- Both the Irish and Georgia Tech come into this game at 2-0, but GT has thus far played two less-than-stellar opponents. Is there any worry from the GT crowd that the team may not be up to a stiffer test in the Irish?
I'd say there has definitely been some worry about the quality of opponents at the start of the season when comparing Tech and Notre Dame. The worry isn't necessarily about being up for the test, but fans have been concerned about some of the younger guys not getting that sense of an intense and competitive game with the first two weeks. Despite Texas basically being a cupcake for the Irish in that blowout, Notre Dame got their down-to-the-wire game in last week, and that's something that can only help a team going forward. The first quarter should be indicative of how the Jackets step up to the competition right away, and then it should be game on.
- Much has been made of the Paul Johnson v. Brian Van Gorder situation. How much do you think their history will actually play into the game this weekend?
I've thought about this rivalry between the two quite a bit recently, and I've thought about it in two ways - one worries me, and one excites me. The worrisome one is that Johnson lets this get the best of him, and he gets too aggressive and "cute" with his play calling. He's done this in the past, and it usually doesn't turn out well for the Jackets. Letting a coach make him get outside of his play calling is obviously not good. I then thought some more and realized Johnson isn't that type of coach - he likes subtle torture. I think the thing that would stick it at VanGorder more than anything is Johnson running the most vanilla triple option you could ever imagine - 35 B-Back dives and 20 QB iso-follow plays. The second one sounds more like Johnson and something that I could see happening. With that being said, I don't think it's as big of a deal as some have talked about it. I highly doubt either will be thinking about it during the game, and the most I could see it impacting the game is in the final few minutes and whoever is winning tries to stick it to the other coach in a subtle way.
- Who is one non-star player that ND fans may not know who is going to have a huge game against the Irish on each side of the ball?
Offensively, the guy I'll go with is A-Back Que Searcy. Searcy is a redshirt freshman who was recruited at wide receiver, got shifted to defensive back last season and nearly burned his redshirt with playing time there, and then got moved to A-Back where he has now found his home. He's touched the ball nine times this season for 94 yards and two touchdowns. I'm expecting the Notre Dame defense to play aggressive and force the ball away from the B-Back and the QB. That puts the explosive Searcy in a situation at A-Back to get some pitches and catches out of the backfield. Defensively, I'll go with a guy that should be reaching star-status in most people's eyes - linebacker P.J. Davis. Davis was an honorable mention All-ACC last season, and he's now the leader in the middle of the defense with Quayshawn Nealy's departure. You'll see Davis blitzing a ton on Saturday, and he'll need to get some pressure on DeShone Kizer to help the defense out.
- GT is now a perennial ACC contender under the triple option attack of Paul Johnson. What was originally a novel move to bring in the "different" candidate has paid off. What is the feel for Paul Johnson and his regime at GT. Is this as high as he needs to be, or is there more to be done?
Things have turned around quickly at Tech in terms of Johnson's perception in Atlanta. This time last year after two underwhelming wins, there were tons of fans wanting Johnson gone as soon as possible. After a very good season for the Jackets, that's obviously changed. What most fans have now realized is that when Johnson gets a quarterback that fits his system, he can create a near unstoppable offense. According to most metrics last year, it was the best in the nation. Despite all of that, fans still want to see some prolonged success, and Johnson has the opportunity to do just that with Justin Thomas under center for two more seasons.
- What type of defnsive adjustments do you NOT want to see the Irish use against the option attack this Saturday?
I'm pretty sure the Irish will do exactly what I don't want to see, and if they don't, it's a mistake. In terms of lining up and scheme changes, I'm not exactly sure what VanGorder will do - as he's lined up in some funky ways in the past against Navy, but I expect them to have a philosophy in terms of their "option" in the triple option. Taking Thomas out of the game will probably be the first step for the defense. I'm also expecting a clogged middle to stop Patrick Skov and the B-Backs. This means that Notre Dame probably will - and should - force the A-Backs to make plays on the perimeter, and take its one-on-one situations in coverage and blocking situations on the outside with its corners vs. receivers. The A-Backs and wide receivers for the Jackets are probably the most inexperienced and unproven spots, so it'll all be about how they step up in this one.
- What's your prediction for the game this weekend, and how do we get there exactly? Bonus points for GIF usage.
I had this one penciled in as a loss last week, but I'm going to react a little bit to the Irish injuries and say Georgia Tech pull this one off. Malik Zaire scared me a lot because Tech has historically struggled against very mobile QB's. While Kizer has some mobility, I don't expect it to be nearly as threatening, and that should help the defense a lot. I'm predicting Tech manages to force two turnovers, which is just enough to get the offense what it needs in terms of possession. Jackets win a close one over the Irish, 34-28. It should be a fantastic game between two teams that I wish got to play each other much more often. Here's to hoping for a clean and injury-free game.