While Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis's professional resume is well known, Yellow Jacket head coach Chan Gailey has been around to a few teams. His stints include time with the Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers, head coach of the Dallas Cowboys from 1998-99 and offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins before accepting the Georgia Tech job before the 2002 season. Both Weis and Gailey's background is on the offensive side of the ball and the Yellow Jacket head coach can see why Notre Dame has been successful in scoring points.
"I see a lot of similarities to what he had been doing in the NFL," Gailey said of Weis. "I don't see a lot of different things going on. But you have to remember that they did a lot. He doesn't do it all each week, just like he didn't do it all each week at New England. He picks and chooses what he thinks his advantages are, and he does a really good job of creating advantages for his people. That's what made them good last year."
The hype surrounding this game is palpable on both sides. For Irish fans, it's the first step in a hopeful national title run. For Georgia Tech, it's a chance to pull off another early season upset. Last year, the Yellow Jackets beat 15th ranked Auburn 23-14 on the road. An upset against No.2 Notre Dame would send the Georgia Tech fans into a frenzy. Gailey is just trying to worry about the game itself.
"Things that you can't control, you don't spend a lot of time worrying about," Gailey said. "We've got enough guys that have played in big ball games and understand what is going on. I am going to address it with some of the younger guys, but I won't do that until we get closer to the game. All the lead up is nothing, the game is what is important. So you want to make sure that they try to control the emotions at game time."
"We understand the hype around the game, but you also have to keep your emotions under control," running back Tashard Choice said. "It's a football game, and if you think about the hype, you might tire yourself out before the game. We understand what's at stake, not just to knock off Notre Dame, but to get a win under our belt and start the season with a win."
Opposing teams will try to test Notre Dame deep to see if lessons have been learned from last year. In 2005, the Irish gave up the big play early and often. This year, with the two-deep back in the secondary and talented freshmen cornerbacks Darrin Walls and Raeshon McNeil in the mix, Notre Dame expects a lot of those back breaking plays to be a non-factor in 2006. But Georgia Tech has seen the tape and will try to exploit what they can.
"We talk about that every week," Gailey said about creating the big play on offense. "We want to try to spread the defense and don't be afraid to take our shots. That's not just this week's game plan. That would be every week's game plan."
The glaring weakness on paper for the Yellow Jackets is the secondary. Three spots were up for grabs this fall camp with two-year starter Kenny Scott the only returning player with any notable experience. Of the three other players listed on the Georgia Tech depth chart as starters in the secondary (Jamal Lewis and Djay Jones at safety and either Pat Clark or Jahi Word-Daniels at the other corner spot), they have a combined two tackles and one interceptions between them. This spells a lot of trouble for the Yellow Jackets when the Irish's Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight come a calling on Saturday night. But according to linebacker KaMichael Hall, stopping the run first makes it easier for the defense to concentrate on their jobs.
"You want to make any team pass," Hall said. "If you stop the running game it opens up the window for the pass, even though you have a great passing team in Notre Dame. If they were able to run the ball, then why would they even need to pass?"
Hall loves playing in defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta's up tempo defense.
"We're very aggressive," Hall said. "I'm a very aggressive football player and I like the fact that he (Tenuta) does not change too much of anything. He's going to come after you. I think that's the way to play defense. You have to be very aggressive and not too laid back. If you're laid back I think you take the punishment instead of dishing it out."
"I think Jon Tenuta likes to beat everybody," Gailey said. "I think he likes to go out there against everyone and compete. I don't think that he picks and chooses."
The crowd should be loud and boisterous come Saturday night. The Yellow Jackets fans hope to leave Bobby Dodd Stadium in a good mood. The players know how important this game is to their program and the challenge Notre Dame presents. Another early season upset, just like the Auburn game in 2005, could serve notice.
"We respect Notre Dame's offense and they have a great defense," Choice said. "We have to play close to a perfect game and they are going to be a great team. We have to go out there and give them our best shot."