Rampaging Tech picks up where it left off

When a really good FBS team plays any sort of FCS opponent, two things can happen: The bigger program can slop around and let the little guys hang around for a half, or …

The bigger guys can forgo the slopping-around and body-slam the visitors — and the FCS schools are always the visitors in such games — into the middle of next week. Which is why the Alcorn State Braves will awake Friday believing Labor Day has come and gone.

Let’s not quibble. (Let’s leave that for Paul Johnson, and even he’d strain to carp over this one.) Georgia Tech looked great Thursday night, and it wasn’t just great-by-comparison. The Yellow Jackets were energized and forceful and swift and strong and … well, pretty much everything you’d ever want a football team to be.

Tech beat Alcorn State, the reigning SWAC champ and the preseason choice to win its division again, in a way the best FBS team shouldn’t beat the worst FCS entry. The Jackets led 13-0 after 6:13, having gone touchdown drive, interception, touchdown drive. (Did flub the second PAT, though. There’s a quibble.)

Justin Thomas did the Justin Thomas thing for the season’s first score, turning a nobody’s-open dropback into a scrambling, rambling touchdown. The new B-backs — the Stanford transfer Patrick Skov and the freshman Marcus Marshall — ran hard. (Indeed, Marshall had 184 yards and two touchdowns on his first eight carries.) Broderick Snoddy, coming off a broken leg, looked swift again. The defense induced two first-half turnovers against three first downs. No quibbles about any of the above.

So: The team that closed 2014 by routing another team from Mississippi — the maroon Bulldogs of State — in the Orange Bowl had hit the sod running. No great shock there. But then Tech really got going, and the ghosts of Cumberland (222-0 in 1916) began to stir. Assuming ghosts stir.

Fun with numbers. Tech had 27 points in the first 12:21, which put it on pace to win 131-0. It had 34 points 66 seconds into the second quarter, putting it on pace to win 146-0. Then it made it 41-nil with 11:34 left in the half, which put it on pace to win 133-0.

And please note: Thomas had been removed at the quarter’s start. (Think of him doing as Matt Ryan does every August in the first exhibition, although this was neither August nor an exhibition.) Those who wonder if Tech is a one-man team were given less fodder by this display, in which backup Tim Byerly kept the steamroller steaming/rolling.

Really, though, this wasn’t a quarterback’s game. This was a system-and-talent game. Sometimes we’ll see an opponent of similar ability get boat-raced by the Jackets because it has no idea how to halt this offense. (Think back to 2013: Tech 56, Syracuse 0.) What happened Thursday was that a team of much lesser talent had no inkling — and no inclination — of how to blunt the option. Ergo, 48-0 at the half.

And now you’re asking: What exactly did this mean? Well, it means that Tech, should it ever decide to flee the ACC, would fare well in the SWAC. It means the Jackets won big on a night they were supposed to win big, which isn’t always the case. (Think back to last year’s opener, which saw Tech lead Wofford 10-9 at the half.) It means that, at least on a Thursday night at the beginning of a holiday weekend, the nation’s No. 16 team didn’t have to apologize for its ranking.

But we think back two openers, to the 70-0 pasting of Elon in 2013. By Game 6, the Jackets would be 3-3 en route to 7-6. Winning a game by a huge margin against an overmatched opponent sure beats losing to Middle Tennessee, which happened in 2012, but in the grand scheme it’s just a win against an overmatched opponent.

The schedule will get tough soon enough, and we’ll see if Tech looks half as irresistible in South Bend on Sept. 19. (If it does, Brian Kelly might get fired Sept. 20.) But it’s not Notre Dame Week yet. For the moment, Johnson and his Jackets will have to be satisfied with a surpassing performance against the SWAC champ. Not that Paul Johnson is ever satisfied.