W-L: 8-5 (5-3)
Top Offensive Performer: Tevin Washington, QB
Top Defensive Performer: Julian Burnett, LB
During a season that started in stunning, impressive fashion, it’s amazing that everything would end in so much disappointment for the Yellow Jackets in 2011. Starting out 6-0, the triple-option was firing on all cylinders early on and Tevin Washington looked as if he was born to run this offense. Looking back, however, the wheels started coming off after a huge week-three win over Kansas, and an ill-fated t-shirt to commemorate the beating. Lost in the 178 points they totaled through those first three contests was how unimpressive the defense was, and how truly awful their opponents were (just three wins between them versus FBS competition). Add to that the fact that the Wreck’s offense, though the second-best running attack in the country, was also among the most one-dimensional, and the recipe for disaster was written well in advance. Seven games after their undefeated start, Tech limped to a 2-5 finish including their blown 14-point fourth-quarter lead in the Sun Bowl.
On the defensive end, appearances say that Georgia Tech (which allowed 26.1 points per game) were marginal at best, and were mostly bailed out by a prolific offense. Much of this is true, but it short-sells the Yellow Jackets’ strong pass defense, ranked second in the ACC in terms of average yardage per game (197.6). On the ground, Tech was a middle-of-the-road squad in terms of yards, yet allowed 19 scores on the ground. When added to the 23 passing touchdowns against them (again, among the worst in the conference), there’s a simple explanation for how everything devolved so quickly. The only games they held their opponents to less than 20 points? A close win over lowly Maryland and an expertly designed scheme against Clemson.
In spite of the lackluster end to what was once a promising campaign, there was plenty of good to come out of 2011 for Georgia Tech, too. On top of Washington stepping into a much bigger role at the quarterback position, the team appeared to make strides against conference competition as well. If they expect to make it back to the ACC title game, they’ll have to get past Virginia Tech — and in spite of the apparent talent gap between the two teams, for three quarters of their November contest, it appeared they could pull it off. The key in that matchup: Washington throwing the ball with efficiency. Not surprisingly, that will be the key to the team’s success in the triple-option going forward. If Washington (and his successors) can throw the ball well to go along with a frightening rushing attack, their offense will be downright impossible to stop. Until they end the completely one-dimensional setup though, gameplans will revolved around extending the defense from sideline to sideline and honing in on the run.