Friday, June 25, 2004

Football Preview - the Rags

Well, I have gotten copies of all the summer rags previewing the 2004 football season - Sporting News, Lindy's, Athlon, Phil Steele. The only one I cannot find is Street and Smith's. In a series of entries in the coming weeks I will compare what they had to say about the program.

First, let's start with the basics. Where do they think GT will finish the season?

In the ACC
8th.......Phil Steele
8th.......Sporting News

After reading what they all had to say, here is the summary - GT has improved their team, will have more experience, but the rest of the ACC has improved at least as much and the addition of Miami and VaTech means no progress when it comes to wins and losses. In fact, with the expanded league, pretty much all the rags think our bowl streak is probably over this year.

Phil Steele:

"It is very rare that I think a coach did a tremendous job when I forecast a team for 5th in the coference and they finish 5th. However, that is exactly what happened for GT last year. After the magazine went to the presses, GT lost 10 players including many of their stars but still fashioned a 7-6 season and their 7th consecutive bowl bid. GT has 14 starters back this year and are in better shape than they were heading into last season (providing they don't have any major departures like 2003). They now have an experienced QB in Reggie Ball (ACC Frosh of the Year). This is a more talented team but the ACC is an improved league with the new additions. I fell Gailey got them to overachieve in each of his first two years and could easily do that again".

Gailey has recruited over some of the depth issues that the Yellow Jackets faced last year. Even in a tougher ACC, GT has some of the best individual parts in the league, and that will help the Jackets in their quest for their 8th consecutive bowl appearance.

Sporting News
The YJ's have produced 7 straight winning seasons, but another 7-victory campaign probably won't excite many followers. Given the increase in ACC membership and no complementary rise in bowl slots, that win total might not be enough to earn an 8th straight appearance. Few people question Gailey's coaching ability, but the Yellow Jackets talent isn't at a level with some of Tech's rivals, which reflects the difficulty inherent in recruiting in a Southeastern Conference hotbed.

GT ranked among the biggest surprises in the ACC but will be hard-pressed to match its 7-win total again this fall in a new-look ACC. If the YJ are to make any kind of noise they'll need QB Reggie Ball and tailback PJ Daniels to come through with big seasons...Tech won't have much time to work out the wrinkles; the first four games include a trip to Clmson and a visit from Miami. the 2nd half of the season doen't get any easier."

By the way, Athlon has us only winning against Samford, UNC, Duke and UConn.

So what do I think? I think we WILL finish better than 7th in the conference. We always do. I know the league is tougher, but so are we. I am on the optimistic side, AS IT SHOULD BE. Hope springs eternal. In my mind, here is how I see things playing out:

MUST WIN: Samford, UNC, Duke, UConn.
That's four wins to build on. These are all winnable games.

WIN 2 OF 4: Clemson / MD / NCST / UVA.
I would love to see us win at least 2 of the games minimum. Honestly, it could be any of them. You never know how these games play out.
TAKE 1: Miami / VaTech / UGAg.
I see us winning only one of these games. Anything more than that would be impressive.

Finish 7-4 (5-3 ACC)
W....Samford (beat up on Gailey's old friends)
W....Clemson (will this get back to a competitive series?)
W....UNC (a must win)
L....Miami (sorry, but would take a miracle)
L....MD (a fight - QB situation uncertain)
W....Duke (revenge is sweet - sorry Ted)
W....VaTech (we can win this one)
L....NCST (Rivers is gone, some question marks)
W....UConn (please do not take this game for granted)
W....UVA (home team wins; it's our turn)
L....UGAg (sorry - we're just not ready)

Here's how things work for GT. The media underestimates us and we beat the prognosticators. I just wish we could get to a point where the "experts" picked us to finish 3rd or 4th. Then when we beat them we would be at the top of the ACC. Having said that, I get my wish in hoops. It will be hard to beat pre-season hoops expectations.