Is Georgia Tech the Real Deal?

David Fidler Correspondent IDecember 30, 2009

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 28:  Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas #8 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets rushes upfield against the Clemson Tigers in the 2009 ACC Football Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on December 5, 2009 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Kirk Ferentz mentioned something in his Dec. 6, Orange Bowl press conference that has stuck in my mind. He said, "I can't imagine trying to get ready for them in a normal week."

As all Hawkeye fans know by now, Georgia Tech runs a triple option offense. Triple option brings to mind thoughts of Nebraska circa 1972, but this is not your Daddy's triple option. All three "options" in question are big, physical, modern players.

Moreover, even though G-Tech rarely throws the ball, when they do they make it count. With that in mind, G-Tech's deep threat receiver is a 6'3" nightmare for any cornerback.

Nevertheless, the reality is that by today's standards, the triple option is antiquated. The only teams that run it are the military academies and Georgia Tech.

Yes, there are plenty of very successful teams that include elements of the triple option in their offense. However, there are none that run an undiluted, true triple option offense.

Just Georgia Tech.

Which is why Kirk Ferentz' comments ring especially true. After all, during a normal week, teams have a finite amount of time to game-plan for next week's opponent. Usually, there is some basis of comparison with previous teams that have been played.

For example, Northern Iowa runs a similar offense to Iowa State. As Iowa played ISU a week after playing UNI, they were somewhat familiar with what ISU presented.

Similarly, Wisconsin runs a similar offense to what Iowa presents. When Iowa played Wisconsin they could fall back on the head-to-head scrimmages of the previous summer.

For the most part, this can be said about every team. There is no team that runs such a unique scheme that other teams don't have anything in their resume with which to compare it.

Except, arguably, Georgia Tech.

The thing is, this is not in season. Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa coaches have more than a couple of days to plan and scheme and prepare for Georgia Tech.

At the very least, when push comes to shove you can safely assume that Iowa's success or failure against Georgia Tech will not be due to want of preparation.

This brings me to Georgia Tech. I considered the last time a team had ample time to prepare for Georgia Tech.

It was last year in the Chick-Fil-A™ Peach Bowl against LSU. Georgia Tech was coming into the game with a 9-3 record. Two of their three losses were to ranked opponents and the other loss was to Virginia Tech, who ended the year ranked.

Georgia Tech was considered red hot on Nov. 29, after they beat Georgia in their annual "Good, Old-Fashioned Hate" rivalry game.

Meanwhile, LSU limped into the Chick-Fil-A™ Peach Bowl. They had a 7-5 record and had lost three of their last four. Two of those losses were to unranked opponents.

Further compounding the situation, the Chick-Fil-A™ Peach Bowl is played in the Georgia Dome, in Atlanta Ga., G-Tech's home city.

G-Tech walked into the game as 4 point favorites and I think most people thought the handicappers were being generous.

The end result of the game turned out to be a blowout. LSU handled G-Tech by a score of 38-3. LSU did what they wanted offensively which probably wasn't much of a surprise. Nobody was going to mistake G-Tech as a solid defensive team.

On the other hand, G-Tech boasted the 3rd best rushing attack in the country with 282.3 yards/game. Nevertheless, LSU held them to 164 yards on the ground.

This leads me to ask one big question: if a solid defensive team has time to prepare for what could be called G-Tech's gimmickry, is said team in a good position to shut down the triple option and blow G-Tech out?

It is obvious where I, a Hawkeye fan, am headed with this line of thinking. However, it is worth considering three other distinct possibilities.

Firstly, 2008 was Paul Johnson's first year with G-Tech. In effect, it was also his first bowl game in the spotlight. Yes, he had been to bowl games as the head coach of Navy. However, coaching for Navy is hardly the pressure cooker of coaching for a team in a BCS conference. Maybe he was just overwhelmed.

Secondly, Iowa fans, remember the 2003 Orange Bowl? Ferentz has consistently said that he and the team took the preparation for that game far too lightly. And we all paid for it to the tune of a USC beat-down.

Again, maybe this somewhat new experience for 2008 ACC Coach of the Year Paul Johnson led to a lax bowl camp. This led to an ill-prepared G-Tech team, which led to an LSU curb stomping.

Finally, the reality is you can say what you want about G-Tech, good or bad, but this is a team that cannot afford to fall too far behind. They depend too much on the run, and the run, even when successful, consumes time.

If a team as run-heavy as G-Tech falls behind by, say, four touchdowns, then they will be forced to pass. And forcing a team to go against what it is used to and good at is a recipe for disaster.

With that in mind, the halftime score of the Chick-Fil-A™ Peach Bowl saw LSU leading 35-3.

With a team built like G-Tech, the game was over at that point.

In closing, one has to acknowledge the distinct possibility that G-Tech depends on short weeks and minimal preparation. Without it, they might come head-to-head against a team specifically designed to maintain their positions, stay in their lanes, not over-commit and not get baited into fake pitches and hand-offs.

In short, a team that is built to shut down the triple option, which, incidentally, resembles Iowa in every way.


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