Thursday, October 23, 2008

Revisiting Expectations

One of our readers, Matt, requested that we go back and review our pre-season expectations and revise them for the 2nd half of the season. Here's the original post.

So let's go re-post our original expectations along with some updates:

Date Opponent / Event

08/28/08 vs. Jacksonville State, Win 41-14, 1-0, 0-0 ACC
ORIGINAL:A must win. I don't care who their QB is. He's one guy and the rest of the team is mostly made up of guys that didn't get DI-A offers. New offense or not, fumbles or not, this is a must win game. No excuses here.... 1-0

UPDATE: Jackets dominated 41-14 and had former LSU QB Ryan Perrilloux running all day. He was sacked 4 times enroute to a dominating victory in the opening stanza of the Paul Johnson era. Jax St has gone on to prove that they are a very good IAA tea with Perrilloux leading the way.

09/06/08 at Boston College, win 20-17, 2-0, 1-0
ORIGINAL: BC won't be the same team they were last season. However, they have a good coaching staff, and they'll be tough to beat on the road. I give us a 40% shot to get the W here, which means I'm really picking us to lose in a close one....... 1-1

UPDATE: In a hard-nosed game, it took at Jonathan Dwyer 43 pitch to break things open in the 2nd half. The Jackets survived three first half fumbles and pressured Chis Crane into some mistakes of his own. No matter how it happened, a road ACC victory against the Atlantic champion in noteworthy. Since that time, BC has gotten better and we remain the lone loss on their schedule
09/13/08 at Virginia Tech, lost 20-17, 2-1, 1-1
ORIGINAL: Not a game I expect us to win. Still too early in the season for our team to be hitting on all cylinders and our youth will ultimately hurt. I expect VaTech to take this game soundly...... 1-2

UPDATE: Another incredibly hard-fought, physical game. Unfortunately the Jackets could not overcome another 3 turnover day, but they came darn close. A questionable helmet-to-helmet call on Cooper Taylor kept VaTech's go-ahead scoring drive alive and proved to be the difference. This is the game that got away. VaTech currently leads the ACC Coastal and sports a 5-1 record. They are clearly in the drive seat.

09/20/08 vs. Mississippi State, won 38-7, 3-1, 1-1
ORIGINAL: Swing game for me. Could go either way, but we really should get the win. I would put the odds at about 60%...... 2-2

UPDATE: We heard all week about the stout Miss St defense that held Auburn to 3 points. We knew their offense was struggling. We now know that Auburn's offense was nothing to write home about. In the end, the Jackets ran all over Miss St, to the tune of 438 yards on the ground, routing them in the process 38-7. Josh Nesbitt goes out on the first series and Jaybo Shaw comes in and runs the offense efficienty and effectively. Miss St has since played better, beating undefeated Vanderbilt.

10/04/08 vs. Duke, won 28-0, 4-1, 2-1
ORIGINAL: Another must-win. I hate playing Duke any more. They're like a live grenade rolling around the floor. It's going to go off on someone eventually. However, we should still win this one - no excuses. 3-2

UPDATE: The good news is that the hand grenade went off against Virginia. Against the Jackets, there was no more powder in the musket, as the Jackets beat the BlueDevils 27-0. Yeah, it was close early in the 2nd half, but the Jackets were in control of this game all day long but just made some mistakes at key times. The Jackets racked up 454 yards of offense, including 230 in the air, all to Demaryius Thomas. Jaybo Shaw proves that he can throw as well as pitch. Winning in winning, and just because a Paul Johnson team puts up bigger passing numbers means nothing about the quality of your defense. He adjusted and Cutcliffe didn't. The key stat was 27 Jackets, 0 Duke.

10/11/08 vs. Gardner-Webb, won 10-7, 5-1, 2-1
ORIGINAL: Another must-win. If we win our opener, this one won't even count towards bowl eligibility, but it will be important in working on schemes and execution.... 4-2

UPDATE: Well, what do you say. An emotional downer as the Jackets truly survive a scare against an undermanned but emotionally charged Gardner-Webb team. They had a bunch of guys from the state of Georgia and they played like they wanted it, while the Jackets mostly went through the motions. If not for a 79 yard screen pass from Calvin Booker to Jonathan Dwyer, it would have been a much worse week. A win is a win. Survive and advance.

10/18/08 at Clemson, won 21-17, 6-1, 3-1
ORIGINAL: I live in upstate SC. The Tiger expectations this season have almost become a joke because they are so high. However, if Clemson doesn't win the ACC this season, it won't be because of the talent on the field. We'll find out how good of a coach they have once and for all.... maybe. For GT, I expect a loss. The rivalry is one of the most underrated in the ACC and other than a couple of blowouts is always down to the wire. Having said that, I do not expect Georgia Tech to win 2 years in a row here...... 4-3

UPDATE: It wasn't pretty. Week one of life without Tommy Bowden for the Tigers was an emotional one as interim head coach Dabo Swinney fired up the troops. Unfortunately emotion only got them to the starting whistle. Lots of turnovers but in the end the Jackets made the big plays when they counted. A 24-yard hitch-and-go TD pass from Nesbitt to BeBe Thomas put the Jackets up for good in the 4th quarter. The Jacket defense had a pick-6 along with a myriad of other INT's and a fumble recovery. No matter how you cut it, a road ACC victory is impressive. The Jackets are ranked #18 in the BCS standings and top 25 in every poll. Can they handle the success?

10/25/08 vs. Virginia (Homecoming)
ORIGINAL: GT does not lose homecoming games. It's become an amazing streak by itself (something like 11 in a row, although I didn't look it up). Virginia lost half it's team to academics, arrests or other issues. Key players too. They season last year was marked by a bunch of amazing close victories. It's a statistical fact that the law of averages will catch up to them. They won't win so many close ones again. The Jackets will prevail on homecoming once again...... 5-3

UPDATE: Virginia started the year looking like the keystone cops with ugly losses against both good and bad teams. Then something changed. Their QB got some reps under his belt. The team got back powerback Cedric Peerman. Now all-of-the-sudden, Virginia, along with Virginia Tech, are the only two Coastal teams that control their own fate. Georgia Tech still needs to win out and needs someone to knock off VaTech again. This year's UVA game is homecoming for the Jackets, and Georgia Tech never loses a homecoming game. We've won 12 in a row. The Jackets will open as 7-11 point favorites, and we should win. We should. I'm still predicting the win.

11/01/08 vs. Florida State
ORIGINAL: Things are starting to get interesting. Why? It's this final stretch in the season that I expect to see a step change in the timing, execution and precision of the offense. The FSU, NC and Miami games also present a perplexing unknown in what we will be facing. Will FSU be "back"? Is UNC really that much better? We'll know. Is Miami "back"? Well, I think this will be a close game, but that GT will fall short..... 5-4

UPDATE: Aside from Georgia Tech, FSU might be the most consistent ACC team. They lost a tough one to Wake Forest, but won the rest. This will be potentially be Georgia Tech's first top 25 opponent. In fact, I'm guessing it could be the ACC's first match-up of top 25 teams from their own league. All of this presumes victories the prior week. Beating FSU would be sweet for many, many Jackets fans, as it's never happened since they joined the ACC. It's time for a new era. I put this game at 50/50. It's like VaTech / BC / Clemson - it could go either way, and it'll probably be close. In the end, I say we lose this one. I don't see us running the table.

11/08/08 at North Carolina
ORIGINAL: By this point we'll know if Butch Davis has taken his team to the next level. However, I think Paul Johnson will have plenty of unanswered questions for Butch and the Jackets will take home the victory..... 6-4

UPDATE: UNC's season took a major hit when they lost to UVA in overtime. They won't win the ACC barring a major collapse from multiple other teams. They lost their #1 playmaker for the season in Brandon Tate. In the end, this'll be another 50/50 game in my book, but I think the Jackets can get the W.

11/20/08 vs. Miami
ORIGINAL: It's dangerous to predict that you'll beat a team for the 4th year in a row. It's just seems crazy to think it could be the Miami Hurricanes. There aren't many teams that have beaten them 4 times in a row. Could we join that club? I honestly don't think Miami will be "back" yet. I'm just not sold on Randy Shannon and I'm really not sold on Patrick Nix. I think we can win this one.... 7-4

UPDATE: Thursday night match-up. I still have a hard time bringing myself to say we'll beat Miami for the 4th straight season. It just doesn't happen against any team that often. However, I'm going to stick with my original prediction. The Canes are going down....... again.

11/29/08 at Georgia
ORIGINAL: Heart versus head. Heart vs head. I keep going back to Paul Johnson's 1st season at Navy. His only losing season as a head coach. A season where his daughter cried the streaming tears of someone experiencing losing for the first time ever.......... then a crazy thing happened. In the midst of finishing the season with only 1 victory, Navy ended their season with stunning victory over Army... Whoah. Where did that come from. That victory was the springboad and soapbox for Paul Johnson's success at Navy. It made people believers, and they never looked back. PJ has made the Georgia game a priority for everyone. We know what it means to us. We know what it means to him. In a year where UGAg opens the season #1 in the coaches poll, is it conceivable that the Jackets actually win? Could the Jackets play spoiler to the mutts national title hopes. I will dream about it, and relive it over and over if it happens. However, my head is overruling my heart on this one. Jackets lose a heartbreaker, but the battle has only begun..... 7-5

UPDATE: Turns out Paul Johnson didn't want to wait until this game to change our expectation levels. He started right away. Combine that with a UGAg team that has struggled at times, overwhelmed nobody, lost in embarrassing fashion to Alabama, but found ways to win. People will forget that this series has been very competitive the last number of years. Theyre is every reason to think the Jackets can win this game........... finally. Georgie has some playmakers but a banged up OL / DL. Georgia Tech has playmakers and a weaker O-Line. Both teams have good defenses. How will it play out? I see Georgia Tech's chances in the range of 40%, which is better than I thought originally. Unfortunately I see us losing the game again this year. Either way it should be hard fought and close.

ORIGINAL: So that puts us at 7-5, with the bowl streak extended. How do you see the season playing out? Post it in the comments.

UPDATE: We're sitting at 6-1 and I had us projected at 4-3 at this point. I originally projected us to finish the season 7-5 by winning 3 of the last 5 games. I haven't changed my opinion, although I clearly believe we could run the table.

If it plays out like this, we'll finish the regular season 9-3, which was the top end of anyone's realistic expectations. An outstanding season by any measure that should result sin a nice east coast bowl game.

............... of course there's another possibility. What if the Jackets do run the table? What if they do beat Georgie? What if they do go to a BCS bowl and win?

............... let's worry about UVA this week and let each game grow in importance because we've won the week before. Like a small snowball rolling down a hill, gathering momentum, growing, becoming a runaway, unstoppable force............. one game at a time.