So, we are currently sitting in the middle of year four of the Paul Johnson era at Georgia Tech. And in those four years, two arguments tend to come up concerning Georgia Tech. The first one is that teams have "figured out" how to stop the spread option offense the Jackets run.
It is perhaps the most ignorant argument you can make about an offense that has already lead the Jackets to an ACC Championship and to their first 6-0 start since the Bobby Dodd era. That would be no different than me saying that because we held Maryland to 16 points, we have "figured out" their offense.
Now, the second argument holds a little more merit. The argument is that Georgia Tech does not field a championship caliber defense, and that because of this, they will never truly reach the biggest stages of college football. And let's be quite honest, there was not much of an argument against this for the past three years.
Georgia Tech's total overall defensive rankings in the past three years were barely in the top 60 in college football. And that argument has carried over strongly into this year, fueled by what look like poor performances by the defense in multiple games this season.
But numbers can be deceiving. I'll give you an example. In the NFL, the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year was Troy Polamalu. Crazy thing about this: He did not lead the NFL in any major statistical category. So why was he voted as the DPOY? Because of the intangibles. These are things that can't be measured by numbers or stats. The regular stats don't show that his strip sack of Joe Flacco, ultimately won the AFC North for them.
This year's Georgia Tech defense is no different. On the surface, there are a lot of complaints. However, if you dig just a bit deeper past the numbers, you'll see that the effort is much better than the numbers show.
Against Western Carolina, the Jackets gave up 21 points. Dig a little deeper and you find out that 14 of those points came directly off of special teams errors, not mistakes by the defense. Against Middle Tennessee State, NC State and Kansas, second-string players gave up at least one touchdown in each of those games, yet again skewing the numbers.
Also, the numbers don't show this—but the defense fully won the game against Maryland. I'm more than willing to argue that fact with you, but for three quarters the defense held Maryland to three points. If the offense pulls its weight and scores one more time, the game doesn't even fall under a threat of a comeback. It is finished—much like the NC State game—before it can even happen.
Ultimately, the thing that must be preached concerning this defense is patience. It helps to realize that we are currently in just the second year of a new defensive scheme under Al Groh, and that many of the regular defensive players are still relatively young. Add in the fact that each week, the defense seems to improve, and it all boils down to showing us that the numbers don't always tell the full story.