it with a big third quarter: 34-21.