[A big thank you to Joey Weaver at From the Rumble Seat for reaching out to do a Q&A exchange with us.]
Georgia Tech is very impressive in the red zone. What do the Yellow Jackets do right to score so often when they're near the goal line?
I think the red zone success is two-fold. First, it's an issue of offensive rhythm and defensive mental fortitude. By the time our offense has gotten into the red zone, it's in rhythm -- things are more fluid and just working smoothly. Also, with our offense's nature of "three yards and a cloud of dust", they're more than capable of ripping off 12-15 play drives, which just wears on a defense mentally and physically, and reduces effectiveness by the drive's end.
The more measurable explanation I have is inside the 5-yard-line, where our employment of cut blocking make it easier to pick up 2-3 yards. Tevin Washington had actually mastered the art of taking the snap, hesitating just enough to let the hole open up, and then hitting it for a score if on the 1-2 yard line.
Long story short, we don't stall out much once we've made it to the red zone. If you want to stop us down there, you'll need to create a turnover or come up with a big play.
The statistics tell the story that Tech has a solid run defense but is vulnerable against the pass. Is this the case? If so, who are the playmakers in the front seven that Rebels will quickly become familiar with?
Very much so, our pass defense has suffered this year with a beat-up secondary and a sub-par pass rush at times. That said, they are very solid against the run. Guys you need to know are led by third-team All-American WDE Jeremiah Attaochu, the NCAA's active leader in career sacks with 31, and third nationally this year (prior to bowl season) with 12 sacks. He switched from OLB when we converted from the 3-4 to 4-3, and has done wonders for his draft stock I'd imagine. Kid has a great motor rushing the QB. The other major playmaker on the defensive line is Aussie NT Adam Gotsis. Gotsis was recruited to Georgia Tech because he played American football in Australia for someone who was an old friend of Paul Johnson's who advocated for him. Likely the most under-the-radar signing of the 2012 signing class, Gotsis is a real force in the middle who can create havoc in the backfield at times too.
I'll also say that all three linebackers are very solid and could see NFL looks. SLB Brandon Watts played safety in high school and is very athletic, second on the team in tackles. MLB Jabari Hunt-Days is extremely talented but has had a down year, largely due to his liability in pass coverage and the number of pass-heavy teams we've played. The WLB Quayshawn Nealy is very talented and rangy, he makes a lot of tackles in the flats and is only two tackles behind Watts. He's backed up by true freshman PJ Davis, who is a real fireball by all accounts and gets a lot of playing time.
Long story short, there's about 5 of the 7 that are going to make a lot of impact, unless Tech plays in the nickel a lot and Hunt-Days is off the field.
A lot of folks call Georgia Tech's offense a "triple option," but is that really the best way to describe it?
I cringe every time I hear that. It's called that, and I'd say the triple option is the most frequently-used play in the offense, but it's properly referred to as a "spread option" offense. There are a lot more elements than the standard "Dive, Keep, or Pitch" play we consider the triple option to be. There are designed pitch plays (the "rocket toss", often used in the red zone), designed handoffs to the fullback, designed "QB follow" runs, play action passes, speed options, etc., that go beyond the "triple option" itself. If you get away from the under center/shotgun difference, it's not identical to Auburn's offense by any means, but it's comparable.
How do Tech Fans feel about the Paul Johnson regime at this point? Have things changed over the past few years? If so, how?
I think fans are getting restless with the general look of stagnation that things have. Last year we went 7-7 (yup, it got pretty weird) with losses to all four major rivals (uga, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Miami). This year, same deal -- lost all four of those games. The 2011 win against Clemson was the only one in the past four seasons against any of those teams, and fans don't like this "purgatory" state we've gotten into where we can beat the lesser opponents but lose to all of the above.
Johnson is safe for this offseason due to the finances of the situation, but could really stand to win 9 games next year if he wants people to shut up. I do think the team is getting better (this is the first year or his tenure when the defense hasn't been a liability) and I expect to see better things next year as some more recent recruits start to see the field.
The other issue at play is whether the issues the team faces are things under Johnson's control. Our team is behind a lot of the others in the region when it comes to support staff in recruiting, and our academic offerings are not very widespread (engineering/science/CS, business, and a few liberal arts things). There becomes a question there of whether there's ANY coach out there who could do better than what we're seeing, and I think that also plays into the time that Johnson has left at Tech as well.
And, finally, what are you thoughts on this matchup? How do you think this bowl plays out? If you care to, offer a score prediction and let us know how you think the Rebs and Jackets get there.
You know, it's tough for me, because I get a bit of a feeling like this game is a total crapshoot. Ole Miss is dealing with injuries and is hot and cold offensively, and Georgia Tech hasn't really inspired a ton of confidence in me for whatever reason. I do think the teams are fairly close in ability and don't see either group running away with it. This could very easily be a low-scoring affair. To be quite honest, I'm nervous about this one, but I get the feeling the Ole Miss fan base is as well. I'll guess that Georgia Tech wins a close one, 20-17.