So who here had the defense and special teams playing a very solid game, ultimately being the deciding factor? YOU PUT YOUR HAND DOWN RIGHT NOW.
I went back and re-watched that game and was really amazed at how well State performed against the run. Syracuse basically had nothing on the ground. They forced AJ Long to beat State with his arm (he came close) and that played exactly into how you'd want things to go. In reading some of our opponent's recaps, you'd think they let this one slip away. However, for roughly 50 of the 60 minutes, State was the better, more dominant football team.
Syracuse did nothing outside of the two drives that sandwiched halftime. And we can debate to the ends of the earth whether that first touchdown should've counted (spoiler: it shouldn't have), but Syracuse's ineptitude on offense outside of that was the story.
We probably should have a conversation about Brissett. Since the first quarter of the FSU game, he's been dreadful. He's 78/150 with 5 fumbles lost (+2 more that State recovered) and 2 interceptions. And the only reason he doesn't have more interceptions is because he's either gotten sacked or panicked for no reason.
Listen, we know the offensive line is a sieve, but he's got to be better than that if State wants to compete down the stretch. He's so unsure of himself and his pocket that he's not giving plays time to develop before he gives up on them. State needs more.
So what do you think about the win? Doeren gets the monkey off his back and dances in the locker room. But there's a lot of problems left to fix that a win over a terrible Syracuse team can't hide.
That was a game that the Pack actively tried to give away, despite dominating most of it, but ultimately did just enough to prevent a complete and utter disaster. And somehow this has made me legitimately optimistic about the last three weeks.
Even though I can't find any data points to support my theory, there's this hopeful feeling that maybe all they needed was just this one little win. Maybe getting past that ugly 0-for-ACC record will allow them to move forward and actually improve - that maybe we as fans are in store for just a little more than 1-2 and a gross win over Wake Forest. It has resurrected a part of me - the illogically hopeful part - that I have tried for several decades to completely eradicate.
But to Brissett - the numbers are not great. But really the outlier is just the first quarter against FSU isn't it? Other than that, he's been bad against good defenses and good against bad defenses. I do think that sandwiching all the good defenses together during one stretch in the middle of the season was bad because its allowed him to develop some bad habits out of pure survival instinct. He's not letting plays progress - prone to run before its necessary and waiting for the pocket to break down instead of going through his reads. Now its on the coaching staff to get him back in the right mind frame and keep his eyes down the field instead of watching where the next hit is coming from.
You mention a lot of problems and certainly, they are there. But I do feel like the defense has made strides the last two weeks - hey look what do you know it helps to blitz occasionally - while the offense has backslid largely as a result of the quality of competition (I'm sort just assuming when I say quality that the Pack is a mediocre to bad team so anyone above that counts as quality).
I said from the moment they were 4-0 that we really wouldn't know who this team was until November. At the time my expectation was a win against BC and losses to FSU, Clemson and Louisville. The Boston College thing didn't work out, but that team is legitimately good and would have a decent shot at winning the Coastal (no offense Duke). So now the Pack is 1-0 in November, with three 'winnable' (I don't think they'll be a double-digit dog in any of them) games left.
So what have you seen of Georgia Tech this year? Does our inability to stop Georgia Southern concern you since we'll be looking at a very similar offense with more talent this week? Will there be more than 70 combined points in this game?
DON'T YOU LET THAT LITTLE PIECE OF YOU COME BACK TO LIFE. IT WILL ONLY KILL YOU IN THE END.
But back to your points, I also think State is more or less where they're supposed to be. Before the season started, the only game I had them winning that they lost was Boston College and like you said, they're legitimately good. For completeness, I have them going 1-2 in the last 3 (L to GT, W vs WF, L to UNC). We'll see how that plays out.
And after further examination, it may be unfair to lump a lot of criticism on Brissett at this point given the quality of opponents the last month or so. Hopefully the staff can rein him in and playing a defense like GT's, he has a better shot at playing well. My fear is that if he can't get under control, he'll let a game slip away from him.
I watched the GT games against Duke and UNC. They hurt my eyes. Were it not for several costly turnovers, they likely would've beaten Duke. And they let the UNC game slip away late. Both games showed that they can be scored upon, relatively easily. They rebounded well with two nice wins against Pitt and UVA, with the UVA game showing what happens if an offense takes a nap. It won't be close.
I don't think this game goes over 70. I'm still really concerned about Brissett's bad habits. And we saw earlier in the year against Ga. Southern that State struggles with misdirection in a bad way. The good thing about this is that GT is coming off a long stretch. So hopefully a little fatigue sinks in on the road, but it's tough to say. I've already got my mind wrapped around this one being a loss. But hey, at least the weather will be nice.
Have you watched GT at all this year? Is there something the offense can do to take the pressure off Brissett or will GT's mediocre defense be the laxative that gets the offense moving?
Confession - I love watching Georgia Tech play. My wife, who is a VT grad, despises me when they play the Hokies because I can't really hide the fact that I'm fascinated by Paul Johnson's offense and his brass balls in going for it on 4th down. He is an angry old man who I would never want to work for but he's right about one thing - his offense works.
I get why Georgia Tech fans would hate it because there is a sense of 'game over' when the team is down 14 points in the second quarter, but Johnson has refined the triple option into a machine that can absolutely wear people down like no other offense in the ACC. I would never want to pull for a team that ran it, but as a casual observer I love watching it.
So I've watched parts of maybe five Georgia Tech games this year, including their beat downs of both Miami and Virginia. What's scary about them is that they are actually slightly less one-dimensional this season. Justin Thomas' 14 touchdown throws are already the most by any quarterback - or any set of quarterbacks combined - in a season since Paul Johnson got there. They are more willing, and better, at putting the ball in the air than at any point in Johnson's tenure.
So I don't think the Pack wins this game without getting into the 30s, because I can't imagine them holding Georgia Tech to three or fewer touchdowns. The absolute key, as cliche as this comes off, is winning the turnover battle. Tech is going to drop the ball once or twice - its the nature of the beast of their offense - and State has to get on top of those. Meanwhile the offense has to stay relatively mistake free. It's done a good job of that so far this year, Saturday would be a poor time to reverse that trend.
Any other GT thoughts before we move to predictions?
No other specific points to address on GT that we haven't already covered. I wonder if the defense improvement we've seen will continue to hold or not. I'm skeptical.
I don't see this being a particularly fun game. Flighty Jacoby is not a fun Jacoby and I think we'll see him again this weekend. State's offense continues to stall and GT rolls. GT 41-17.
HERE COMES THE OPTIMISM!
I think that bad Georgia Tech shows up, the Pack gets a few turnovers and Jacoby has his best game in a long time. Pack 35, Georgia Tech 27.
I'm as frightened by this prediction as the rest of you.