Tech still dangerous

Georgia Tech's football team is a mess right now. It's a train wreck waiting to happen. But the Yellow Jackets are still very much dangerous as they prepare to face Clemson on Saturday.

That's mainly because of Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Johnson and his unique option offense. Johnson is 4-1 against Clemson since he took over in Atlanta, including a win in the 2009 ACC championship game and a 31-17 win last year when Clemson was 8-0. Except for a 27-13 win at home in 2010, the Tigers really have struggled to slow down Georgia Tech's offense.

That's what makes the game Saturday a concern for the Tigers' players and coaches. The five games against Johnson should make the Tigers overlook the problems that the Yellow Jackets are having on the field this season (and back to the middle of last season) and really force them to focus on the tough task ahead.

Since starting the 2011 season with six straight wins, the Yellow Jackets are 4-8 in their past 12 games, although one of those four wins was the 14-point victory over Clemson at the end of October.

Things looked a little different for the Yellow Jackets as they started this season with two wins in their first three games, and realistically, they should have knocked off Virginia Tech in the season opener. Then the Yellow Jackets stormed back from a 19-0 deficit against Miami to take a 36-19 lead in the second half in that game, and the prospects looked bright for Georgia Tech.

Since then, things have soured for the Yellow Jackets, Johnson and the Georgia Tech fans, who aren't turning out to support their team. After taking the 17-point lead over Miami, Georgia Tech has been outscored 72-28 in losses to the Hurricanes and Middle Tennessee State. The Yellow Jackets have been outscored 51-21 in the second half of those games, which is supposed to be the time when their running offense is at its best, having worn down the opposing team.

But the problem really isn't the offense. The Yellow Jackets' defense, which was supposed to take a step forward in its third year with Al Groh as the defensive coordinator, has been pushed all over the field the past two weeks. Groh's unit has surrendered 1,119 yards – 682 passing and 437 rushing – 91 points and 54 first downs the past two games.

Losing to Miami was bad enough in what likely was the strangest game that will be played this season. Miami led 19-0 only to see Georgia Tech score 36 straight points and seemingly take control. The Hurricanes, however, scored the final 23 points and set the Yellow Jackets' troubles in motion.

Those problems hit full speed in the loss to MTSU as the Yellow Jackets were dominated in the second half in a 49-28 decision. The Blue Raiders outscored Georgia Tech 28-7 after the game was tied at 21 at the half as the Yellow Jackets had no answer for what the Blue Raiders were doing.

MTSU rolled up 510 yards of offense and showed off a dynamic balance with that unit, passing for 246 yards and rushing for 264 more. Running back Benny Cunningham had 217 yards and five touchdowns, and quarterback Logan Kilgore completed 17-of-23 passes and had two touchdowns.

And it wasn't just what the Blue Raiders did that was surprising. How they did it, also, was certainly stunning.

MTSU was the more physical team Saturday. Sure, the Blue Raiders run a spread offense and use a lot of formations and motion to move around a defense, but they also lined up and blew the Yellow Jackets' defense off the ball. And remember, that was MTSU.

Imagine how much Chad Morris and the Clemson offensive players are licking their chops after watching that film.

Plug Tajh Boyd in for Kilgore and Andre Ellington in for Cunningham, and you can only imagine what kind of numbers the Tigers will put up Saturday. Also, the Blue Raiders don't have the same kind of weapons on the outside like Clemson has in Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, Brandon Ford and company.

If the Tigers can overcome their recent troubles with Georgia Tech, it could get ugly Saturday. But the Tigers will have to play well, stay focused and not be fooled by the Yellow Jackets' struggles the past two weeks. Georgia Tech is dangerous and will be as long as Johnson is the Yellow Jackets' head coach and uses that unique offense.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM. Follow him on Twitter @DM_Shirley

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