TIME-OUT with Alex Mitchell

After posting the program’s first losing season since 1996, the Tech football team heads into the 2011 season with a lot of work to do, and anyone that follows the team will have doubts about the upcoming squad. Predictions from fans and media about Tech’s final record have ranged from five wins at the low end to nine wins by some people deemed nut jobs.

Just by looking at the schedule, the 2011 Tech football team has a far greater chance of winning nine games than it does of winning five. I guess I am a nut job.

Tech starts off the season with three games against teams that the Jackets should destroy, and it starts on Sept. 1 against Western Carolina.

Western Carolina comes to Tech in week one to collect a check and give their players some “experience”. To make matters worse for the Catamounts, Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson is a perfect 5-0 against them in his career and they only won two games last season against teams that hardly anyone has ever heard of before.

After defeating Western Carolina by what should at least be 30 points, the Jackets head to Middle Tennessee State to finish the ridiculous home-and-home series. In case you were like me and did not bother to go to the Middle Tennessee State game last season, here is what you missed: Tech racked up 415 yards of total offense, went plus four in the turnover column and led 35-7 going into the fourth quarter. Expect much of the same in this year’s game.

At 2-0 Tech will return home to face Kansas for the teams’ third ever meeting. Tech should handedly win the rubber game in the series over the future ex-Big 12 member. I know that Kansas beat the Jackets last season, but the game was at Kansas and Tech will not overlook the Jayhawks again. Tech has far superior athletes, exponentially better coaching and rowdier fans, so the Jackets will improve to 3-0.

Following a perfect start to the non-conference schedule, Tech hosts ACC foe North Carolina who Tech has owned as of late. The Jackets are 11-2 against the Heels since 1998 and won the game last year 30-24. This season,  UNC has what may be its most talented squad in the last 20 years, but the Heels are left without a coach after Butch Davis was fired days before the team’s first practice. Paul Johnson trumps no one, so Tech wins this game by default.

Off to red-hot 4-0 start, the Jackets continue their ACC schedule with three games against conference foes. The three-game stretch against N.C. State, Maryland and Virginia will determine the fate of this year’s team, and Tech should win at least two of these games. Going to N.C. State will be tough, but quarterback Russell Wilson, who killed Tech last season, is gone, so a win is still possible. Maryland always plays Tech hard, but the teams have not played since 2007.

Maryland won nine games last season so even though the game this year is at Tech, expect the Turtles to hand the Jackets their first loss of the season.

Finally, Tech travels to Virginia where they have not won three games in a row since 1983. However, Virginia is still in rebuilding mode, so Tech escapes Charlottesville with a close win.

At a solid 6-1 Tech faces the toughest portion of its schedule, and it starts with a trip to Miami. Tech will look to avenge losses the last two seasons against the Hurricanes unless Miami gets the death penalty from the NCAA. With all the recent allegations that Miami faces, this game will not even happen, and as a  result Tech will be given an eventual automatic victory.

If the two teams do play, Miami will be breaking in its suspended players. Knowing Miami, those players could be a bit sluggish when they do return, having spent week after week of partying. If Jacory Harris plays, then chalk this up as a Tech win.

After a much needed automatic victory and bye week, Tech returns home on Oct. 29 to play Clemson. Tech is 6-2 against Clemson in the last eight meetings, but Clemson is an ACC team by name only. Clemson’s academia is below par compared to the rest of the ACC and the Tigers use this to their advantage to recruit some of the best athletes in the nation. Clemson gets the win in this game, so congratulations Clemson, now go join the SEC already.

Finally, Tech plays its biggest game of the season on Nov. 10 against Virginia Tech. The winner of this game has gone on to represent the Coastal Division in every single ACC Championship game, and the home team has won the last two games. Who could forget the last time the Hokies came to Atlanta? They were ranked in the top five, Bobby Dodd Stadium was the loudest it has ever been and the students tore down the goalposts and took them to the president’s house. If President Peterson is reading this then take some advice: order two sets of goalposts this season and clear a nice spot on your lawn for students to deposit the torn goalposts once again. Tech wins 27-24.

Following a thrilling win, Tech plays Duke… meaning Tech goes into the Georgia game with only two losses.

This year Tech gets Georgia at home, but that does not matter. There will be more Georgia fans than Tech fans as usual, and Georgia will win the game to send off Mark Richt with a victory in his last game as a collegiate head coach.

So there you have it. I have Tech winning nine games on the season after winning only six a year ago. Faith in Johnson will be restored–at least until Tech plays in its bowl game.

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