Here's a thought.
I was talking with someone earlier about this Georgia Tech team and about the importance of Thursday night's road contest at Virginia Tech. All preseason, I pointed to this game as THE game of the year for the Yellow Jackets. Now, mind you, I thought they probably would have more wins and would have a slightly more favorable ACC record at this point in the year to make it a very competitive game on paper, and potentially the end-all, be-all to the Coastal Division race. Of course, circumstances now are a little different, but I still believe that this is THE game of the year for the Yellow Jackets.
This game is now THE game of the year for the very fact that Georgia Tech has to win in order to retain its hopes of going to a conference championship game. Lose, and the repeat try is over. Win and keep winning, and the football heavens could smile upon them once again by season's end.
All of that brought me and my fellow converser to this realization: In quote-unquote "big" games under Paul Johnson, these Yellow Jackets are pretty good.
What constitutes a "big" game, you ask? Well, that's all subjective and relative. Most coaches would say every game is a big game, no matter who you play. For the purposes of this exercise and blog post, however, we'll go on and call a "big" game one in which: some type of direct postseason berth is on the line (typically the last two conference games of a season); or a postseason game; or a rivalry game (in this case, Georgia/Virginia Tech/Clemson as rivals) or a game that comes on the heels of a loss. Lots of criteria, sure. But anyway, here we go:
Under Paul Johnson (three seasons), in games that have direct postseason impact, are postseason games, are rivalry games or come on the heels of a loss, the Yellow Jackets are:
That's a decent winning record. Let's dissect those games:
Sept. 13 - at Virginia Tech (rival), 20-17 L ...... 0-1
Sept. 20 - vs. Mississippi St (post-loss), 38-7 W ...... 1-1
Oct. 11 - at Clemson (rival), 21-17 W ...... 2-1
Nov. 1 - vs. Florida State (post-loss), 31-28 W ...... 3-1
Nov. 8 - at North Carolina (postseason race), 28-7 L ...... 3-2
Nov. 20 - vs. Miami (post-loss/postseason race), 41-23 W ...... 4-2
Nov. 29 - at Georgia (rival), 45-42 W ...... 5-2
Dec. 31 - vs. LSU (Chick-fil-A Bowl), 38-3 L ...... 5-3
Sept. 10 - vs. Clemson (rival), 30-27 W ...... 1-0
Sept. 26 - vs. North Carolina (post-loss), 24-7 W ...... 2-0
Oct. 17 - vs. Virginia Tech (rival), 28-23 W ...... 3-0
Nov. 7 - vs. Wake Forest (postseason race), 30-27 W ...... 4-0
Nov. 14 - at Duke (postseason race), 49-10 W ...... 5-0
Nov. 28 - vs. Georgia (rival), 30-27 L ...... 5-1
Dec. 5 - vs. Clemson (ACC championship), 39-34 W ...... 6-1
Jan. 5 - vs. Iowa (Orange Bowl), 24-14 L ....... 6-2
Sept. 18 - at North Carolina (post-loss), 30-24 W ...... 1-0
Oct. 2 - at Wake Forest (post-loss), 24-20 W ...... 2-0
Oct. 23 - at Clemson (rival), 27-13 L ...... 2-1
So there you have it. Just something to think about as the Yellow Jackets go into this "big game" Thursday night. As far as calling Virginia Tech a rival, of course, the Hokies and Yellow Jackets don't have an official rivalry, but the contests the last few seasons prove that they could be heading toward one. The game each year is met with the type of emotion and passion that is evident in a lot of rivalries, so I don't think it's a stretch calling that a rivalry. Not to mention, the Hokies are ranked 20th nationally and a matter of games from potentially clinching the Coastal Division. So yes, this is a big game.
Also, I used the "game-after-a-loss" category as a big-game measurement because the Yellow Jackets have yet to lose back-to-back games under Johnson. The mantra he often repeats to his team goes "Good teams don't lose two games in-a-row." By that logic, to this point, Johnson has had nothing but good teams at Georgia Tech. That fact alone, also makes this a big game.
So do the Yellow Jackets have some more of the "big game" mojo they've had much of Paul Johnson's tenure? Or will this be another long night that won't go their way? Only 30 hours until we'll know....