In advance of this week's game with Georgia Tech, we had the chance to do a Q&A with Bird, one of the fine folks at the excellent GT blog From the Rumble Seat. His answers to our questions are below; our answers to their questions can be found here.
THF: On conference realignment: As the original ACC expansion team, how are GT fans feeling about the additions of Syracuse and Pitt? Do you think the ACC is going to stand pat at 14? If the league goes to 16, who would you like to see added and why?
FTRS: I think GT is generally excited about the change. The only concerns GT has are related to losing traditional and new rivals. The Clemson-GT game is a guaranteed sellout for Tech every other season and has really become quite the ACC rivalry. Tech and Duke, despite Duke's inadequacies on the gridiron, have met every year since 1934 and ending that streak would be sad in a further expanded ACC. The game that most modern Tech fans look forward to as of late is the GT-VT game. If that game became anything less than an annual occurrence, I would be vehemently opposed to further expansion. VT doesn't sellout Bobby Dodd like Clemson and Georgia but it has truly become the highlight of the Georgia Tech season due to its conference stakes and relative competitiveness.
If we expanded to 16, I wouldn't be strongly opposed to two good hoops teams or two good football schools. I am moreso concerned with academics. I don't want to see West Virginia or USF joining the ranks. I think we should want to hold company with similarly minded fellows. That's my opinion. If I had a choice, I'd go with UConn for hoops and Penn State for football but Penn State is a LOOOONG shot.
THF: Tech's offensive numbers have been staggering through three games. Are the Jackets that good, or has the quality of opponent been that bad? Or is the answer somewhere in between?
FTRS: The opponents have been very bad. It's still very hard to tell if we're good or not. We're fumbling at the same rate (~3 fumbles per game with 1 lost per game). We're obviously scoring and rushing at a higher clip but as you mentioned this is most likely due to the fact that we played a terrible SoCon team, a Sun Belt team, and the worst Big 12 team.I think UNC and GT will know a lot more about their squads after Saturday.
THF: What is GT doing on the offensive side of the ball to generate the kind of yardage numbers we have seen so far? How is the offense different with Tevin Washington under center instead of Josh Nesbitt?
FTRS: I think there are two big differences. The offensive line is a more cohesive unit. They are all finally Paul Johnson recruits that have grown up in the option offense. And yes, Josh Nesbitt is no longer under center. Josh Nesbitt was a playmaker while Tevin is a great facilitator. Nesbitt had a hand cannon attached to his shoulder while Tevin has a weaker arm but is much more accurate. Nesbitt could get 5 yards on a QB dive while Tevin is not nearly as strong a runner up the gut. If you look at GT's rushing stats since 2008, Nesbitt was #2 in attempts every season.This season, Tevin has half as many carries as the backup QB. It's a completely different looking offense from a playcalling standpoint. We're going wide and trusting our edge blocking and slotbacks to make more plays as opposed to having strong inside runners in Nesbitt, Dwyer, and Anthony Allen in the past. Our fullback, David Sims, is a converted QB and Paul Johnson hasn't really shown me that he has a lot of confidence in David Sims.
THF: Tech's offensive outbursts have overshadowed the defense. Has the defense finally adjusted to Al Groh's schemes? What can UNC fans expect to see on the defensive side of the ball on Saturday?
FTRS: This defense is giving up points and long sustained drives particularly in the first half. We are giving up around 62% completions and 113 yards per 1st half. In the second half, the completion percentage shrinks to 54% and we're only giving up 88 yards per 2nd half. Honestly, I think GT will still be known exclusively for its offense in 2011.
THF: Carolina and GT will take the field at noon on Saturday with the Jackets setting offensive records and holding a top-25 ranking, yet Tech's AD is out making the rounds and begging fans to fill seats in Bobby Dodd Stadium. Why is Tech having such a hard time getting people to one of the most unique (and one of my personal favorite) venues in the ACC? Have fans not bought in to PJ's style of football? Is it a result of a bad economy or being a college game in a pro town? Or something else entirely?
FTRS: Noon kickoffs are notoriously bad for attendance at Bobby Dodd Stadium but Paul Johnson wants more turn around from week to week. A later kickoff impedes on rest for his players. And yes, the economy is beating us down. We have yet to eclipse the pre-economic crash 2006 season attendance despite having much more successful teams under CPJ.Tech fans have definitely bought in to the offense, it's just a matter of timing, economics, fanbase size, and the excitement for opposition. Tech will always have a base of 42,000 fans at every game. We need a ranked opponent or rival to generate about 6,000 more street ticket sales and and we need opponents to bring about 7,000 fans to sellout. Keep in mind there are only 45,000 living Tech alums living in the State of Georgia.
THF: As you mentioned, Tech fans seem confident about the Jackets' chances on Saturday. How do you see the game?
FTRS:I think most Tech fans are confident. We've seen our offense when it had water in the gas tank last year and we've seen our offense when it was burning 150 octane. This season has the making of a high octane season.I don't think the Heels will get blown out like Kansas because 1) they have more pride and 2) Tech's passing defense is suspect. But I don't see UNC generating enough offense to keep up with Tech especially at Bobby Dodd. Tech will win 35-24.
Thanks again to the guys at From the Rumble Seat and make sure to check them out for Georgia Tech coverage.