STL: Beginning of the year, Paul Johnson and Mike London were keeping each other cozy on the coaching hot seat. With two-thirds of the year gone, it seems like the Jackets have played their coach out of trouble. What's the mood of the fan base with regards to Johnson? What are the expectations from here out?
FTRS: Paul Johnson definitely seemed to be in the clear after he won the first two of the "big four" (VT, Miami, Clemson, UGA) on our schedule every year. Those wins have now been somewhat drowned out after consecutive losses against Duke and North Carolina. In my opinion, Johnson is safe at this point. The offense has been spectacular, and he has coached some fantastic games this year. There are those who have always been against Johnson and believe he needs to beat Clemson and UGA to be off the hook, but in all reality he has done a nice job this season, and the team has a good chance to have a memorable year.
STL: Does FTRS have an official editorial stance on the reinstatement of Georgia RB Todd Gurley? How about an unofficial one?
FTRS: There's not an official stance on it all since I'm sure there's some that view it differently than others. I can speak on it in my opinion though. I believe Georgia handled the situation wonderfully. Being around many UGA fans in my area, I repeatedly heard them complaining about the school suspending him and not "supporting" him, but it was the right thing to do. From what I've heard about the evidence, the suspension seems pretty fair by NCAA standards. They have of course suspended players for less games than deserved and for more games than deserved. The suspension for Gurley seems right in the middle. The good thing for Georgia is they now won't have to be concerned about the NCAA coming down on them in the future much like Georgia Tech fans had to endure with the infractions that vacated our 2009 ACC Championship.
STL: In just the last two weeks, Georgia Tech has piled up over 1,200 yards and almost 100 points. Coach Johnson has given the credit for that explosion to QB Justin Thomas. What's looked different about this Jackets offense in the last few weeks?
FTRS: Justin Thomas has looked great, but I'll credit the changed offensive output to the A-Backs in Tech's offense. The A-Backs are the running backs who line up to outside of the QB and often receive the pitches in the option just to clarify. They have been increasingly explosive in the running game as well as the receiving game recently. One particular player doesn't get many carries at the position, but they have collectively been very effective.
STL: Despite that high-powered offense, Tech split those two games: a decisive 56-28 win over Pitt, and a 48-43 squeaker of a loss to UNC-Chapel Hill. The defense is giving up almost 30 points a game, including 38 to a Georgia Southern team playing its first season in FBS and running an offense that the Tech defense sees in practice every day. Do y'all need Al Groh back? What's the malfunction on that side of the ball?
FTRS: I'm not too sure what they need. The talent seems to be there for the most part. There are some great athletes on that side of the ball, and they show the potential occasionally. The scheme seems to really be failing recently. You could call it bend-don't-break. This worked for Tech at the beginning of the year as they let teams move the ball but banked on timely turnovers to get the offense back on the field. That didn't work against Duke or UNC, and it cost them. The defense is often running a soft zone that allows plenty of yardage. There's not one particular thing that has hurt them, as teams have run it and thrown it at will for the most part. I believe Ted Roof has to bring more and more pressure and force offenses to beat them that way, because the current system just isn't going too well.
STL: In one of the more ridiculous stats I've ever seen, every single player to carry the ball for Tech this season is averaging 4 or more yards per carry. Who're the playmakers besides Thomas that would keep a defensive coordinator up at nights?
FTRS: Zach Laskey would've been one obvious candidate, but he will be out of this game with an injury. I'll start with wide receiver DeAndre Smelter. Smelter is a big-time playmaker who can beat you with speed, strength, or size at the WR position. Right when teams begin to creep up on the run, Smelter can beat you over the top. He even ran for a 75-yard touchdown against UNC. The other one right now would have to be A-Back Broderick Snoddy. Snoddy is a track star who has just recently become more involved in the offense. He has his coming-out game last week running for 82 yards and three touchdowns. Snoddy has the ability to break tackles and then use his great speed to create big plays.
STL: Despite the continued validity of Operation Coastal Chaos, Georgia Tech has an opportunity to stake a solid claim to the division lead with a win against UVa. Virginia, on the other hand, is playing to restore the momentum it acquired through the first half of the season. Which motivator proves strongest? Bottom line, who ya got?
FTRS: We have two teams here that can come out during any game and look like a completely different team than they did the previous week. That obviously makes it pretty difficult to predict the outcome. I am rolling with the Jackets in this one though. Even though the Cavaliers have a very good defense, Tech has shown they are able to put up points pretty easily so far. The main problem Tech has had is stopping teams that can put up points in a hurry. Virginia hasn't exactly shown to be a high-powered offense. I think it will be a close game that Tech pulls out with a few key stops in the 4th quarter. GT 35, UVA 27