1. Good Tech, bad Tech, good Tech, bad Tech... Georgia Tech was an inconsistent team last year. Their last four games were a 28-7 loss in Chapel Hill, followed by two very impressive wins over Miami and Georgia, followed by a thrashing at the hands of LSU in the Peach Bowl. They have apparently transferred that Jekyll and Hyde quality from a game-to-game phenomenon into a quarter-to-quarter pattern. After the first quarter last night, Tech was up 21-0 and I was thinking that they aren't just the best team in the ACC; they're a national title contender. The defense was killing Clemson, the offense was running the ball well, and they made two very clever plays on special teams that are often the hallmark of a well-coached team. Two quarters and change later, they had given up 27 unanswered points and their offense looked like a riddle that can be solved by teams with quality defensive ends. In the end, the Jackets got a huge win over a Clemson team on which I'm pretty high. Nevertheless, my preseason skepticism about the Jackets was confirmed a little bit by the performance. A team that is this inconsistent will struggle to be better than 8-4.
2. Why is Tech so inconsistent? One reason has to be Josh Nesbitt. It's awfully hard to move the ball consistently on offense when your quarterback cannot complete a forward pass. With Nesbitt under center, Tech is going to be boom-or-bust. They'll hit some big plays in the running game and when Nesbitt can find receivers down the field, they'll be close to unstoppable. However, when he's throwing more passes to the defense than his own receivers (at one point in the second half, he had one completion and two interceptions), he's more of a threat to Tech than to its opponents. If you want to know what this offense can accomplish with an accurate passer, look at Ricky Dobbs' performance for Navy against Ohio State over the weekend.
3. Even Lloyd Carr thought that that punt was predictable. If we compile a list of coaching boners for the season, Dabo Swinney's punt from a field goal formation in the first quarter should be right up there. First of all, Clemson had fourth and five at the 40, so going for a first down was a palatable option. Honestly, how important are 20-30 yards of field position against a boom-or-bust offense? Second, a 57-yard field goal attempt is so implausible that Tech obviously knew that a punt was a likely possibility. Tech also knew that with a right-footed kicker and the ball on the left hashmark, the kick would almost certainly go left-to-right. Swinney deserves credit for keeping his team together and mounting a massive comeback, but they were in a deep ditch because of his blunder.
4. Yay for the option!!! I really liked Paul Johnson's adjustment on Tech's penultimate drive to use the quarterback lead play heavily. With Clemson's ends jumping out and negating the wide option, the inside runs on which Johnson sent Nesbitt were just what the doctor ordered. Again, this was a play that Navy used to great effect in Columbus. G-d, I am really happy that option football has returned to the college game.
5. Green shoots for the ACC? I'm also happy that offensive football has returned to the ACC. The conference has been down ever since Florida State and Miami went into the toilet (relatively speaking) and the untergang has been made worse by the fact that the games have been unwatchable, mostly defensive 20-17 snoozefests. The fact that Virginia Tech has ruled the conference without a functional offense should tell you all you need to know. Monday night's Miami-FSU game was probably the best quarterbacked ACC game since Philip Rivers and Matt Schaub locked horns for Virginia and N.C. State in 2003. Thursday night's game was another entertaining game in which the offenses acted as something other than foils for very talented defenses.