Mark Bradley at the AJC wrote a nice little piece on Sunday fawning over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets football team. The title of his article declares Tech's offense as "a given" with question marks on the defensive side of the ball.
The first line declares that "Georgia Tech’s offense is going to be great. Not pretty good, not really good —- flat-out great." Then, of course, the conclusion, that "If it can stop somebody when it matters, this team should play in a BCS game. Maybe even the BCS game."
I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how Georgia Tech's offense performed overall last season. (All stats and rankings below come from cfbstats.com)
First, in the ACC, Tech placed as follows in offensive categories:
Scoring offense: 6th with 24.4 points per game
Total Offense: 1st (372 yards per game)
Rushing Offense: 1st
Passing Offense: 12th
Nothing too unusual there, as you would expect Paul Johnson's triple option offense to rack up rushing yards with very little passing. The total offense is impressive as it topped the ACC in 2008. But when you look at the national stats, things are much more underwhelming.
Nationally Tech ranked as follows:
Also, just for fun, Georgia's 2008 rankings will be placed in parentheses:
Scoring Offense: 74th (UGA was 29th)
Total Offense: 50th (UGA was 22nd)
Rushing Offense: 4th (UGA was 56th)
Passing Offense: 117th (UGA was 16th)
In scoring and total offense, Georgia Tech was far from impressive in 2008. Their passing offense last season was 3 spots away from being the lowest in FBS college football, which is to be expected. The only statistic that does stand out nationally would be (surprise!) rushing offense, where Tech was 4th behind Navy, Oregon, and Nevada.
Just for reference, Navy went 8-5 in 2008, losing to Ball State, Duke, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, and Wake Forest.
Nevada went 7-6, losing to New Mexico State and Hawaii along the way.
The best team in rushing ahead of Tech last season was by far Oregon, with a 10-3 record and bowl win over Oklahoma State. But take note that Oregon was also 67th nationally in passing offense which, while not amazing, is a LOT better than 117th.
Georgia Tech certainly has high expectations going into 2009 after a 9-4 season in 2008 which concluded with a 38-3 loss to the (at the time) unranked LSU Tigers. It's almost as if this finish to the season was purposefully forgotten by the sports media (and GT fans) who are convinced that the only way to go is up. They may be right. It's generally accepted that a unit returning most of its starters will improve with experience. But why assume that an offense that wasn't statistically spectacular last year will be able to lead a questionable defense to a BCS game, or even the BCS Championship?
Is it simply the allure of a run-only offense that is extremely rare in college football? Are people fooled by the rushing numbers that the team put up and ignoring the offensive struggles of parts of the season?
Keep in mind that Georgia Tech was held to 10 points or less 3 times in 2008, scoring 3 against LSU, 7 against North Carolina, and 10 against the juggernaut Gardner Webb.
I will concede that yes, Tech did beat Georgia last season for the first time in 8 years. Tech was a surprise in the ACC with a new coach and a new system. Georgia Tech COULD win the ACC next season, and even the national championship (as any team has that chance). But are they really deserving of such praise at this point? Is their offense clearly "flat out great?" I think we'll just have to wait and see this fall.
So why pretend like Tech's offense is "a given?" What's the buzz all about?