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Syracuse football 2020 opponent preview: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Anything to erase the memory of 2013.

North Carolina State v Georgia Tech Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

We’re increasingly feeling like the 2020 college football season could happen for the Syracuse Orange and other teams around the country. What we don’t know is whether it’ll go off as scheduled or with some adjustments. But until we hear otherwise, we’re going through the 2020 schedule like everything is happening according to plan.

Last time out, we got reacquainted with the Clemson Tigers, their TikTok-loving coach and the Heisman contenders in the backfield. This week, we’re finally seeing the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at the Dome — seven seasons after they completely demolished us down in Atlanta. You may remember that Scott Shafer and Co. switched to a 3-4 defense that week to try and stop Tech’s run game. Good times...

If you think it’s a little early or presumptuous to be talking about upcoming opponents, that’s fair. But whether we’re coming off a five-win season or a 10-win season, I’m personally excited to see what 2020 turns into for the Orange. And since I run this place, we’re already diving into the coming year’s opponents. Next:

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

School: Georgia Tech

Mascot: Yellow Jackets

#BRAND Slogan(s): #TogetherWeSwarm

Alternate #BRAND Slogan Suggestions: #OurOtherMascotIsACar OR “They Used to be ESS-EEE-SEE”

Recommended Blog: From the Rumble Seat

Conference: ACC

Georgia v Georgia Tech Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Coach: Geoff Collins, second season.

Collins has been coaching for some time now, but only recently got a shot at being a head coach. After playing at Western Carolina, the Georgia native was an assistant there through 1994, before heading down to the high school ranks for a season and then popping up north to Fordham to be the Rams’ linebackers coach in 1996.

From there, he zigzagged around a bunch: He was the defensive coordinator for Albright (DIII) for two years, then a grad assistant at Georgia Tech for three. Collins went back to Western Carolina for four seasons, then returned to the Yellow Jackets for a year before going to Alabama. From there, he traveled to UCF (2008-09), FIU (2010), Mississippi State (2011-14) and Florida (2015-16) before Temple gave him his first head coaching gig. A 15-10 record over two years brought him back to Atlanta once again. Collins went 3-9 in year one with Tech.

2019 Record: (3-9) (2-6)

Recapping Last Season:

After years of being one of the top rushing teams in the nation, the Yellow Jackets found themselves toward the middle of the pack, averaging around 152 yards per game on the ground last season. Passing-wise, despite a departure from the triple-option, Tech was still near the bottom of the pile, picking up just 1,607 yards through the air with 14 touchdowns compared to 10 picks. Freshman passer James Graham was relatively effective in 11 games, but was far from dynamic. Given the team’s personnel that was still heavily skewed toward ground game success, it arguably made the most sense to continue leaning into that for the time being.

Defensively, Tech was around the bottom third in the country in terms of yards allowed per game (423) and points per game allowed (32.4). They were poor against the run, while actually playing reasonably well against the pass (just 36th in passing yards allowed per game), but part of that raw number advantage could have something to do with the number of blowouts they were involved in. Georgia Tech managed just 17 sacks all year, while forcing just 16 turnovers. A lack of play-making ability was far from ideal.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 21 NC State at Georgia Tech Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2020 Season Outlook:

Once again, the season will begin with a tough test vs. Clemson, while Tech also faces UCF and North Carolina (on the road) in September. From September 19 on, there really isn’t a break in the schedule, as every opponent (from UCF through Georgia in the finale) won at least five games last year, and all but Syracuse and Duke went bowling. Even a better Yellow Jackets squad could struggle to get past last year’s three victories.

A lot of focus will be on the quarterback position, no matter who’s under center. If Graham or Jordan Yates (or someone else?) fails to deliver, they’ll be leaning on the run game once more. Jordan Mason ran the ball well last year, averaging 5.23 yards per carry as team’s leading rusher, but beyond him, the position doesn’t have much experience. Receiver experience is there at the top end of the depth chart with players like Ahmarean Brown and Adonicas Sanders (combined for 40 catches and nearly 650 yards last year). However, they’ll need a lot more than that to help this group avoid being one-dimensional. The line could help there too. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out, there was improvement over the course of the year and they don’t lose much. That should help a lot.

While a young defense struggled for stretches last season, they now give way to a more experienced group coming back. Tech loses just one of last year’s top 10 tacklers, so there’s a ton of experience among the linebackers and defensive backs — already a possible strength from 2019. Pass-rushing was largely led by the linebackers, and just two linemen managed three tackles for loss on the year (Ja’Quon Griffin and Kelton Dawson). Both players are relatively young, however, so there’s room for growth there.

Syracuse Game Date: Saturday, October 31

Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.

Odds of Orange Victory: 60 percent

Very Early Outlook vs. Syracuse:

Georgia Tech is still in the process of digging out of the triple-option hole Paul Johnson put them in. So despite some promise displayed over the course of 2019, the Yellow Jackets are probably still a year away from putting it all together under Collins. Still, even if we expect a win, Tech is no easy out. Behind a solid offensive line, their ground game should remain formidable, which could cause some issues for a Syracuse team that’s struggled to stop opponents on the ground. I think the Orange offense has enough firepower to grab the win, however, especially if Georgia Tech can’t generate much of a pass rush.