If you’re a coach whose team has been stuck on seven wins the past two seasons and your athletic director has just suggested that your program needs to do better, this is the schedule you want. Georgia Tech can win eight games, maybe more, in 2014 — provided Georgia Tech turns out to be good, which is something it hasn’t quite been for a while now.
The schedule released Wednesday appears manageable. Of the Jackets’ six road games, none will come against a team coming off more than an eight-win season. One will come at North Carolina State, which went 0-8 in ACC play. Another will come against Tulane, which lost 52-17 to Syracuse, which Tech beat 56-0. Another will come at Pittsburgh, which Tech beat 21-10.
The three most daunting road games will be staged at Virginia Tech, which hasn’t been itself the past two years and just lost quarterback Logan Thomas; at North Carolina, which hasn’t beaten the Jackets since 2008, and at Georgia, which needed to surmount a 20-0 deficit to beat Tech on Nov. 30.
The home schedule includes games against Duke, which improbably won the ACC Coastal Division but which hasn’t beaten Tech since Paul Johnson arrived; against Miami, which all but collapsed at season’s end and will be deploying a new quarterback, and Clemson, which beat Ohio State in the Orange Bowl but has lost Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. There’s also an intriguing Sept. 13 date against Georgia Southern, which will be playing its first season as an FBS team (also its first season under new coach Willie Fritz) and which, still as an FBC entrant, famously beat Florida in November.
To go worse than 8-4, Georgia Tech would have to lose five of the six games that loom as losable. (Meaning Virginia Tech, Miami, Duke, North Carolina, Clemson and Georgia.) Put another way, the Jackets could lose their three toughest road games and go 2-1 at home against Miami, Duke and Clemson — and still get to 8-4. And 8-4, I submit, is the number Johnson needs to hit if he plans to coach Tech in 2015.
It doesn’t help that the Jackets will be working with a new quarterback, Vad Lee having left for James Madison, or that Jeremiah Attaochu, their best defender, completed his eligibility. But this schedule isn’t nearly as daunting as 2013’s. (There’s no road game at BYU, or Miami, or Clemson.) A program that has managed eight wins only once since 2009 has a realistic chance to win at least eight games at what would seem an important time for all concerned.