ATLANTA -- Consider this: The Georgia Tech football team is only a handful of series away from being in consideration for the college football playoffs.
The Yellow Jackets are in the midst of an outstanding season. A 9-2 record is wonderful by almost any standard. But had it not been for one bad quarter against Duke and one miserable series at the end of the North Carolina game, it is conceivable that head coach Paul Johnson’s team could be in the mix for the playoffs.
To recap: In the 31-25 loss to Duke, Georgia Tech trailed 14-12 at halftime but received the kickoff to start the second half. The Yellow Jackets, so it seemed, were in a great position. But Georgia Tech only ran three plays before losing possession on a fumble at the Georgia Tech 46. Duke scored a touchdown nine plays later to take a 21-12 lead.
The Yellow Jackets responded with a 51-yard kickoff return by Jamal Golden, but managed only one first down before asking Harrison Butker to try a 52-yard field goal. He missed, and Duke answered with a field goal to take a 24-12 lead.
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Georgia Tech was still in the game and drove to the Duke 10, where Justin Thomas threw an interception. The Blue Devils didn’t score that time, but ran 6:15 off the clock.
When the Yellow Jackets got the ball back, Thomas threw another interception that led to another Duke field goal.
Responsibility for that stumble fell on the offense.
The blame in the North Carolina game falls squarely on the defense, which was asked to keep the Tar Heels out of the end zone with 3:07 left. But Georgia Tech not only allowed North Carolina to score, it didn’t give the offense enough time to get one final shot and the Yellow Jackets suffered a 48-43 defeat.
Georgia Tech has since responded with four consecutive impressive wins and should be headed to a bowl game of increased stature. If the Yellow Jackets can close the season with a win over Georgia next week, there’s a good possibility they might be invited to the Orange Bowl.
Thanks to North Carolina’s 45-20 win Thursday night over Duke, Georgia Tech will play in the ACC championship game after all. The Yellow Jackets are finished at 6-2 in the conference, and were tied with Duke before Thursday. The Blue Devils had the tiebreaker because of the win over the Yellow Jackets.
Duke needed to lose one of its final two games for Georgia Tech to advance to the conference championship game in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Even if Georgia Tech loses to Georgia, a 9-3 team likely would be headed to one of the bowl games in Florida. That would be good news for any fan who made the trip to Nashville last year and endured the frigid conditions at the Music City Bowl.
Tech notes: Johnson learned earlier this week that he’s a semifinalist for the Maxwell Football Club Coach of the Year Award. ...
Georgia Tech has definitely overachieved. The Yellow Jackets were picked to finish fifth in the division but are now on the cusp of making their 18th consecutive bowl appearance. ...
The Yellow Jackets should be at full strength for next week’s game with Georgia. They’ll get defensive tackle Shawn Green back from a knee injury that kept him out of the Clemson game.
The only missing piece will be A-back Broderick Snoddy, who broke his leg against the Tigers. Johnson said there’s a chance Snoddy could be back in time for spring practice.