Georgia Tech will have a quick turnaround after playing Tennessee on Monday night in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game. The Yellow Jackets will play Jacksonville State at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 9 at Bobby Dodd Stadium, less than five full days after Tech’s game with the Volunteers finishes late Monday night at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Neither prospect – the short rest and the opponent – pleases coach Paul Johnson.
While an FCS team, Jacksonville State will be no pushover. The Gamecocks have won the Ohio Valley Conference championship three years in a row and were 10-2 last season. Jacksonville State was ranked No. 6 in the preseason FCS poll.
“If you’re going to (play on short rest), you don’t schedule the No. 2 or No. 3 team in the country in (FCS) and give them two weeks off,” Johnson said. “I mean, that was a setup job. Call it what it was.”
Johnson evidently was frustrated with not having more input on the game, which was announced in September 2015 during the tenure of then-athletic director Mike Bobinski. The Jacksonville State game was announced after the Tennessee game was set earlier that year. Tennessee will follow the Tech game with Indiana State, which was 4-7 last season. Tennessee was to play the Sycamores on Sept. 23, but moved them up by two weeks last year in a change involving multiple teams.
Moreover, Jacksonville State will play Tech after having an open date. The Gamecocks opened the season Saturday, defeating Chattanooga 27-13, and will be off Saturday.
The last time Tech played a Labor Day game, at Virginia Tech in 2012, the Jackets followed that with a more palatable opponent the following week, Presbyterian, and easily defeated the Blue Hose.
Simply having to play a game with short rest also peeved Johnson. It is a consequence of the ACC’s contract with ESPN. The network annually features a Labor Day night game that includes an ACC team, an arrangement that gives the league a national platform and provides the network with attractive programming, but also creates the short-rest challenge for the following week.
“They talk about welfare for the student-athletes, and then they’re going to play two games in six days,” Johnson said. “No two-a-days, but, it’s OK to play two games in six days.”
Johnson was referring to an NCAA rule, set earlier this year, that prevents teams from practicing twice in a day as a health measure.