FanHouse's 2010 Preseason College Football Poll -- No. 18 Georgia Tech
Less-than-stellar preseason prognostications have left the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets wondering what they need to do to earn a little respect.
How 'bout play defense?
The defending ACC champions, selected to finish third in the Coastal Division by ACC media, return plenty of skill on offense despite key departures who helped them finish second nationally last season in rushing -- running back Jonathan Dwyer, please take a bow and good luck in the NFL.
Senior quarterback Josh Nesbitt, who has grown more comfortable in head coach Paul Johnson's spread offense, produced more than 1,000 yards in passing (1,701) and rushing (1,037) last season. Durable and determined, Nesbitt needs just 692 rushing yards to become the top rushing quarterback in ACC history.
As good as Tech's offense was last season, the defense was hold-your-nose bad. It allowed more than 24 points and 360 total yards per game. That's why Johnson went out and hired Al Groh to make changes to a unit that played uninspired and soft.
Groh, fired as Virginia's head coach, specializes in the 3-4 scheme and toughness. While Groh has had to replace defensive end Derrick Morgan, the ACC sack leader who opted to leave early for the NFL, his grinding coaching style will make players accountable.
Johnson, meanwhile, has been preaching to his team -- and anyone willing to listen, for that matter -- that no one expects Georgia Tech to repeat as ACC champions. He's obviously hoping that will light a fire under his team.
"The good thing is we get to play the games, so we get to determine [where we finish]," Johnson said. "They (media) don't. All you ask for is a chance to play the games. If you get beat, you get beat."
THE BASICS: Tech finished 11-3 last year. Defeats to Miami in September and state rival Georgia in November were the lone regular-season blemishes. The Yellow Jackets rattled off eight consecutive wins in between, then beat Clemson 39-24 in the ACC title game but fell flat against Iowa (24-14) in the Orange Bowl. Tech returns 18 starters, must again prove the option can survive on the collegiate level and needs to mix in a little defense for good measure.
KEY PLAYER YOU PROBABLY DON'T THINK OF AS A KEY PLAYER: Sean Bedford, last year's All-ACC first-team center and former walk-on at defensive end, anchors an offensive line that returns just two starters from last season. Also a two-time ACC offensive lineman of the week, Bedford helped Georgia Tech lead the ACC in rushing offense and total offense.
FLY IN THE OINTMENT: Tech better have a quality travel agent. Five of the Yellow Jackets' six road games could possibly be against opponents ranked in the Top 25 at the time. They open ACC play at North Carolina and travel to Blacksburg, Va., to meet preseason Coastal Division favorite Virginia Tech in November.
DON'T MISS: Tech at Tech on Nov. 4. Sure, Georgia Tech must defend its home turf to have any shot at returning to the ACC title game. But the Jackets' visit to Blacksburg against the Hokies could have huge conference and national ramifications. Travel hint: Both teams may also need to dress warmly.
PREDICTED RECORD: 8-4
FanHouse's Georgia Tech team page with schedule