Top competition on the horizon

With the regular season approaching, Tech football added a high-profile name to its non-conference schedule for the 2010 and 2011 seasons, when the team struck an agreement on June 10 with the Big 12 Conference’s Kansas Jayhawks for a home-and-home series. Both games are expected to take place in early to mid-September.

These games mark the first time the teams have met since the 1946 Orange Bowl, when Tech staged a late goal-line stand to earn a 20-14 victory. The Jackets will travel to Lawrence, KS in 2010, while the Jayhawks will make the trip to Atlanta in 2011.

Kansas has long been a basketball powerhouse, but until recently its football program had seen little success on a national scale despite playing in the strong Big 12 Conference. However, the 2007 season marked a major turnaround for the program as Kansas went 12-1, earned a share of the Big 12 regular-season title, and defeated Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

The Jayhawks were not quite as successful in 2008 as they went 8-5 with a 4-4 mark in conference play, but they did close out the season with a victory over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl and are expected to continue their success in 2009. Kansas is coached by Mark Mangino, who has been with the team since 2002; their top players include quarterback Todd Reesing, wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe, and safety Darrell Stuckey.

The addition of the Jayhawks out of the Big 12 adds variety to Tech’s future non-conference schedule. The Jackets have four games outside of ACC play each season, and the majority of their big-name opponents in the near and distant future are SEC teams; in fact, before reaching the current agreement with Kansas, Tech had a contract with Ole Miss for a home-and-home series in 2010 and 2011 until the Rebels backed out of it. Before last season, the Jackets agreed to a home-and-home series against defending SEC West champion Alabama in 2013 and 2014; a two-game set against historical rival Auburn is on tap for 2017 and 2018, and the Jackets will take on South Carolina in 2021 and 2022.

For the upcoming 2009 season, Tech will take on three SEC squads: Mississippi State (away) on October 3, Vanderbilt (away) on October 31, and Georgia (home) on November 28.

The Jackets defeated Mississippi State 38-7 at home last season after then-freshman quarterback Jaybo Shaw played well in relief of sophomore Josh Nesbitt, leading the team to 500 total yards; against Georgia, the Jackets rallied from a 16-point halftime deficit by rolling up 26 points in the third quarter and pulled out a 45-42 win in Athens.

Outside of SEC teams, most of Tech’s future non-conference opponents will be teams from around the Southeast. In 2010, the Jackets will begin a three-game set against Middle Tennessee State and will also face a FCS school in South Carolina State, along with the game at Kansas and the annual battle against Georgia. Tech has scheduled two future home-and-home series against Conference USA’s Tulane in 2014-15 and 2018-19. The notable exception to the general trend of Southeast opponents is Syracuse, a Big East squad whom the Jackets will face in 2015-16.