South Carolina State (0-0) at (16) Georgia Tech (0-0)
Saturday, September 4th - 1:00 p.m. (et)
From The Sports Network
By John Agovino, College Football Staff Writer
GAME NOTES: The reigning ACC Champion Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will open the 2010 season in front of a packed crowd at Bobby Dodd Stadium when they
host the South Carolina State Bulldogs this weekend.
In just his second season at Georgia Tech, coach Paul Johnson led the Yellow Jackets to an 11-win campaign and the ACC title. It was the first outright ACC title for Georgia Tech since 1990. Also, after last season Johnson became the first coach in ACC history to be named conference Coach of the Year in back- to-back campaigns.
The Bulldogs open the new campaign as the defending MEAC champions. It was the second straight league title for SC State, which finished last year with 10 victories. This will be the ninth season for head coach Oliver "Buddy" Pough, who has collected 67 wins over the previous eight campaigns.
This will be the first meeting between the two schools on the gridiron.
The Bulldogs' success in 2009 was due to the team's balanced attack offensively. SC State was able to hurt the opposition through the air and on the ground and with the return of Malcolm Long under center the passing attack should once again be strong.
Long completed 64.5 percent of his throws in 2009 and will likely have another strong campaign. Look for Long to build a relationship with Richard Christie, who is the most experienced starter at wideout. Lennel Elmore saw brief moments on the field last year, and freshman Tyler McDonald will be asked to step in and make an immediate impact as well.
The ground game was a pivotal part to the team's success last year, but the departure of William Ford leaves a glaring hole in the backfield. As of now Chris Massey is slated to start against Georgia Tech, but expect Asheton Jordan to get plenty of carries also.
To go along with a sensational offensive attack, the Bulldogs also possessed a dangerous defensive unit, which performed at a high level more often than not in 2009. However, things could be drastically different in the upcoming season, as this unit is riddled with inexperience.
Up front is where the team takes a big hit, but there is some potential in players such as Pat Washington and Jayson Ayers. Both players will open the year in the starting lineup and will need to make an immediate impact. David Erby, who paced the team in tackles last season will lead the way at linebacker, and will receive plenty of help from Julius Wilkerson.
Semaj Moody, who grabbed three picks in 2009, will be back at his corner position, but the pressure will be on sophomore Yari King, who will need to man the other corner spot.
Since Johnson took over for Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jackets have become an explosive running team, including 295.4 ypg on the ground last year. Clearly
opponents are unable to handle the triple-option, and even though Georgia Tech
lost top running back Jonathan Dwyer, there is still plenty in the cupboard with the season on the horizon.
Anthony Allen, who averaged an eye-popping 9.7 ypc a year ago, will likely get the majority of the carries at running back, and while he will have big shoes to fill, coach Johnson feels Allen is very capable.
"I think Anthony is a very good player. I hope our production doesn't drop off at that position and I don't think it will."
More importantly for the Yellow Jackets is the return of quarterback Joshua Nesbitt, who is a duel threat under center. The signal caller rushed for over 1,000 yards last year and scored 18 times on the ground. Overall, Nesbitt finished with 28 touchdowns and will be a key to the Yellow Jackets' success on Saturday and throughout the season.
In a triple-option scheme it is rare that a quarterback actually throws the football, but Nesbitt did more than most signal callers in this formation, but that was because he had a reliable option in Demaryius Thomas. However, Thomas moved on to the NFL, and it will be up to either Kevin Cone or Stephen Hill to make the passing attack effective in 2010.
Even more important will be the success of the offensive line, which will have a few new starters, including freshman Will Jackson. This group will have to gel quickly for Georgia Tech to fully succeed in the triple-option.
There is plenty of talent returning to the mix for Georgia Tech defensively, but the most important addition to this defense is former Virginia head coach Al Groh, who will be calling the shots for Tech on this side of the ball.
Coach Johnson believes with Groh on the staff the defense will have a more consistent effort in 2010.
"Al is a great football coach. He has a lot of energy and I think he's going to be good for our program. We're excited about having a guy like that on our staff. I think our players are excited about the direction."
Jason Peters will likely anchor the frontline from the defensive end position, but the spotlight will likely be on the other side where Izaan Cross will take over for Derrick Morgan who went to the NFL. The sophomore will have large shoes to fill, so it will be interesting to see how he performs in the opener.
Brad Jefferson, who led the team with 95 tackles a year ago, will be the leader at linebacker, but also look for Kyle Jackson and Anthony Egbuniwe to make an impact, beginning this Saturday.
The corner positions are set with big time players in Mario Butler and Dominique Reese, while the safety spots will be manned by young budding stars in sophomore Cooper Taylor and freshman Isaiah Johnson.
The Bulldogs might have been the cream of the crop in the MEAC this past season, but they are now faced with one of the top teams in the country in Georgia Tech. It should be an easy test for Georgia Tech in its opener, as the 16th-ranked Yellow Jackets will likely run away with a victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia Tech 45, South Carolina State 10
09/01 10:42:24 ET