Georgia Tech third in the Coastal: Too high? Too low? Just right?

Georgia Tech football coach Paul Johnson was born Aug. 20, 1957, in Newland, North Carolina. Johnson was hired and introduced Dec. 7, 2007 as Tech's 12th football coach, beginning with John Heisman in 1904. Tech defeated Jacksonville State 41-14 on Aug. 28, 2008, in Johnson's debut as Yellow Jackets coach. Johnson's Georgia Southern teams won Division I-AA (now FCS) national championships in 1999 and 2000. Johnson coached six seasons at Navy and was 43-19 over the final five, after a 2-10 first season. Jo

Results of the voting done by the ACC media that assembled in Charlotte last week have just been announced. (Guess it took the weekend to compute all 148 ballots.) Georgia Tech was tabbed to finish third in the Coastal Division and received eight – of those 148 – votes to win it.

My first thought was that this seemed high: Tech is coming off a losing season and has a difficult schedule. Then I reminded myself, not that I ever need much reminding, that the Yellow Jackets are among the most difficult teams to project. Here are their past five seasons: 7-6, 11-3, 3-9, 9-4 and 5-6. See a pattern therein? Me neither.

Here are Tech’s road games: South Florida, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Georgia. I’d say the Jackets will do well to win half of those. If they don’t go at least 3-3 on the road – and Tech was 0-5 away from Bobby Dodd Stadium last year – they’d have to beat Clemson and Miami here to get to eight wins. Between them, the Tigers and Hurricanes drew 144 of those 148 votes to win the ACC.

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Tech’s bigger seasons have lately come in the even-numbered years, when it gets Clemson/Miami at home. (Although it lost to both here in 2016 and still went 9-4.) This is 2018, which qualifies as even-numbered, but the addition of South Florida, which is 21-4 over the past two seasons, changes the dynamics. That’s a perilous road game against a non-Power 5 program that’s good enough to beat a Power 5 program. And I know Paul Johnson is 3-3 against Georgia in Athens, but it’s hard to imagine this season’s Bulldogs – who might not lose a regular-season game – losing to Tech anywhere.

Plus there’s Louisville in the stadium no longer named after Papa John on a Friday night, and a Thursday night date at Virginia Tech, which is 1-3 against this Tech since 2013 and 0-2 under Justin Fuente, who coached a horrible game here last year. That said …

Those who track the ACC have learned never to discount Georgia Tech, and I count myself among that number. I'm on record as picking the Jackets to go 8-4, but I had to talk myself into that. My inclination was to go with 7-5, but you know me: I'm a HUGE Tech fan. (That's why actual Tech fans refer to me as Bark Madley, which I've always thought was pretty great.)

Long story not exactly short: I could see the Jackets as third-best in the Coastal, but I could also see them being closer to where ESPN's preseason power rankings had them – 11th-best in a 14-team league. And I'd note that Bovada has set Tech's over/under in wins at 5-1/2, a half-game worse than Duke's. See a consensus in all this? Me neither.

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