Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Georgia Tech vs Western Carolina Preview

Georgia Tech opens its season Thursday against FCS school Western Carolina from the Southern Conference. The game will be the fifth meeting between the two schools and the Yellow Jackets have won the previous four.

Who Is Western Carolina?
Located in Cullowhee, NC (about a 3 hour drive from ATL) the Catamounts are coming off a disappointing 2-9 season a year ago. Their head coach Dennis Wagner is in fourth season having compiled a 7-27 record thus far. The Catamounts last made the FCS playoffs in 1983.

Going along with a trend in college football, WCU will be operating out of the Pistol formation on offense this season. Wagner and his staff visited with the creator of the offense, Nevada's Chris Ault, in the offseason.  Defensively, the Catamounts will run out of a 4-2-5 look or a 4-3 alignment.

Western Carolina has 13 starters returning, including nine on offense. In total they have 41 of 62 letterman returning from a year ago.

The Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Johnson graduated from Western Carolina in 1979 and was 5-0 against his alma mater while at Georgia Southern.

Predicting the Outcome
WCU only played one FBS team last year and it was NC State losing 48-7 in week one.
However, playing in the Southern Conference the Catamounts also played Georgia Southern who is lead by former Georgia Tech assistant Jeff Monken.

Against WCU, the Eagles scored 28 points, about their season average. They rushed for 277 yards which was 16 yards above the season total and passed for 136 well above their average. GSU put this game away on third down converting 57% of their chances while hitting just 43% on the season. Southern was also more explosive than usual hitting 6.6 yards per play versus just 5.2 during the season. While more explosive, GSU was also less efficient on offense having to grind out 14.8 yards per point vs WCU to just 12.6 during the season.

Defensively, the Eagles were very stout against the Catamounts holding them to just 6 points in the victory. GSU allowed just 68 yards rushing to a team that ranked last in the Southern Conference.

All of this bodes very well for Tech in their opener. They will have some film to see how WCU could line up against the Jackets and are facing a team that was finished second to last in the Southern Conference stopping the run and returns just four starters.

Defensively, Tech is hoping to be much better at stopping the run this season. If they cannot do that against WCU then it could be another long season on the Flats.

Statistical Notes
WCU was outscored 119-21 in the third quarter last season.

The last time Georgia Tech played Western Carolina was 1994. The Yellow Jackets finished that season with a 1-10 mark, the lone winning coming over WCU.

Georgia Tech is favored by 35 in this game according to

Tech has beaten FCS teams in the opener in each of Johnson's three seasons in Atlanta. Last year, it was a 31 point win over SC State, two years ago a 20 point win over Jacksonville St, and in 2008 a 27 point win over Jacksonville St.   Each of the previous three opponents was better than Western Carolina is projected.

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