Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ranking Georgia Tech 2013 Schedule From The Easiest Game to Toughest

The ACC finally released the 2013 football schedule on Monday afternoon.  Each program is allowed to make schedule requests to the league, but none are guaranteed.  Georgia Tech's schedule requests were:

1. A bye week in September, ideally before Virginia Tech (granted, though not before Va Tech)
2. An away game on Fall Break weekend, Oct 12 (granted)
3. A bye week after playing BYU on the road (not granted)
4. A bye week before Thursday games (got one, not both)

Additionally, Georgia Tech wanted to remove the request to play Clemson on the road again after Dan Radakovich left for the AD job with the Tigers, but that was also denied.

In the end, the Yellow Jackets got 1.5 of 4 requests.

Overall, Georgia Tech's schedule is tough with a few manageable landmines.  Here are the highlights:
* Georgia Tech plays two Thursday night games after not playing one in 2012
* UNC has a bye week prior to GT for the 4th time in 5 seasons
* Virginia Tech comes to Atlanta for one of the Thursday games with both teams playing the week prior
* Only 2 of 8 conference opponents play another ACC team the week prior
* The Yellow Jackets bye weeks come in week 2 (prior to Duke) and week 11 (prior to Clemson)
* October will accumulate lots of SkyMiles for Tech traveling on their three longest road trips all season (Miami, BYU, UVA)

Here is how I rank Georgia Tech's schedule from the easiest game to the toughest.

12. Elon - Aug 31

This should be an easy opener against a squad that went 3-8 playing in the Southern Conference last year.  The most interesting note of this game is Yellow Jacket announcer Wes Durham is an Elon graduate.

11. Alabama A&M - Nov 23

The SWAC program should bring a good crowd to Atlanta as most HBCUs do (GT should schedule an HBCU every year in my opinion).  The Bulldogs were 7-4 last year and 6-3 in conference.  Besides a win, Paul Johnson will be hoping to get out of this game without any injuries as Georgia looms the next week.

10. at Duke - Sep 14

The Blue Devils are the Yellow Jackets third most played opponent all time behind UGA and Auburn.  The September 14 meeting will be the earliest ever as ACC foes.  GT has won 17 of the last 18 against Duke but has had to survive numerous games closer than they should have been in that streak.

9. North Carolina - Sep 21

Does the Tar Heels presence in this list towards the easy end surprise you?  It shouldn't.  Tech has won seven of the last eight meetings between the two and won seven straight in Atlanta.  Be prepared for the onslaught of preseason UNC love, but it won't come to fruition once the games start being played.  Yes, UNC has a bye week prior.  That obviously helped keep Georgia Tech under 70 points last season in Chapel Hill.

8. Syracuse - Oct 19

GT gets the two newbies at home this year. I believe the Orange are a step ahead of the Panthers right now, but a few things give Pitt a better chance of the road win than Syracuse. 

7. Pitt - Nov 2

The reason the Panthers are ahead of Syracuse is largely because they play Navy the week before Tech.  I believe playing a similar opponent is a much bigger benefit than having a bye week.  Pitt will get two weeks practice for Tech's spread option offense with a very, very good scrimmage opponent the week prior. 

6. at BYU - Oct 12

The 4,500 mile trek will be by far GT's longest of the season and even though the Cougars dominated the meeting last season they also lost a lot of talent off that team.

5. at Virginia - Oct 26

Charlottesville has been a house of horrors for the Yellow Jackets winning only once since 1990 despite being favored numerous times, including the last trip in 2011.  The Cavaliers are still in rebuilding mode, but will be talented enough to win.

4. Virginia Tech - Sept 26

These two programs have represented the Coastal Division in every ACC Championship Game though last year was the first time the winner of the annual matchup didn't win the division.  Both teams have just five days of prep though the Hokies play Marshall while GT plays division opponent UNC.  This will be the first time since 2009 the Hokies have not had a bye before playing the Jackets which is also the only year they lost to a Johnson coached squad.

3. at Clemson - Nov 14

Clemson is more talented than the team listed above them in my rankings, but GT has had some decent success against the Tigers going 6-11 in Memorial Stadium.  If you want to win a bar bet try this:  GT has also won 7 of the last 10 in the series.  The November 14 date is the latest the two programs have played each since 1945. 

2. at Miami - Oct 5

The Hurricanes have OWNED Paul Johnson.  I am pretty sure Johnson lives in the Vinings area of Metro Atlanta, but he basically pays taxes in Dade County.  In Tech's 2009 ACC Championship* run their only conference loss was at Miami.  Last season, the Hurricanes scored 22 straight in the second half to win in overtime 42-36.  The loss decimated the Jackets so much they lost by 21 the next week to Middle Tennessee State.  To add insult to injury, Miami like many GT opponents, has a non-conference game the week before against South Florida. 

1. vs Georgia - Nov 30

The gap between the Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets has been growing the last two seasons after being very small in Johnson's first three years.  Last year, UGA could have scored 60 if they wanted to.  Tech has not beaten UGA at home since 1999 and has only won one other time in Atlanta since 1985. To boot Mark Richt's program is also the most talented team on Tech's schedule.

Within the ACC, North Carolina appears to have the easiest schedule with bye week's prior to Georgia Tech and Miami and playing East Carolina prior to Virginia Tech.  Start your John Swofford baby blue conspiracy theories now.

Despite the B1G rumors flying, the ACC did not do any favors for Georgia Tech or Virginia in their scheduling.  The face that four of eight opponents play non-conference games the week prior has to be especially disconcerting to the Yellow Jackets. 

Based on the opponents alone, Georgia Tech is capable of winning 9 games with this schedule, however with the five day prep for Virginia Tech, three long trips in October and opponents playing non-conference games the week prior another loss will slip into the schedule as Johnson finished the season at 8-4 finding itself in another tie atop the Coastal Division.

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