Defending ACC champion Georgia Tech opens the season hosting defending MEAC champion South Carolina State. Tech opens the season ranked 16th in the AP poll and South Carolina State is ranked 11th in one of the FCS polls. Their only two losses last season were to South Carolina and Appalachian State.
The Jackets return 15 players who started games last season. Ten players who started the opening game last season will be starting against South Carolina State. Five will be starting on offense and five on defense. An opening win would be the Jacket's fourth straight opening game win. The last opening loss was to number 2 ranked Notre Dame in 2006. Coach Paul Johnson is 11-2 all-time in season openers
Coach Johnson is 20-7 in his first two seasons at Georgia Tech and is the first coach in the history of the ACC to win the coach of the year award in his first two seasons. The Jackets are picked to finish third in the Coastal in Johnson's third season.
Joshua Nesbitt leads the Tech offense after becoming the leading quarterback rusher in Tech history last season. Nesbitt needs 693 rushing yards to be the all-time quarterback rushing leader in the ACC. Clemson's Woodrow Dantzler holds the current record. The offense was ranked second nationally averaging over 295 yards per game on the ground. They also led the nation in third down conversion and were third in time of possession. After a preseason battle for the starting offensive tackle jobs Nick Claytor and Phil Smith have been named the starting tackles. Claytor will open on the left side and Smith on the right.
Georgia Tech and South Carolina State have never met before and it also marks the first time the Jackets have faced a MEAC opponent. Coach Johnson is 2-0 against MEAC opponents defeating Florida A&M twice. The Jackets are also 84-34-5 against teams from South Carolina.
There are some key statistical matchups to watch. SCST ranked among the FCS national leaders in offense, defense, and special teams. The second ranked Tech ground game will be going up against a SCST defense that allowed 98.3 yards rushing per game last season. They were ranked fifth nationally in total defense giving up just 15.6 points per game while Tech averaged 33.8 points per game. SCST also ranked tenth nationally in turnover margin.
The Jackets have some streaks on the line going into the 2010 season. They've gone 159 straight games without being shutout, they've played in nine consecutive games decided by five points or less, Scott Blair has made forty one consecutive extra points bettered only by Duke's Nick Maggio in the ACC, they've gone fifteen straight years with a .500 or better record, twelve consecutive weeks in the AP poll, and they've scored in the fourth quarter fourteen consecutive games.
Each year the question always comes up about which freshmen will play. In 2007 eight freshmen played, seven in 2008, and seven in 2009. This season the freshmen that will likely play are safety Isaiah Johnson, cornerback Louis Young, outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu, and A Back B.J. Bostic.
Coach Johnson has put together a veteran coaching staff. Both he and Coach Al Groh are winners of the ACC coach of the year award. They have both won the award twice.The staff includes three assistant coaches with head coaching experience. Al Groh was head coach at Wake Forest and Virginia, Andy McCollum at Middle Tennessee State, and Mike Sewak at Georgia Southern. The staff has combined to coach in 72 bowl games.