ATLANTA — In a bit of a reprieve from a frenetic early-season schedule last year, Georgia Tech on Thursday learned that this fall it will play just one Thursday night game when play resumes Sept. 4.
Last season, a pair of Thursday night games packaged with a Saturday afternoon home contest made for a hectic three-game in 12-day schedule that appeared to have players visibly exhausted by the time they hit the end of the stretch.
While this coming season’s lone Thursday night contest is currently the only nationally-televised game the Yellow Jackets have scheduled, the contest is expected be a rather big one with potential postseason scenarios on the line: on the road at division nemesis Virginia Tech on Nov. 4.
The Yellow Jackets beat the Hokies in Atlanta last season 28-23. Virginia Tech was ranked No. 4 at the time, and became the first top 5 team to be beaten by the Yellow Jackets in Bobby Dodd Stadium since 1962.
Other schedule highlights include the opener, the first Saturday of September at home against South Carolina State. This will be the first meeting between the schools, and, unless rescheduled in the near future, it will be their last in at least the next 11 seasons.
A week later, the Yellow Jackets head to Lawrence, Kan. to face new head coach Turner Gill and Kansas for only the second time in school history. They beat the Jayhawks in the 1948 Orange Bowl.
In the two weeks that follow, Georgia Tech will take on teams from the Tar Heel State, as they travel to Coastal Division foe North Carolina, and then host North Carolina State as part of an interdivision crossover matchup.
“It’s an extremely challenging schedule,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said, “but it’s one we are very much looking forward to. Just within our division there are four teams that could be ranked in the preseason top 25.”
On Oct. 4, Georgia Tech steps back out of the division to visit fellow ACC program Wake Forest, one week before welcoming defensive coordinator Al Groh’s former Virginia team to the Flats. The Saturday after that game, Middle Tennessee comes to Atlanta for its first-ever meeting with the Yellow Jackets. It will be the first of three games scheduled between now and 2012.
Then, the Yellow Jackets hit the road for a rematch with Clemson, the team they beat in the ACC championship to receive a berth to last season’s Orange Bowl. They also beat the Tigers in Atlanta during the regular season in one of those early-year Thursday night games.
This year’s ACC championship will be played Dec. 4 in Charlotte, N.C., at Bank of America Stadium.
Following the bout with the Tigers, the Yellow Jackets will take a bye, resting for their game against Virginia Tech. This will be their earliest off week in two seasons. In Johnson’s two-year tenure, they have only been off in the month of November.
The schedule resumes after the ESPN-televised showdown with the Hokies on Nov. 13 when Georgia Tech hosts Miami and then Duke. The Hurricanes beat the Yellow Jackets in South Florida in that third game of the 12-game stretch early last year.
The conference only announces television networks and kickoff times for select nationally-televised games before the season. Once play begins, it will make those announcements within a one-week window. As a result, all kickoff times — other than the 7:30 p.m. start Nov. 4 — will not be released until the Sunday before individual games are played.
Georgia Tech’s year concludes on Nov. 27 when the Yellow Jackets return to Athens hoping to salvage some of the emotions they had the last time they played there. Before losing to rival Georgia at home last season, Georgia Tech beat the Bulldogs in Sanford Stadium 45-42 the year prior to snap a seven-game series losing streak.