The Georgia Southern Eagles and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets both ride losing streaks into this Saturday’s matchup on the Flats. Luckily, one of them will win.
For Southern fans understandably obsessed with only their team, we did a Q&A with Josh Brundage, an excellent scribe from SB Nation’s Georgia Tech blog, From The Rumble Seat, to get more insight into this week’s opponent.
My questions are in bold, followed by Josh’s answers.
Haisten Willis: There's a lot of talk about Georgia Tech moving on from Paul Johnson — at least from outsiders. How do fans feel about the head coach?
JB: There is, but it’s from the same fans that think we need a short passing game… which we don’t. Johnson got a pass on last season due to the ridiculous amount of injuries and turnover at every position. Tech is a couple plays away from being 5-1 this season — our losses to Miami and Pitt were almost entirely a couple bad-luck plays and a couple bad play calls. He over-achieves with the talent he has, and the only game we’ve gotten blown out of the last two seasons has been Clemson both years.
Tech has had more success under Johnson than any coach since the 1990 national title season, so I’m not sure what the expectations are of the people calling for his head mid-season. Tech has looked much, much better than last season, and there’s not a game on the schedule that’s unwinnable. I like Johnson as head coach, and I don’t see any reason for that to change… as long as we make a bowl this season. I think most of our fan base would agree with me.
HW: Some pundits like to blame the option for every Tech loss, but in the last two games the defense has allowed 35 and 37 points. What's happening on the defensive side of the ball for the Jackets?
JB: You’re right, the offense hasn’t been an issue — it’s actually looked good so far this season. On defense, almost everyone points to our defensive coordinator, Ted Roof, as the issue. He plays too conservative all the time, with corners way off, 2 high safeties, and almost always only rushes 4. His motto is “bend don’t break,” but all the Tech D has done the last few seasons is bend under him.
Opponents are able to constantly pick Tech apart with quick passes like outs and slants because our corners are playing 8 yards off… It will be like 3rd and 4, and you’ll see our corners almost 10 yards off the linen of scrimmage. It’s maddening. It doesn’t look like our players are being put into positions to succeed, which falls on the coach.
HW: Justin Thomas is the same quarterback that led Tech to that amazing 11-3 season two years ago, and yet the team looks like it could be headed for a losing record yet again. What are your thoughts on Thomas specifically?
I think Thomas is the best QB we’ve seen at Tech since Joe Hamilton — he’s incredibly fast, knows the offense backwards and forwards, and is actually a talented passer. His biggest issue is that the O-line often doesn’t give him time to throw. The O-line has also had some egregious missed assignments and turned defensive players loose in the backfield at the snap, which is what cost us the Miami game.
The run blocking around him started shaky, but has looked pretty good so far this season. We saw in 2014 would he could do as a first-year starter with a good O-line in front of him, so it’s not a regression on his part, but the people around him. It’s a shame Tech couldn’t put it together around him more this season or last, because he’s a level of talent that we don’t often see at The Institute.
HW: Fortunately for Tech fans, Georgia Southern also looks to be way down from where we were last time these teams met. Are the GT faithful scared about a potential loss or feeling pretty good about an easy win?
JB: I think this season, we’re looking forward to an easy win… but that’s not to say we’re taking Southern for granted at all. Hell, Southern almost beat the 2014 team when they came to Bobby Dodd. They’re an in-state team, so there’s still a sense of rivalry.
Southern also doesn’t seem too far away from putting it all together, and knowing our luck, this Saturday will be when they play their best and most complete game. I don’t expect a loss, but I also don’t expect this to be a blowout by any means.
HW: Georgia Southern fans travel pretty well and made a lot of noise when things were going well for the Eagles during the 2014 matchup. Are you glad Tech got GS back on the schedule so quickly because of the extra ticket sales or would you rather not play this school quite so often.
JB: Oh no, we’re definitely glad to have Georgia Southern back on the schedule. They bring a lot of folks to Bobby Dodd, and they were a welcome addition to our tailgating around campus in 2014. I would much prefer we play these non-P5 games against in-state teams, so that the money stays in Georgia. It also doesn’t hurt that they have a large alumni base in metro Atlanta. I honestly wouldn’t be opposed to playing them every year like we do Georgia. I generally cheer for Southern as long as they’re not playing Tech.
HW: Who do you think wins the game and why.
JB: I think Tech wins this game, but not by a super-comfortable margin. Tech’s backs are against the wall right now, and Johnson will definitely be on the proverbial hot seat if he loses this game, especially with a new AD on campus trying to make his mark.
However, I know Southern wants this game really bad, especially after their heartbreaking loss in Atlanta a couple years ago. I think Tech ends up winning with a final score of 35-24, or somewhere along those lines.
HW: What should Southern fans check out while visiting the campus and the Midtown area (besides The Varsity).
JB: First, please don’t waste a meal at The Varsity. It’s trash, and none of us who live here actually eat there.
Walking distance from the stadium, I would recommend:
- Cypress St Pint & Plate — better-than-necessary bar food, and their house beer is Sweetwater IPA, which you can get drafts of all day, every day for $3.
- Atwood’s Pizza — around the corner from Cypress St. Get the Festival pizza and thank me later
- Tin Lizzy's — an a la carte taco place with cheap booze. It’s pretty tough to beat
There’s honestly so many place to eat and drink in Midtown, it’s tough to go wrong. Besides food and booze though, there’s also the touristy area down a couple exits where you can find the College Football Hall of Fame, The World of Coke, the Georgia Aquarium, and things of that nature.
If you want to keep it in Midtown, you can always walk over to Piedmont Park and take in the beautiful weather we’re supposed to have this weekend, and spend the rest of the afternoon on the patio of one of the many bars and restaurants surrounding it. If you need other ideas of Midtown activities, hit me up on twitter @joshbrundage.
You heard the man, get down to Midtown early and show them how much money Southern fans spend on food and booze! We want them to invite us back in a few years, right?
We’ll see if this year’s edition is a thriller like last time, but either way these are two fanbases that should get along fine come tailgate time.