ATLANTA -- This could be a mighty big weekend for the Georgia Tech football team.
A win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night at Bobby Dodd Stadium would mean the Yellow Jackets are bowl eligible for the 17th straight season and make them 16-2 in the most recent homecoming games. It also would be the programs 700th victory.
And it would show a national ESPNU audience how much the team has improved since its nasty three-game losing streak.
Were excited to be back home this week for homecoming and have a Saturday night game, Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. Theres always a great atmosphere and a lot of electricity in the air when you play on Saturday night here in Atlanta.
It also will be a chance for Georgia Tech to show whether its the team that didnt have a turnover or a penalty in a 56-0 win over Syracuse or one that survived five turnovers and 97 penalty yards in a 35-25 win over Virginia.
Weve got some things to clean up from the Virginia game, Johnson said. I was proud of our guys in that we overcame some adversity with some self-inflicted wounds such as penalties and turnovers. But we found a way to make enough plays to win the game. Thats what its all about. Were looking forward to getting better this week and having a chance to become bowl eligible on Saturday night.
But Pittsburgh might be as big a mystery as Georgia Tech. The Panthers, competing in the ACC for the first year, are 4-3 and coming off a fourth-quarter collapse in a 24-21 loss to Navy.
The Panthers might actually benefit from its game with Navy, as the Midshipmen have a run-oriented offensive attack that runs the option, a philosophy that has remained since Johnson was the head coach there. But Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst doesnt see it as an advantage to play back-to-back opponents who feature an option attack.
I dont feel theres something inherent about that offense that we cant handle, Chryst said. We certainly have a lot of respect for Georgia Tech. Weve got to execute, right? Thats what it comes down to. Certainly it present unique challenges.
Georgia Tech averages 315.6 yards rushing per game, compared to 140.7 for Pittsburgh. The Panthers throw the ball with more effectiveness, averaging 222 yards. Johnson termed Pittsburghs offense as a power running game with a pro-style passing attack.
The Pittsburgh offense is led by senior quarterback Tom Savage, who has thrown for 1,546 yards and 13 touchdowns. His favorite targets are Devin Street, who has 35 receptions and four touchdowns, and freshman Tyler Boyd, who has 34 receptions and five touchdowns. Street last week became the top pass catcher in program history.
Both Tyler Boyd and Devin Street are really good, Johnson said. And besides Boyd and Street, they have very talented wide receivers. They also have an experienced quarterback who is very accurate if you cant move him off his spot.
Georgia Techs defense under first-year coordinator Ted Roof has continued to improve. The Yellow Jackets had a shutout against Syracuse and last week did not allow Virginia to convert any of their five turnovers into points.
The bottom line is the points, Johnson said. Its all about how many points you give up. There are things that we need to do better, but if youre not giving up big plays you usually have a chance.
The two teams have played only seven times, with Pittsburgh winning five. The last meeting was in 1976 when a Tony Dorsett-led team clobbered Georgia Tech 42-12 on its way to a national championship.