We’re taking a look at one good reason each school in the ACC will win this year, and, just to make sure we cover both sides of the story, one good reason why it won’t. For most schools, the focus is on winning the ACC title. For the programs that missed out on the postseason entirely last year, the focus is on getting back to a bowl game (at least it is here in the blogosphere). We’re going in alphabetical order.
The series continues today with one good reason why …
Georgia Tech will win the ACC: Coach Paul Johnson. He’s smug. He’s smart. He can make you feel an inch big. But he’s also a helluva coach, whether you like his offense or not (I like it). Johnson is the kind of guy you should take to Vegas with you -- he knows when to gamble, and you certainly don’t want to bet against him. Especially on, say, fourth-and-1. Say what you will about his recruiting classes (they’re average), but right now Georgia Tech has one of the best offensive lines the program has seen since Johnson was hired. It’s kinda sorta important for a team that runs the ball as much as the Jackets do. Over the past four years, Georgia Tech’s spread option offense has led the nation in rushing yards per game. During that span, the program has finished no less than fourth in any given year in rushing offense. Johnson has already been named the ACC’s Coach of the Year twice. He’s 33-19 in four years at Georgia Tech. His spread option offense has worked and will continue to work at the BCS level.
Why it won’t: Because it lacks a championship-caliber defense. Expectations are higher for Georgia Tech’s defense in Year 3 under coordinator Al Groh, but they are also tempered a bit because the Jackets have only one starter returning on the defensive line. Senior defensive end Izaan Cross returns for his fourth season as a starter, but in the 3-4 scheme, he’s going to need some help up front. Georgia Tech needs to find a true nose tackle, and T.J. Barnes so far is the leading candidate. Georgia Tech’s defense will also miss injured senior linebacker Julian Burnett, who led the team in tackles each of the past two seasons and finished fifth in the ACC last year with 120. He suffered a neck injury in the Sun Bowl that could end his career. The Jackets’ defense has been average under Groh, and it’s going to need to be better than that this year if Georgia Tech wants to unseat the Hokies as Coastal Division champs. Right now, the biggest difference between those two teams is Virginia Tech’s loaded defense.