For those looking for a silver lining surrounding the Georgia Tech football team, here’s one: The Yellow Jackets aren’t playing a ranked team this week, and they aren’t playing one of the top dozen defensive teams in the nation, either.
Not that Pittsburgh, this week’s opponent, is a cupcake. The Panthers, like Georgia Tech, are 3-2.
But Clemson was ranked No. 5 and Miami was ranked No. 14 when they rolled into Bobby Dodd Stadium. Clemson (No. 12), Miami (No. 7) and Boston College (No. 1) all rank among the nation’s best when it comes to total defense.
Pitt, however, ranks fourth in the nation for its rushing defense, allowing 69.8 yards per game. The Panthers rank 72nd in total defense because their pass defense has been wretched.
“They’re always pretty good in rush defense,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. “They’re very aggressive, and they get a lot of tackles for loss and they get a lot of sacks. So when you do that, if you can get a lot of negative plays, your rush defense is going to be good.”
Pitt has created 10 takeaways, and its losses have been by a combined eight points, losing to both North Carolina and Oklahoma State in the final minute and a half of the game.
“They’re very good against the run,” Johnson said. “They have a good scheme, and they understand it. Their players execute it very well.”
Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said the team spends time during the summer learning to defend the option. They’ve got a freshman cornerback who played quarterback in high school running the scout team offense. Plus, the Panthers have embraced the idea of playing against the option.
“I think they were enthusiastic about doing that and that’s the attitude you have to take into it,” Narduzzi said. “I think we’re more mentally prepared, physically prepared, and I think we’ve got a great attitude with it.”
The Pitt defense features senior end Ejuan Price, who leads the nation in total sacks (7.5) and tackles for loss (11.5). The Panthers have forced 10 turnovers and converted two into touchdowns.
ACC schedule unchanged
The ACC announced it would keep its current football schedule, with each team playing eight conference games and two games against other Power-5 opponents. There had been discussion about expanding the conference schedule to nine games.
Georgia Tech, which plays an annual game against SEC rival Georgia, has been in favor of keeping the existing format.
“I prefer to stay at eight and two because you get to play a cross-range of Power-5 teams,” Johnson said. “If you’d have gone to the nine and one, the only Power-5 conference team you would have played would have been UGA.”
ACC baseball changes
The ACC will expand its playoffs to a different pool-play format that will include 12 teams and culminate in a four-team, single-elimination bracket. The top team from the Atlantic and Coastal divisions will be joined by the next 10 teams with the best conference winning percentage. Each team in the four three-team pools will be guaranteed two games. The tournament will be May 23-28 in Louisville, Kentucky.