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Georgia Tech needs plenty of work still, but it’s making progress in 2020

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Boston College Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Given the scope of challenges involved with inheriting a triple-option team and choosing to abandon that scheme, it was unlikely that Georgia Tech could make a true breakthrough in Geoff Collins’ second season. The goal was simply to find concrete signs of progress, and on that front, Tech’s 2020 season has been a success.

The Yellow Jackets remain flawed in myriad ways, and they are almost certainly going to finish with another losing record—a loss Saturday would guarantee that—but there’s no question that they have been more competitive this year.

Georgia Tech in ACC Games

Jackets Yds/Play Yds Allowed/Play Margin
Jackets Yds/Play Yds Allowed/Play Margin
2019 5.2 6.1 -0.9
2020 5.7 5.6 0.1

Tech’s passing offense in 2019 was a disaster, likely to the surprise of no one. Tech quarterbacks completed only 46% of their passes while averaging a meager six yards per attempt. The Jackets ranked dead last among FBS schools in the former category, and 116th in the latter.

The Jackets’ primary starter at QB in 2019, James Graham, has been relegated to the bench in 2020, replaced by freshman Jeff Sims. Sims has given the offense a bit more punch just by approaching a mediocre level of efficiency: 56% completions, 7.5 yards per attempt. Sims is also second on the team in rushing yardage and averages better than 4.1 yards per carry, which also makes him a more effective runner than Graham.

Sims is more mistake-prone with his arm, averaging an interception every 18 attempts, but that’s a trade the Jackets rightfully have been willing to make.

Georgia Tech has a diverse group of backs contributing this season, and as a team the Jackets are averaging 4.7 yards per carry, up from 4.1 last year. Overall, it’s an offense that is able to give defenses a few different things to ponder, which was not often the case in 2019.

On the defensive side, Tech has tightened up its run stopping, though the results remain far from ideal: ACC opponents are averaging 4.3 per carry, down from 5.0 in 2019.

Tech’s passing defense has been similar to last season—and probably can be forgiven for allowing seven touchdown passes against Clemson—but has managed to intercept only five passes. That gives the Jackets 12 interceptions in 20 games under Collins, and getting more disruptive in that respect would really help their progress. (Much of that is random luck, granted.)

Looking at the larger picture, you could say Georgia Tech’s rushing offense is a clear strength, while the team has either made incremental improvements or essentially held steady in other key areas after 2019. The result is some improvement that ain’t sexy, but stands as worthwhile improvement nonetheless.