The assembled media at the ACC’s Operation Kickoff have picked Georgia Tech to run sixth in the seven-team Coastal Division. Paul Johnson might scoff at this — he scoffs at everything — but is picking a team that just finished last to finish next-to-last really indefensible?
Boilerplate disclaimer: Tech tends to outperform its projection, having done so most notably in 2014, when it was tabbed fifth in its division but went 11-3 and won the Orange Bowl. The Yellow Jackets were also tabbed to win the Coastal last season; they went 3-9 (1-7 in conference play).
Tech had a rough 2015 schedule, yes. The new slate doesn’t include Notre Dame or Florida State. But let’s recall that FSU was the one ACC team the Jackets managed to beat, albeit in astonishing fashion. They lost close home games to North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech. Those three games will be played on the road this time.
Of Tech’s 12 games last season, five were played against teams that would fire — or had fired, as was the case with Miami and Al Golden — their head coach. Three of those new coaches are in the Coastal, which bears a much different look than it did when last the Jackets won the division.
I’m on record as having picked Tech to go 7-5, but I thought hard about making that 6-6. I know Tech has Justin Thomas to play quarterback, but it had him all of last season except for the final three quarters at Miami and still went 1-9 against Power Five (plus Notre Dame) opposition. I know Jacket backers have already written off last season as an utter fluke. I’m not sure it was.
Indeed, if you look at Tech’s seasons since 2009, here’s what you see: 6-7, 8-5, 7-7, 7-6, 11-3 and 3-9. I ask: Which seems the outlier?