This has been a unique week for Georgia Tech’s team.
The team learned Monday that its game against Central Florida had been canceled because of Hurricane Irma, which essentially turned this into a bye week. It’s like nothing that has happened before.
This is different than 2000 when the Yellow Jackets arrived at Virginia Tech and were stuck in the locker room while a seemingly endless lightning show filled the skies before the game finally was canceled. That was like a typical game week in terms of watching film and installing the game plan. The team flew to Blacksburg but never got on the field.
The Central Florida situation was different. Georgia Tech wanted to play the game, and officials tried to work around the problem. They offered to host this week’s game and travel for the return game in 2020. But Central Florida officials cited a variety of reasons, and the game ended up being canceled.
“I think our administration offered the play the game here, and I don’t think they had an interest in that,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. “I was hoping we could just flip them if we needed to, but they didn’t seem to have an interest in doing that.”
Central Florida’s decision appears more puzzling given how other Florida colleges have handled the similar situation. South Florida will host its game against Illinois in Tampa on Friday night as scheduled. Florida will host Tennessee in Gainesville on Saturday afternoon as scheduled.
Five questions about the cancellation and its effects
Was there a silver lining? It might be hard to find one. The team is relatively healthy now, so it’s not as a helpful as a bye week in the middle of the season might be. And it’s a game that Georgia Tech would have been expected to win, although that’s never an automatic. And it was a chance for many of the team’s native Floridians to return home and play in front of their friends and families.
Perhaps the most positive aspect is just the rest it allowed the players to have. They had played two games within five days, and the effects were obvious to Johnson after the Jacksonville State game. He pointed out how things were slower and some players seemed like they were “playing in sand.” Guard Parker Braun talked about how it was especially tough for the offensive linemen.
That should no longer be a problem. Georgia Tech will be a well-rested group next week when it opens the ACC schedule against Pittsburgh.
How did it affect the practice schedule? The team had its regular practices Wednesday and Thursday. They will not practice Friday and will have the weekend off.
“We’ll pick up Monday,” Johnson said. “So hopefully we’ll have a fresh football team when we come back on Monday.”
Does this offer a chance to get an early work on Pittsburgh? Slightly, but not like you might believe. With no game to plan for this weekend, the staff went back to the basics in many areas during practice.
“We’ll go back and handle some of the fundamentals things we haven’t done very well and maybe intro to Pitt,” Johnson said. “But we’ll get a couple days work on fundamental stuff and intro to them, and then we’ll start full bore next Monday.”
How will the cancellation affect bowl possibilities? It doesn’t help, but it isn’t a deal breaker. Teams need to win six games to become bowl eligible, meaning the Yellow Jackets must find five more victories. The schedule isn’t easy, but it isn’t overwhelming, either. If Georgia Tech somehow fails to reach the six-win mark, it could petition the NCAA for a waiver. Permission likely would be granted, since the cancellation was caused by a natural disaster. But as Johnson likes to say about a lot of things, you just have to see how things play out.
What is the injury situation? There have been relatively few short-term injuries, perhaps the most impactful was the one that kept defensive tackle Kyle Cerge-Henderson out of last week’s game. The junior has returned to practice and should be good for next week’s game. A-back Clinton Lynch returned last week and played against Jacksonville State and will benefit from another light week.
Offensive lineman Andrew Marshall and linebacker David Curry remain injured and will miss more time.
Pittsburgh at Georgia Tech
12:20 p.m., Sept. 23