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In the wake of Tech's last-second loss to N. C. State (amazing how you can go from ecstasy to agony in less than six-tenths of a second, the time it took Calvin Johnson to touch and then cough up that pass in the end zone), the debate over Chan Gailey's performance as head coach has raged even hotter on the Hive board – if that's possible.
I'm not going to get involved in this emotionally. We've seen quite enough of that. I'll just lay out the numbers and ask our readers to decide for themselves.
The bottom line for any coach is his won-lost record. Gailey's first three seasons were 7-6, 7-6, and 7-5. It appears that Tech is headed for yet another 6-5 regular season record. Tech did not reach the eight-win level in Gailey's first three seasons and is not expected to reach it this year.
Gailey, it is clear, is a coach who's never going to do any better than 6-5. He won't do much worse – but you're never going to see Tech win eight or nine games while he's in control of the program. A lot of folks would be satisfied for the Jackets to do slightly better than break even every year. You'll never see a Gailey-coached team slip to the depths of the Bill Lewis team of 1994 — but you'll never a Gailey team go 10-2 and finish the season in the Top 10. That certainly doesn't make Gailey a bad person. But you shouldn't have any unrealistic expectations about what he can accomplish.
Is Gailey even the best football coach on the Georgia Tech campus? Again, I'm not going to get emotional and start calling names here. Let's just compare some numbers and rely on the Tech fans to make their own judgments.
On defense, where Jon Tenuta calls the shots, Tech is now ranked 25th nationally in total defense (6th in the ACC), seventh in rushing defense (second in the ACC), 61st in passing defense (ninth in the ACC), and 45th nationally in scoring defense (seventh in the ACC), even when you include the 51 points that Virginia Tech hung on them.
On offense, where Chan Gailey is essentially the coordinator and calls the plays, Tech ranks 76th nationally in total offense (tenth in the ACC, ahead of only North Carolina and Duke), 94th in scoring offense (11th in the ACC, ahead of only Duke), 74th in rushing offense (eighth in the ACC), and 65th in passing offense (eighth in the ACC).
On the side of the ball where Tenuta calls the shots, Tech ranks in the top or middle ranks of every defensive statistical category. On the side of the ball where Chan Gailey makes the decisions, Tech ranks in the bottom half both nationally and within the conference in every offensive category. These offensive rankings have been achieved even though Tech has a wide receiver who is widely considered by knowledgeable observers to be among the best two or three in the nation, a running back who's considered one of the best in the ACC and who will leave Tech as either its number two or number three best career rusher, and a quarterback who's in his third year as a starter.
Those are the cold, hard numbers. Read them and make your own decision.
I can already anticipate the emails I will get after writing what I just cited: how can you expect Tech to do any better on offense when the offensive line is so small and inexperienced? That's a fair question. I would respond with a question of my own: who is ultimately responsible for making sure that the program has a sufficient number of large, talented, and experienced offensive linemen on scholarship?
There were some in the Tech family who thought that because Gaily had achieved moderate success at the pro level with the Dallas Cowboys, he would succeed at Tech. That's not the first time that mistake has been made. Look at Dave Wannstedt, who's now showing at Pittsburgh that he's just as lousy a coach as he was with the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins. Look at Dan Henning, who bombed out at Boston College.
The reverse is also true – success at the college level doesn't mean you can coach successfully at the pro level. Bud Wilkinson was a big-time college coach who failed as the Cardinals' head man in the 1960s. Lou Holtz didn't even last one season with the New York Jets. Steve Spurrier turned out to be not such a genius when he briefly coached the Washington Redskins.
The one exception to this argument is Pete Carroll, who was a bust as a coach in the pros but has built maybe the most powerful college dynasty of all time at Southern Cal. But he doesn't have much company.
Bottom line: experience at the pro level doesn't mean you're going to succeed at the college level. And vice versa.
You can make all the same old arguments for keeping Gailey and for dismissing him as head coach, but the simple fact remains: he is never going to be much better than a 6-5 coach. I'm sure there are some people who would be happy to stay within that zone of comfort where the program is not much better than .500 but at least doesn't get much worse. Is that good enough for Georgia Tech? I'll leave it up to my readers to answer that question for themselves.
At this point in the discussion, there's no pressure on Chan Gailey. He is what he is, and he's not going to change his coaching style at this stage of his career. The real pressure is on Dave Braine. Does he want to leave the athletic department's flagship program at this level of achievement as his legacy at the Flats? I honestly don't know. Maybe he's comfortable with a 6-5 program as well.
We have now reached the mid-point, more or less, of the 2005 season, so let's run down some of the surprises, pleasant and otherwise, in Division I-A.
In the pleasant category, the biggest surprises would have to include Baylor and Indiana, which both have 4-1 records. It's possible that neither team will win another game this year, but their fans would gladly settle for a four-win season. Vanderbilt is another overachiever at 4-2, although the Commodores are going downhill fast after winning their first four games.
UCLA, which has struggled for the past two seasons to break even under Coach Karl Dorrell, is undefeated after scoring 19 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to beat Cal, potentially setting up a very interesting matchup with USC at the end of the season. The Trojans have Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, LenDale White and that whole bunch, but the Bruins have a secret weapon in Maurice Drew, a stumpy little guy who looks like a muscle-bound leprechaun but can score from anywhere on the field. When Drew hauls in a punt and gets those short legs churning, he's more dangerous than a special prosecutor in the Bush White House.
The preseason consensus among the football experts was that Ohio State would win the Big Ten, with challenges coming from Michigan, Iowa or Wisconsin in Barry Alvarez's farewell tour. Instead, Penn State sits atop the Big Ten with a 6-0 record after spanking the Buckeyes last weekend. Who knew Joe Paterno had one more big season left?
Connecticut is 4-1 and looks like they will win at least eight games this year. Can anyone guess the name of the only team to beat the Huskies this season?
Central Florida is 3-2 and is the only team still undefeated in conference play in Conference USA. George O'Leary and the Golden Knights whipped Memphis State (coached by Tommy West) last weekend – just like the old days when O'Leary was whipping West like a yard dog over in Death Valley. Come back, George. All is forgiven.
In the category of unpleasant surprises, Oklahoma, one of the premier programs over the past five years, is headed for the Big 12 basement because the Sooners have no quarterback and no passing game. Just how bad is Rhett Bomar? Suffice it to say that if A. J. Suggs were playing for the Sooners, he'd be a star. Michigan is only 3-3 and will probably finish out of the Top 25 for the first time in years. Can that happen without Lloyd Carr stroking out and dropping dead on the sidelines?
Now, let's take a few questions.
Q. Okay, so some thin-skinned Tech fan didn't like your humor in the VPI column two weeks ago. Do the rest of us have to tell you to put it back in after the bland NCSU column this week? This isn't a column about the aftermath of a hurricane, selection of a new justice for the Supreme Court, or casualties and sacrifices of our soldiers in Iraq, this is about college football. Blow off some steam and have some fun! (And NO, this isn't your future wife.)
A. Normally I would agree with you, but just three days after watching the N.C. State game I saw the Falcons lose to the Patriots and the Braves blow it in 18 innings to the Astros. It wasn't much of a fun week. As the old saying goes, dying is easy – comedy is hard.
Q. You've been vicious towards Chan Gailey, but is it really his fault that Tech is handicapped in its football recruiting by unreasonably high academic standards?
A. You're absolutely right. It was obviously those high academic standards that prevented Bobby Ross from winning a share of the national championship in 1990 and kept George O'Leary from beating Georgia three times in a row.
Q. It must kill you that Georgia is going to go undefeated and play Southern Cal for the national championship.
A. I don't waste my time thinking about things that aren't going to happen. Southern Cal, in all probability, is going to be facing Texas in the BCS showdown for the mythical national championship. If Texas should stumble between now and the end of the season, then USC will play the ACC champion – which is going to be either Virginia Tech or FSU. Even if an SEC team – say, Alabama – were to go undefeated, they're not going to leapfrog Texas or the ACC champs. Actually, it must be killing YOU that, for the second year in a row, the SEC could have a team go undefeated and not get picked for the big game. What's the conference going to do then, withdraw from the BCS Alliance in protest? I can see the ad campaign already: You can't spell ‘secede' without SEC.
This week's picks:
Georgia Tech at Duke. I hope I don't even have to remind the Jackets of what happened when they played at Duke two years ago. If that isn't inspiration enough for them to beat the Devils by at least 21, then the season is truly lost.
Clemson at N.C. State. Tommy Bowden is the Donald Rumsfeld of college football. No matter how incompetent he is, no matter how badly he screws up, he'll never get fired. He'll just get the Clemson equivalent of the Presidential Medal of Freedom (which I guess would be one of those big cowboy belt buckles like Jerry Glanville used to wear when he was coaching the Falcons.) Clemson is a five-point underdog to the Wolfpack and will probably lose – but why should Bowden worry?
Wisconsin at Minnesota. Wisconsin lost to Nortwestern last week by a 51-48 score. For some reason, those numbers are very familiar. Can't quite remember why. The Badgers will probably bounce back this week against a Minnesota team still up in the clouds after finally winning the Little Brown Jug back from Michigan.
Michigan State at Ohio State. If Buckeye Coach Jim Tressell is going to salvage anything from this season, he'd better get started.
Wake Forest at Boston College. The Eagles have become a kick-ass team in their first year in the ACC. Welcome aboard, guys. I think they'll beat Wake Forest, but not by 15.
Kansas State at Texas Tech. Tech is about a 12-point favorite here, but this could be a good game to take the points. Kansas State slowly seems to be getting better and Tech should be due for a letdown after spanking Nebraska.
Oregon State at California. All of a sudden, Cal is looking up at UCLA and Southern Cal in the Pac-10 race. They'd better get the job done against Oregon State if they want to stay in contention.
Florida at LSU. The Tigers are six-point favorites at home, but I see Florida beating the spread and winning straight up.
Penn State at Michigan. It's very odd that Michigan is the three-point favorite even when they've lost three games and Penn State is undefeated. Do you dare stick with Joe Paterno for one more week? Well, why not?
Colorado at Texas. The Longhorns and Mack Brown finally get that Oklahoma monkey off their backs. Texas should win this one as well, but not by 19 points.
Southern Cal at Notre Dame. The Trojans have gotten in the habit of playing an uninspired first half, then blowing out the opposition in the second half. I see no reason for that pattern not to hold here.
Auburn at Arkansas. Auburn may yet get over that loss to Tech and make it to the SEC championship game. Arkansas certainly isn't going to stop them.
FSU at Virginia. For all of the wondrous recruiting done by Al Groh, Virginia is in the same spot in the ACC standings as Georgia Tech. Here comes loss number three.
Dr Football - Duke Week
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