Say you want to put together the perfect situation for a college football program. What would you need? A Power Five conference, for sure, and preferably the easier division in that conference with a chance to play an established superpower in the conference championship game. Definitely need a deep, talented recruiting base as your home footprint. Regular wins over your in-state rival would be nice to have. Sterling academics should be a plus, as would a program history that both stretches back to the early days of the sport and includes recent superstars.
Congratulations: you built the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Last Year: 7-6
The final season of the Paul Johnson era was almost quintessentially Paul Johnson: won pretty much all the games they were supposed to win, lost almost all the games they were expected to lose, embarrassed a defensive coordinator, and ended in a bowl game. The Jackets didn't pick up an FBS win until September 29th, after three straight losses to South Florida, Pitt, and Clemson. But a 63-17 win over Bowling Green was followed by Johnson taking a two-by-four to the side of Brian VanGorder’s head as Georgia Tech scored a touchdown on each of its first 9 possessions and racked up 542 rushing yards en route to a 66-31 win over Louisville. A stumble against Duke was the only blemish through the remainder of GT’s ACC schedule before losses to #5 Georgia and a Quick Lane Bowl drubbing by Minnesota.
Last Time: UVA 27, Georgia Tech 30 (2018)
Among those four wins to close ACC play was one over Virginia—revenge for the Hoos’ 2017 victory that propelled UVA to its first bowl game in six years. UVA’s 21-16 halftime lead (powered in part by Brennan Armstrong’s first career touchdown pass) turned into a back-and-forth fourth quarter. After GT took the lead 24-21 with 12:30 to play, the teams traded field goals—including a game-tying 32-yarder from Brian Delaney as time expired—and headed to overtime. The Hoos held fast on defense and allowed only a Yellow Jackets field goal, but Delaney’s tying attempt in the extra period pushed wide left and Virginia fell to 7-4 on the year.
Comings and Goings
Out: Johnson’s flexbone triple option, and all the niche roles for unheralded talent it provided.
In: [shrug emoji] Here is what Temple’s offense looked like last year:
Only time will tell how Johnson’s personnel fit into Collins’ and offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude’s system. They’ll be doing it with a new quarterback for sure: TaQuon Marshall is gone, and Marshall’s backup—Tobias Oliver—has reportedly been playing defense during offseason practices.
On defense, Collins brought in transfers from Florida (defensive end Antonneous Clayton) and Michigan (cornerback Myles Sims). But the NCAA denied their eligibility waivers in mid-August.
Patience. Georgia Tech opens at Clemson. They travel to Collins’ old team on September 28th. There is a serious talent injection coming—Collins has put together a top-25 recruiting class for 2020 that includes two four-stars—but it won’t arrive in time to make the 2019 season very palatable. The rebuild facing Collins is perhaps the toughest facing any new coach this season, if for no other reason than trying to implement a system that is 180-degrees from what’s been in place. Expect Collins to follow an approach similar to Mendenhall’s upon arrival in Charlottesville: the slow, consistent build to long-term viability instead of a slap-dash, fix-it-now solution.
This Time: UVA vs. Georgia Tech (11/9)
The Hoos and Jackets have traded results since Georgia Tech’s win during the 2014 season. With GT winning in 2018, that means it’s UVA’s turn this year. Preseason expectations say this should be one of Virginia’s two November tune-up games before a post-Thanksgiving clash with VPISU.