I'm reporting live from Kansas City, Ks., where I just unloaded a plane full of Georgia Tech fans. In fact, riding the bus to the rental car facility, of the approx. 25 people on board, at least 20 were wearing some form of Georgia Tech gear. It appears you folks are doing some traveling this year!
In fact, when the bus driver looked up and saw all the Tech paraphernalia, he said, "Oh no, I don't think I can drive this bus. Now that y'all are on board, I've got to ask all of you with Georgia Tech on to get off." (He was, of course, joking)
Anywho, as I get back to my dish here at one of the local Paneras, I figured I'd go on and post my preview capsule that will appear in tomorrow's Telegraph and right here on macon.com in the morning. So enjoy!
***By the way, check out tomorrow's main story on macon.com and in The Telegraph about Hawkinsville native Robert Hall and his return to action this week. Should be a decent read.
No. 15 Georgia Tech at Kansas
Time: Noon/Kiviso Field at Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, Ks.
TV: FoxSports South
Last meeting: Georgia Tech won 20-14 in 1948 Orange Bowl
Kansas freshman Jordan Webb (2) will be starting Saturday against the Yellow Jackets, Kansas head coach Turner Gill said earlier this week. Photo Credit: www2.ljworld.com
Georgia Tech: There is no secret to Georgia Tech’s offense anymore. The entire nation — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC — knows that the Yellow Jackets’ system is based off the run. For that reason, it should be no surprise if they opt to eat clock, and generate several long drives predicated by handing the ball off to A-backs and B-backs, or allowing quarterback Joshua Nesbitt to tuck it and run himself. That said, however, Georgia Tech is facing a defense led by defensive coordinator Carl Torbush, the same mastermind behind Mississippi State’s unit last season. A year ago, in Starkville, Miss., the Yellow Jackets had opportunities to open up the passing game, airing it out for 266 yards on just 11 completions. Film study has shown that after one week, Torbush has brought his same multiple-look scheme to Lawrence. Don’t be surprised if Nesbitt tries to negate naysayers this week and impress Heisman voters with his arm, in addition to his legs.
Kansas: The Jayhawks this week had a position battle for starting quarterback after starter Kale Pick through a crucial interception in the end zone last week against North Dakota State. That turnover likely negated Kansas’ best chance for beating the FCS Bison. From there, North Dakota State went on to complete the upset, 6-3. On Wednesday, head coach Turner Gill named true freshman backup Jordan Webb his starter. Webb was 6-for-11 for 59 yards passing off the bench last week. While Gill’s option offense put up big numbers at Buffalo last year, at Kansas, he has yet to see them. The Jayhawks’ first-year coach has adopted a modified spread system that the program ran before he arrived. Last week, it was held under 300 yards of total offense.
EDGE: Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets’ 3-4 scheme took a bit of a tongue-lashing this week as head coach Paul Johnson was somewhat angered with the way his players tackled last week against South Carolina State. There were also occasions where they missed certain assignments and fit into the wrong rushing gaps. If those corrections were not made, Saturday’s game could drag on much longer than the Yellow Jackets would like.
Kansas: Upon reminiscing on last year’s Mississippi State game earlier this week, Nesbitt said the Bulldogs gave him more looks in that single game than any other team the Yellow Jackets had faced. Torbush’s unit ran variations of 4-3, 3-4, 3-3-5 and various Dime and Nickel packages that might make the playbook to Georgia Tech’s 3-4 base system seem rather thin. Johnson’s troops are expecting a similarly chameleon-like defense now that Torbush is at Kansas. Last week, the Jayhawks held North Dakota State to just 168 yards of total offense.
Georgia Tech: This is now Johnson’s third year at Georgia Tech, and for the third consecutive season, special teams continues to haunt the Yellow Jackets. Place-kicker Scott Blair has had a rocky career, but expects to be much stronger this season. Last week, however, as he was attempting a PAT, a bad snap and mishandled hold forced him to chip a low floater well short of the goal posts. Due to the poor snap, it did not, however, count as an official attempt, so his statistics in that category remain perfect. The punt return game was similarly so-so, as return star Jerrard Tarrant only had one true return opportunity. On the other, he was hit hard and fumbled before a kick-catch interference penalty saved him further embarrassment. Two bright spots on special teams were Macon native Julian Burnett on kick coverage and true freshman Justin Moore, who was named this week the kickoff kicker.
Kansas: Overall, the special teams issues didn’t exist at Kansas to the degree that they did at Georgia Tech last week. In the return game, kick returner D.J. Beshears took two kicks downfield for 84 yards, including one for 49 yards. His 42.0-yard return average leads the Big 12 and ranks sixth in the country during the early-season campaign. While the Jayhawks had one punt blocked last week, punter Alonso Rojas averaged 43.2 yards, even booting one ball 60 yards downfield.
Georgia Tech: Johnson has been the main architect behind his unique spread option scheme for nearly two decades. As he likes to say, “There is no defense (he) hasn’t seen go against it.” While the Jayhawks may attempt to confuse Nesbitt with constantly changing defensive fronts and coverages, Johnson remains confident in what his system and its multiple options — A-backs, B-backs, quarterbacks, receivers — can do. The toughest part about coaching this game will be keeping his team focused and not overlooking a team that suffered a major upset last week in favor of the conference-opener that looms in a week.
Kansas: The boo birds have come out early for Gill, who is in his first season at Kansas. With his offense failing to reach the end zone last week, Jayhawks spectators voiced their displeasure and threw him on a veritable early-career hot seat. Gill will need to have his team play a respectable game against the Yellow Jackets if he wants to fend off the negativity.
EDGE: Georgia Tech
Offense: Georgia Tech’s option game vs. Kansas’ defensive line. Last week, South Carolina State committed itself to selling out on the option pitches and edge game, and instead keyed Georgia Tech’s B-backs and the middle of the field. Watch for how the defensive ends treat Anthony Allen early, and look to see who the Jayhawks take on Nesbitt’s option plays. If Allen becomes the target again, A-backs Roddy Jones and Orwin Smith/Marcus Wright could have a big day.
Defense: Georgia Tech’s defensive line vs. Jordan Webb. With senior Robert Hall returning from suspension this week, the Yellow Jackets expect to have three-man rotations at each of the spots along the defensive line. Just how much pressure they get on Kansas’ freshman quarterback will be a key to Georgia Tech’s defensive success.