Here’s how Georgia Tech’s football season will play out

Georgia Tech football tried to leave the past behind. The Yellow Jackets still haven’t moved forward from the triple-option because they are stuck in neutral. Tech has won three games for three years straight, and the over/under win total this season is 3.5.

Tech’s best playmaker from last season, Jahmyr Gibbs, plays for Alabama now. Defense is supposed to be coach Geoff Collins’ specialty, but Tech got much worse at stopping opponents after hiring him. Collins publicly insulted Tech supporters who expect more from the program, and now the Jackets are set to play what’s likely the toughest schedule of his tenure.

ExploreWhat has to go right for Georgia Tech this season

I’ve already made the case for why Tech might beat expectations. (Short answer: Jeff Sims.) Now it’s time to take a cold, calculating look at each game see where the Jackets will find wins. It’s very difficult to forecast an entire season because the distant future has so many unknown variables. Or at least that’s my rationalization for when I end up being wrong, like when I got just four of 10 games right for Tech in 2020.

Anyway, here’s how I see Tech’s 2022 season playing out:

Sept. 5 vs. No. 4 Clemson (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)

The Jackets had a chance to win at Clemson last season before leaving with a 14-8 defeat. That was less than a year after Tech’s 73-7 home loss to the Tigers. Clemson was 10-3 in 2021, but that’s considered a down year because there was no playoff or ACC Championship game appearance. Dabo Swinney’s Tigers begin their campaign to prove last season was a fluke by blowing out the Jackets and delighting the Clemson fans who take over MBS. (0-1, 0-1 ACC)

Sept. 10 vs. Western Carolina

The Jackets should know better than to overlook Western Carolina. The Catamounts play at the FCS level, but so does The Citadel. Tech lost to the Bulldogs in the third game of the Collins era. The Jackets take care of business before continuing the brutal portion of their schedule. (1-1, 0-1)

Sept. 17 vs. No. 21 Ole Miss

The Rebels might have won a school-record 11 games in 2021 if not for quarterback Matt Corral’s injury in the Sugar Bowl. Corral is gone, but unfortunately for Tech, offensive mastermind Lane Kiffin has two good candidates to replace him. The Rebels roll to victory with Corral’s backup, Luke Altmyer, or USC transfer Jaxson Dart (or both). (1-2, 0-1)

Sept. 24 at Central Florida

The Jackets were overmatched against Clemson and Ole Miss. UCF is expected to be good, but not Top 25 good. The heat is on Collins to avoid a wipeout loss in Orlando against a Group of Five team. That outcome is possible. The Knights win with big production from their deep backfield and ex-Ole Miss QB John Rhys Plumlee. (1-3, 0-1)

Oct. 1 at No. 17 Pitt

At least the Jackets don’t have to deal with Kenny Pickett anymore. He’s off to the NFL after putting up 389 passing yards with four touchdowns against Tech. But the Jackets are facing another team that’s replacing one talented QB with another. USC transfer Kedon Slovis carries on the tradition by slicing up Tech, which gets big plays from Sims but loses in a shootout. (1-4, 0-2)

Oct. 8 vs. Duke

The Blue Devils are the only ACC opponent that Collins has beaten more than once. Tech needed a touchdown pass in the final minute to win at Duke last season. Duke replaced coach David Cutcliffe, an offensive specialist, with ex-Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko. The Blue Devils might eventually be OK on defense, but not now. Sims has another big day to beat Duke. (2-4, 1-2)

Oct. 20 Virginia

The Jackets recovered two onside kicks at Virginia last season to turn a blowout loss into a deceptively close defeat. The Jackets don’t need to be so lucky to compete with Virginia this time. The Cavaliers score plenty of points with standout QB Brennan Armstrong, but Tech keeps up. This is another game where Sims shows he’s the best player on the field. Tech scores the upset to even its ACC record with half the league games played. (3-4, 2-2)

Oct. 29 at Florida State

One weird note about Collins’ Tech tenure is that he’s won only three league road games, but two were at the Coastal Division’s traditional powers, Miami and Florida State. Miami and FSU have slipped since their glory days, with the Seminoles sliding further. The Jackets try to recapture the magic of that 2019 opener at FSU but can’t. The ‘Noles show they’re better on both lines now while grinding out a victory. (3-5, 2-3)

Nov. 5 at Virginia Tech

The Jackets couldn’t take advantage of the drama that swirled around Justin Fuente’s Virginia Tech program. Tech lost home games to the Hokies in 2019 and 2021 by a combined score of 71-17. New Hokies coach Brent Pry is a defensive guy, but his team’s offensive line and quarterback group are lacking. Tech’s defense plays its best game of the season as Collins finally wins more than three games in a season. (4-5, 3-3)

Nov. 12 vs. No. 16 Miami

The Jackets won at Miami in 2019. They led in the fourth quarter at Miami last season before losing by three points. Now the Hurricanes finally return to Bobby Dodd Stadium. New ‘Canes coach Mario Cristobal, who played offensive line at Miami, has that group fixed by this game. The Jackets lose again. (4-6, 3-4)

Nov. 19 at North Carolina

Tech dominated UNC last season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Week 4. It turns out the Tar Heels weren’t nearly as good as expected, but that still was an impressive victory for Tech. Defense was UNC’s issue in 2021, and it still might be a problem. But Mack Brown has built a strong talent base through recruiting. UNC will score plenty of points even though QB Sam Howell is in the NFL now. The Tar Heels win, and Tech posts its fourth consecutive losing record overall and in the ACC. (4-7, 3-5)

Nov. 26 at Georgia

Kirby Smart lost his first game against Tech. The modern standard for UGA coaches is that he never does it again. Mark Richt lost twice to Tech in 15 years. (Remember that silly squib kick at Sanford Stadium in 2014?) Smart used to make his share of coaching blunders. The Bulldogs are a machine now, so strategy doesn’t play much of a part in games like this one. The Bulldogs blow out Tech again. (4-8, 3-5)