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There's only one explanation for Georgia Tech's monster win over Virginia Tech that makes any sense – the Hokies must have put on the Jackets' uniforms by mistake.
Has there ever been another game where one team played so completely in the style of the opposing team? I don't think so. But consider:
It was the Jackets who scored a touchdown after a turnover forced by the defense – not the Hokies.
It was the Jackets' special teams that blocked a punt and set up a score by the offense – not the Hokies.
It was the Jackets who refused to fold and kept playing tough defense after their offense made two consecutive turnovers – not the Hokies.
It was the Jackets who were playing what the college football world normally considers to be "Beamer Ball" – not the Hokies.
And finally, it was the Jackets who rolled up the points and walked off the field at Lane Stadium as the runaway winners – not the Hokies.
There were many heroes in the win over Virginia Tech, but my personal favorite was Troy Garside, a walk-on backup kicker who was given a chance to play on special teams when the coaches spotted his athletic ability. All Troy did was come shooting in from the outside in the first half and block that punt we referred to earlier. That blocked punt, more than anything else, was a reminder to Frank Beamer and his team that the Jackets weren't going to back down and let the Hokies walk all over them this year. If he never makes another play for Tech in his entire college career, Troy will be remembered for that one.
I will give a special commendation to Reggie Ball as well for not going to pieces after throwing two interceptions. After the defense limited Virginia Tech to a couple of field goals on those turnovers, Reggie directed the Jackets on a final first half drive that resulted in a field goal and gave the momentum back to Georgia Tech. I was so impressed with the way Reggie kept it together that I won't even criticize him for mouthing off late in the game and drawing a 15-yard penalty. The way the Jackets were kicking the snot out of Virginia Tech, I figure Reggie was entitled to let off a little steam.
The best play Ball made all game came in the fourth quarter when the Jackets were just trying to keep the ball and burn some clock. On a key third-down play, Reggie zipped a pass right into Calvin Johnson's hands for a first down that enabled Tech to keep the clock running.
There may be some Jacket fans who are concerned about the fact that the defense allowed 27 pass completions and 339 yards passing, but those are meaningless numbers attributable to an adjustment in defensive strategy. Defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta stopped calling blitzes about midway through the third quarter and had the defense move into something like a prevent scheme where they conceded the short passes but shut off any long throws. It worked beautifully because Hokie quarterback Sean Glennon completed lots of passes but also burned a lot of clock on his two scoring drives in the second half. The Jackets' strategy was to give up the yards – but not any quick points – and watch the Hokies run out of time, which is precisely what happened.
Coach Chan Gailey has moved Tech closer to an ACC crown than they've ever been during his coaching tenure. Now comes the supreme test – can Gailey and the Jackets maintain a high enough level of play to win again this week against a demonstrably inferior team, Maryland? The rap on Gailey has always been that Tech plays up to the level of the opposition in the big games, but also plays down to the level of the opposition in the games where Tech is the favorite. Here is Chan's big chance to prove that the criticism no longer applies.
It is an especially big challenge because Maryland's Ralph Friedgen knows a little bit about the Tech program and has also had two weeks to prepare for this game. Can he game-plan it sufficiently to overcome Tech's advantage in talent? We should get the answer on Saturday.
If Tech wins, they remain undefeated and lodged in first place atop the ACC's Coastal Division. After that the stars will really be moving into alignment for the Jackets. They get a week off after Maryland to prepare for Clemson, one of the toughest teams remaining on the schedule, but it will be a Clemson team that's missing its most dangerous pass receiver. Chansi Stuckey broke his foot in practice and will be out of action probably until November – which is one less thing for Tenuta to worry about when the Jackets take the field in Clemson.
After Clemson, Tech has a home date against a Miami team that's weaker and more beatable than it's been in years. Then there's a very winnable November stretch of games against N. C. State, North Carolina, and Duke leading into the season finale against the Clarke County Correctional Institute.
I know, I know – don't count your chickens, play it one game at a time, and all that. And the whole scenario becomes a moot point if Tech doesn't take care of business against Maryland on Saturday.
Chan Gailey certainly is secure in his job for now, but the firings are starting early on other campuses. McNeese State has already axed head coach Tommy Tate just four games into the season, even though Tate had an overall record of 49-26 and won three Southland Conference championships in 2001, 2002, and 2003. When it comes to the relative prestige of the program, McNeese State isn't exactly Michigan or Southern Cal, so I wonder what the hell McNeese officials are being so picky about?
Tommy Tate will have some company at the unemployment office soon enough. Judging by what the sportswriters along Tobacco Road are saying, don't be surprised if North Carolina's John Bunting and Duke's Ted Roof are also gone before the end of the season – which could mean a Duke-UNC finale with interim coaches running both teams.
Now for some questions –
Q: I assume you're a Tech fan, but the way you are predicting our potential wins makes me wonder. To wit: "If Tech is EVER going to win the ACC, this is the year." "If Chan Gailey is EVER going to win more than seven games, this is the year." I agree we've got great opportunities this season, but it sounds like this is our absolute last chance, because the conference is never going to be this weak again, and we'll never have this strong a team again. You sound like some of the Chan bashers we thought had given up. Let's consider that this program is getting STRONGER. It's not like we're losing 22 starters and have nothing in reserve. As you know, we're losing three defensive starters, Anoai, Hall and Scott. On offense we lose Ball, Wrotto and maybe Calvin. These are all good people, but there is pretty good depth stepping up, especially on defense: Barnes, Tongo, Bowen at LB, a plethora of DBs, and Vance Walker at DT. I do agree the time is ripe this season to move to the next level. I just feel that the program is advancing strongly enough so that we don't need to send "last chance threats" to Chan Gailey.
A: I didn't want to upset my readers, but actually, this could well be Tech's last chance and best chance to ever win the ACC championship. According to the authors of the "Left Behind" series of best-selling novels, we are in the "end times" where the true believers will be called to heaven to sit at the right hand of God, leaving behind a world engulfed in armageddon, nuclear holocaust, plagues and famines, ruled by an anti-Christ who knocks the sweet jabbering bejesus out of any folks who are unlucky enough to be stranded by the rapture. In that situation, I think there's a good possibility the ACC season would be cancelled. So if Chan's going to win a conference crown at Tech, he needs to buckle down and get it done this year.
This week's picks –
Clemson (-16.5) at Wake Forest. I realize Clemson is having a good year, but they won't have their top wide receiver (Chansi Stuckey) against the Deacons. Wake Forest isn't exactly chopped liver either, with a 5-0 record and a good head-to-head history against Clemson in recent years. Clemson should win but I don't really see them covering that kind of spread.
Arkansas at Auburn (-15). The Tigers had a bit of a scare against South Carolina last week but held on to win and are still looking like they, along with Florida, are going to be the Big Daddy in the SEC this year. Arkansas is playing better than they have in several years, so this might be a good week to take the points.
West Virginia (-25) at Mississippi State. Here's a question for Tony Barnhart, Mark Bradley and all the other lazy sportswriters babbling about how great the SEC is this year. If the SEC is such a powerhouse, then why is one of its team such a big underdog to someone from a wussy conference like the Big East? You're usually okay taking lots of points and the home team, but I'm going to pick the Mountaineers to bitch-slap the mighty SEC and cover.
Washington at Southern California (-20.5). The Trojans had lots of trouble putting down the other Washington team last week, so you have to figure the embarrassment factor alone gives USC the incentive to roar back and cover the spread.
Louisiana State (-1) at Florida. Everyone keeps predicting an imminent defeat for Florida, but the Gator defense looks mighty good to me and Chris Leak seems to be quite comfortable with Urban Meyer's spread offense. I'd grab any points the oddsmakers are giving the home team for this one.
Bowling Green at Ohio State (-35). After watching the Buckeyes beat Iowa, I'm convinced. Even if Jim Tressell goes to his bench early, Ohio State should be good for that 35.
Oklahoma v. Texas (-4.5). This game will highlight one of those delightful little coincidences that make college football so much fun to follow. You've got at least two quarterbacks named "Colt" starting for Division I-A teams this year – Colt McCoy at Texas and Colt Brennan at Hawaii. I'll resist the temptation to say they've been "hot as a pistol" and are able to "throw bullets" to their receivers, but their inclusion in the starting lineups certainly gives new meaning to the term "shotgun formation." I look for Colt McCoy to "pull the trigger" and take care of Oklahoma in what is appropriately called the "Red River shootout."
Michigan State at Michigan (-15.5). After blowing a 16-point lead against Notre Dame, Michigan State then goes out and loses to a dog team like Illinois. Can it possibly get any worse? Yep.
Duke at Alabama (-29). This would be a great matchup maybe if the year was 1939. Now it's a pathetic game between a program whose best coach is running the basketball team and another program whose fans worship the memory of a sleazy, dead drunkard. Who gives a flying rat's behind? Just for old time's sake, I'll pick Ted Roof and his Dukies to beat the spread.
Navy at Air Force (-3). This, on the other hand, should be an interesting encounter between two service teams that have been halfway decent this year. Air Force came within a missed two-point conversion of beating Tennessee in Knoxville, while Paul Johnson of the Navy continues to prove he is one of the best – and most under-appreciated – coaches in Division I-A. If Nebraska had been smart enough to hire this guy when they ran off Frank Solich a few years ago, the Huskers would still be winning and still running the ball 90 percent of the time. Take Navy and the points.
South Carolina (-6) at Kentucky. This one doesn't look as bad as it did back in the preseason. Kentucky is actually having a respectable year under Rich Brooks, and South Carolina got back on track when Spurrier benched that redneck clod at quarterback and replaced him with Syvelle Newton. Awfully tempting to take Kentucky.
Vanderbilt (-1.5) at Mississippi. The Rebels had a great opportunity to upset Georgia last week and blew it. If they can't beat Vanderbilt, this is the point where the wheels come off for this season. I'll pick Ole Miss, but without any enthusiasm.
Tennessee (-2) at Georgia. Here's how bad the situation is in Athens: with their young guys clearly not ready to step in at quarterback, Georgia's best hopes for this season depend upon the return of Joe Tiramisu from an injury. Joe does have the advantage of being a fifth-year senior who's been in the program for a long time. He's also slow-footed, clumsy, and rag-armed. If this is the savior for your team, you're in sad shape.
Georgia was lucky to beat a Colorado team that is now 0-5 and ranked 104 in the power rankings of 119 Division I-A teams – and Colorado led Georgia until the last minute of the game. Ole Miss was blown out by Wake Forest, one of the traditionally weakest programs in the ACC – and yet, Georgia struggled to beat the Johnny Rebs.
Another thing that defies logic: how come a team this bad that struggles to beat nobodies like Colorado and Ole Miss is still in the Top 10? That illustrates better than anything I can say what a bunch of dumbasses you've got voting in the major polls.
I won't even waste your time writing about the return of offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe to Knoxville and the beneficial effect he's had on quarterback Erik Ainge. Vols cover.
Dr Football's Weekly Column
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