Monday, December 27, 2010

Georgia Tech - Air Force Independence Bowl Preview and Prediction

The ACC gets their bowl season started Monday when Georgia Tech takes on Air Force of the Mountain West Conference in the Independence Bowl.

Here is a preview of the game looking at the areas I think are important in bowl games.

Who Has The Better Team?
The Falcons come into Shreveport with an 8-4 record while Tech was just 6-6.  You might think playing in the MWC the Air Force Academy would have a much lower strength of schedule, but playing at (and nearly beating) Oklahoma in the non-conference helped out.  The AFA had a strength of schedule of 67 to Georgia Tech's 64.  The better record lifts AFA to a Sagarin rating of 38 compared to 67 for Georgia Tech.

Air Force's defense ranks in the middle of the pack for defensive efficiency for bowl teams allowing a point for every 15.64 yards.  Ga. Tech allows one point for every 13.97 yards ranking near the bottom.

On offense, again the Falcons have been more efficient than the Yellow Jackets.  The AFA scores a point for every 13.67 yards while Tech again ranks near the bottom of bowl teams at 15.03 yards.
Edge: Air Force

Which Coach Gets The Team Prepared Better?
Troy Calhoun is 1-2 in bowl games at the Academy.  Paul Johnson is 2-4 in bowl games, including two straight losses at Georgia Tech.  Tech has scored just 17 total points in two bowl games under Johnson despite averaging around 30 points per game during the regular season.

These coaches have a familiarity with each other having faced off in 2007 when Johnson beat Calhoun and Air Force in his last year at Navy.  Air Force plays the Naval Academy and Johnson's offense every year finally beating the Mids this season after seven straight losses holding them to just six points.  Johnson was 5-1 against Air Force in his time at Navy winning the final five in a row.
Edge: Georgia Tech

Which Team Is More Motivated?
Most of these AFA players were not around for any of the losses to Johnson and after winning the Commander In Chief trophy this season beating two option teams they have confidence they can do it again. 

Up until this week I didn't see much motivation advantage on either side. But after seeing three GT players will be suspended for the first half after missing curfew I wonder about the Jackets focus.  They better be focused or else Air Force will embarrass them as Johnson warned them before the first bowl practice.  Johnson knows how hard this AFA team will play first hand.  Still, I am not sure the message as sunk in as the Falcons don't the cache of a Virginia Tech or UGA the only two opponents Tech has truly appeared motivated to play this season.
Edge: Air Force

Prediction: 
Air Force 34 Georgia Tech 27

If you want to find out more about how Air Force matches up with Georgia Tech, check out the Q&A I did with Air Force Beat Writer Frank Schwab.

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