If Paul Johnson and the Yellow Jackets want to repeat as Champions of the ACC, they will have to do it fighting a brutal schedule in 2010.
The good news for Tech fans—they should have a great home record when the season is said and done. Opening with South Carolina State, an FCS school (formally D-IAA) the Jackets also host what would appear to be a mostly less-than-formidable lineup.
North Carolina State, Virginia, Middle Tennessee, and Duke all come to Bobby Dodd Stadium this fall, bringing a group that went a combined 23-26 in 2009. The Jackets should take care of business with that collective bunch.
The lone home opponent that appears to pose a significant challenge is the Miami Hurricanes. Led by Jr. QB Jacory Harris, he and the 'Canes lit up GA Tech for 270 yards passing, an 80% completion percentage, and 3 touchdowns last season.
Tech fans hope to forget that game, and witness a repeat of their last November match-up in Atlanta. In 2008, on a cold, clear night, the Ramblin' Wreck mowed over the Hurricanes for 472 yards rushing in a 41-23 slaughtering, completing a four year run of victories over UM. Should the Yellow Jackets regain their recent dominance over Miami on Nov. 13, they might be able to put themselves in position for another ACC Championship game bid.
That is also assuming they can get through their vicious gauntlet of road opponents.
You see, Georgia Tech has a problem.
When the ACC completed their expansion and realignment process the Yellow Jackets were handed a rotating schedule that left them with their three biggest rival games all aligning home and away each season. UGA, Clemson, and VA Tech all host the Jackets in 2010, leaving a void in desirable match-ups for the home schedule and providing a strenuous test of away games to endure.
Add UNC and Kansas to that road mix, and Tech has their work cut out for them this fall.
To further add difficulty into the schedule; UNC, MTSU, VT, and UGA all have bye weeks prior to playing Tech's unique Triple Option based spread offense and newly inserted 3-4 defense, brought in by former UVA head coach, Al Groh.
Georgia Tech's final six weeks closeout at Clemson, (bye), at VT, Miami, Duke, and at UGA.
To take the glass half full approach, Tech should at least have their offense well up to speed by the time they face that firing squad of combatants.
The Yellow Jackets have to hope that Sr. QB Joshua Nesbitt and Sr. B-Back Anthony Allen, along with the rest of the highly loaded backfield can maintain health and efficiency throughout the season if they want to be in the hunt for an ACC crown.
With all that stated, if the trends of Coach Paul Johnson's career continue in line with his other stops as head coach, at Ga. Southern and Navy, one would expect another jump in improvement in this year number three of his tenure.
In year three with Navy he won 10 games and with Ga. Southern he won the D-II National Title.
Can Coach Johnson overcome what appears to be stacked odds against him this season?
Can he put Georgia Tech as a fixture in the top 10 of the national rankings?
Can the Yellow Jackets turn the corner on the national perception of a weak ACC?
As far as Jacket fans hopes, its with tempered expectations they enter the 2010 football season. But, after beating UGA in year one and winning the conference title in year two, most Tech fans are not going to put anything past this team with Paul Johnson at the helm.
Expect Georgia Tech and the Ramblin' Wreck to be in the mix at the season's end, even against such a schedule.