Apr 20, 2009

What's all the buzz about?

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?


  1. Because they DID do pretty well last year: In the first season with a new offense, new coach, new DC and the second youngest team in the nation. Look at how poorly Rich Rod did at Michigan last year in his first season by comparison.

    Tech's highest scoring games came at the end of the regular season. FSU, Miami, UGA. The statistics in the UNC game show a more closely played game than the score indicates. But if you lose the turnover battle 3-0, a win is quite improbable.

    The LSU game was awful. But a rewind of game tape shows that, statistically, they only put up 10 less yards than LSU. Fumbles and poor special teams play were the biggest factors in the game. And the fact that they were caught thinking they were better than they were.

    BUT statistics can say pretty much anything you want them to say. A loss is a loss, and the only thing that matters in the end is who has more points.

    Nothing in sports or life is a given. But I think, based on Coach Johnson's past history of seeing an improvement in Year 2 of the installation of his offense in every team he has coached, it would be statistically safe to assume the offense will be okay this year. Of course, one has to imagine that the top-notch DC at this level have seen it now and know how to stop it. So this entire comment is now moot.

  2. I agree with you completely Melanie. Georgia Tech's offense was surprisingly effective in Paul Johnson's first year, but was it an indicator that Tech's offense will be one of the best in the nation this coming season, or enough to carry them to an ACC title, BCS game, or national championship?

    I think all are very possible scenarios, but I just ask, "Why all the hype?" Plus, a team can move up and down the field all they want, but if they can't score when in the redzone (and turnover the ball), they will lose, as the Chick-Fil-A bowl showed us.

    Once again, no one knows how any team will fare next season. That's the fun in sports. For Georgia's sake I hope our coaches and team learn a lesson from the Tech game in 2008.

  3. Yes I get your point.

    My point is, and apparently I didn't state it clearly, that the reason for the hype is that not all of the playbook was in last year. His offenses have improved year 1 to year 2 everywhere he's been, so I think that is the reason for the hype. All skill players return, so one would hope they would do better than maintain.

    One (well this one anyway) would also hope that as they become more comfortable with the offense, they turn the ball over less. You are dead right, and I think any coach and certainly coach Johnson, would agree that statistics are meaningless. The most important statistic is the score.