LOCKING IT DOWN LATE
Subtracting Avonte Maddox’s garbage-time pick six last week, the Panthers have averaged just 13.75 points per second half in their games against Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams.
Georgia Tech’s past two opponents, Miami and Clemson, are currently ranked in the AP top 10, but the Yellow Jackets' defense wouldn't let those games slip out of hand. They limited both Miami and Clemson to seven points apiece in the second half of each game.
And, for all the chatter about Tech's stubborn triple-option offense, its overall defense allows just a stingy 18.4 points per game (21st nationally), maintains a 53.8 defensive red zone percentage (second nationally), yielding just six red-zone touchdowns on the season, and its defenders hold opponents to 119 rushing yards per game (33rd nationally).
SHOULDA, COULDA, WOULDA
Georgia Tech made a few disastrous mistakes that ultimately cost it a win against Miami last week. The Yellow Jackets and their triple-option offense are used to controlling the pace of games. They had the ball for three-quarters of the Miami game, which they lost 35-21, but the Hurricanes recovered two scoop-and-score fumbles by quarterback Justin Thomas in a minute and a half, and Yellow Jackets receivers were not able to reel in a couple of would-have-been touchdown passes.
“They didn’t do nothing to stop us,” Thomas said. “We stopped ourselves the whole game.”
The Jackets have seven remaining games. They will likely be favored in their three home games against Duke, Georgia Southern and Virginia but are the presumable underdogs when they travel to North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Pitt (Pitt -6.5) and rival Georgia.
Pitt is the least accomplished of those teams. You can bet Jackets coach Paul Johnson and his staff have keyed in on Saturday’s contest.
IN THE TRENCHES
In Johnson’s flexbone triple-option offense, the ninth-year head coach nurtures undersized and versatile offensive linemen who are able to shift side-to-side with ease. Only one of his offensive linemen, right guard Shamire DeVine, weighs in at over 300 pounds. Because of the steady and draining pace that the Jackets play, their offensive line will go eight men deep.
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said Monday that he will counter Tech's mobility up front with some depth of his own.
"I think we have some guys that can contribute there," Narduzzi said of his defensive line. "I’d like to see [Mike] Herndon in there this week. This could be a great game for Amir Watts because he can move."
LOPSIDED RESULTS FOR QB THOMAS
Thomas is third-to-last of all Division I quarterbacks in completion percentage (48.6 percent), but when the senior slinger isn’t throwing slant routes to speedsters Ricky Jeune and Clinton Lynch, he’s aiming downfield. Thomas is actually averaging over 15 yards per completion.
For the second-consecutive week, Pitt will face a team that does not rely on its kicker. Tech kicker Harrison Butker has attempted just two field goals through five games, but he’s made both – a 40-yarder and a 41-yarder.
Instead, Georgia Tech has attempted nine fourth downs on the season, converting five.