Georgia fired a coach who was 13-2 against Tech to hire someone who has won even bigger. Tech is on its fifth coach of this century, Brent Key having been booted upstairs in the wake of the #404EpicFail. It would be difficult for the Jackets not to be better than they were under Geoff Collins. At issue is whether being not-terrible is the most to which this program can reasonably aspire.
From 1995 through 2014, Tech didn’t finish below .500 in ACC play. Since 2014, it has had a winning league record once. It isn’t just Georgia that has gotten too good for the Jackets. Their conference has, too. From 2004 through 2014, Tech was 8-4 against Clemson. The Tigers are 9-0 since, the average margin of victory being 24.6 points. Also: The ACC is no longer is split into divisions, which does ex-Coastal-dwellers no favors.
It was believed that Tech favored the annexation of Pac-12 remnants Cal and Stanford. (Breaking news: The ACC will indeed add those two plus SMU.) In a sport where the rich only get richer, just being competitive with schools of similar academic excellence might become college football’s equivalent of a middleweight bracket.
Tech football in the 21st Century is known for two things – Calvin Johnson’s catches and Paul Johnson’s offense. The great receiver was the sort of talent – he was the second player drafted in 2007 – this program has ceased to attract. Over 13 NFL drafts since 2010, 16 Tech players have been taken. None went in Round 1. Ten went in Rounds 6 or 7. Two were kickers.
Asterisk: Jahmyr Gibbs, who left Tech for Tuscaloosa, went in Round 1 in April.
Possible exception: Haynes King was a 4-star recruit who signed with Texas A&M, where he started seven games over three seasons. He entered the portal. He’s now Tech’s starting quarterback.
Key has vowed to upgrade his program’s recruiting. (Then again, so did Collins.) As a Tech alum and Nick Saban’s former O-line coach, Key knows the importance of talent and the hurdles the Georgia Institute of Technology faces in attracting such talent. 247Sports rates the Jackets’ 2024 class the nation’s 27th-best. (Then again, Collins’ 2020 class ranked 27th.)
About Paul Johnson’s offense: More than a gimmick, it was the great equalizer. It enabled a team of mostly middling recruits – nobody cared less about recruiting than PJ – to wrong-foot more gifted opponents. Then he retired. Since returning to standard-issue football, the Jackets are 14-32.
Does Key stand a fighting chance? Yes. He’s a bright guy who, as a Collins assistant, got a PhD in what not to do. That said, the difference between the sport’s haves and have-nots has never been greater. Not incidentally, Georgia Tech sits 70 miles from Sanford Stadium, the court of college football’s king.
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