When To Watch: The game begins at Noon, EST, 11am CDT.
How To Watch: ESPN3/ESPN Game Plan. It will also be on the ACC Regional Network or Fox Sports South in some areas, though that is subject to blackouts. Or you can be there in the stands of Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field. If you're an Eagles fan who lives in Atlanta or close and have been one using "driving from Atlanta to Statesboro for home games is too much" as an excuse to not attend football games, then GET THEE TO THE STADIUM this Saturday. Let's make it at least appear to be a neutral site game. Buy up Tech tickets, since the school sold out their allotment!
Things Of Note: Weather could be a factor. There is a 40% chance of thunderstorms this Saturday. This should not affect either team any more than it does the other, though.
For all things Game Day information from the official GSU website, go visit them HERE.
And Now On To The Preview:
Driving at somewhere between the speed limit and 10 miles over the speed limit, one can drive from Georgia Southern's campus to Georgia Tech's campus in right around 3.5 hours. In spite of this proximity, Saturday September 13, 2014, will mark the first ever meeting between these two schools on the football field. Even during the days before Georgia Southern's program went dormant in 1941, the two schools never played.
That will change this Saturday, as the Eagles finally go to Atlanta to take on the Yellow Jackets. This game was originally scheduled for 2015, but was moved forward to accommodate both teams. Many Georgia Southern fans believe the only reason the game is finally happening is due to Paul Johnson's connection with Georgia Southern and its former head coach Jeff Monken. Monken - a long-time Johnson assistant - left this past off-season to take the Army job. Tech had nothing to gain and everything to lose from playing Georgia Southern prior to this during the height of the Eagles' FCS dominance. That connection between the coaches finally pushed it to happen. Now a game that previously would have pit two very similar teams against each other has a new wrinkle.
"We're against that offense a lot," Georgia Tech linebacker Quayshawn Nealy said. "That's going to play a part in the game. We know the cut blocks, and I feel like we'll have an advantage knowing the different reads. You don't get to see the option all the time, but being at Georgia Tech, we see it."
If the above quote from an ESPN ACC Blog article is any indication of how Georgia Tech's defense approaches the game against Georgia Southern, then they may be in for a very interesting day. When Georgia Southern's head coach was Jeff Monken the similarities would have been glaring and differences almost indistinguishable. With the exception of some minor wrinkles, there was little difference in the offenses of either team. Blocking schemes, plays, they all looked alike.
Make no mistake about it, Willie Fritz's option offense is not Jeff Monken's option, and it is definitely not Paul Johnson's option. Oh there are similarities to be sure, but there are some major differences as well. Look no further than the above quote for one very big difference. It wasn't until the first snap of Georgia Southern's third series against Savannah State that I saw a single cut block. The cut block has been a staple of triple option offenses, but Willie Fritz's scheme does not rely on it nearly as much.
Georgia Southern Radio Network sideline analyst Ryan Chambers put it to me this way: "In simple terms, in the past, we engaged one on one (think first step forward). Now, we run zone scheme and combo. Less one on one engagement (think first step sideways)." This zone scheme is similar to Oregon's offenses under Chip Kelly. For a good explanation of those schemes, see this article by the website fishduck.com. For an in-depth look at Willie Fritz's offense during his tenure at Sam Houston State, seethis article from Good Bull Hunting previewing the Texas A&M vs SHSU game last season (h/t From The Rumble Seat who dug that up in their preview for this GT/GSU game).
I have no doubt that Georgia Tech's coaches understand the nuances and differences, and will adjust accordingly. The defensive players will be given all the information they need to succeed. The type of blocking they will face by Georgia Southern will be similar to many teams they face all season. But just one slip-up in mental concentration can bring about a big play. One time thinking that a play looks like a familiar triple-option play and a defensive player reacts incorrectly, and there may be an Eagle Six put on the board.
Aside from the blocking scheme, Georgia Southern no longer lines up in the traditional flexbone formation that Georgia Tech uses. There are no A-backs. Instead, Georgia Southern employs tight-ends and lines up the former A-backs as wide receivers or in multiple back sets in the backfield. Regardless of the formation, though, the end result is still the same: Georgia Southern gains a lot of yards on the ground. A lot.
So does Georgia Tech, though, and looking at the stats of Georgia Tech's first two games, it appears Paul Johnson has found a QB capable of throwing the ball in Justin Thomas. I've been following Tech since PJ took over there, and it seemed his biggest problems in my limited viewing were not having great passing QBs and not having great defenses. These are the same problems Georgia Southern has often faced, as well.
This game should be interesting. It could be a scoring fest, or it could be two teams with similar offenses unable to move the ball on defenses that face the option every day in practice. It's hard to get a read on either team after their first two games. Hopefully we'll know a good bit more about both of them after Saturday. I believe this game may end up similar to Georgia Tech's first two games and the NCSU game for Georgia Southern. Tech will struggle some early, and the Eagles will find some success on offense. Ultimately the depth of Georgia Tech will show and the Eagles will be worn down by games' end. I believe it will be much closer than many Georgia Tech fans are predicting, though. The novelty of the Fritz Blitz will gain Georgia Southern some advantage on offense against a GT defense that has given up yards on the ground, this season. I'm going completely with my heart on this one vs my head, but I'm going to say the Eagles finish the drill, this week. Turnovers will be the key to the game, and Georgia Southern manages to eek out a 27-24 victory.