Who Would Present Another Set of Challenges As Georgia Tech's Cross-Divisional Rival?
The rivalry between Georgia Tech and Clemson may not be the most heated for either team, but the match-up dates back to 1898. The Yellow Jackets hold a 50-32-2 record over the Tigers. However, with the emergence of Clemson in recent years under head coach Dabo Swinney, the Tigers have a current win streak of five against the Jackets (2015-2019).
Although the ACC Atlantic rivalry with Clemson has concrete history for both programs, another cross-divisional opponent could be poised to be a more balanced challenge for Tech. Wake Forest.
Wake Forest's Reversal Expectations
Georgia Tech leads a 23-8 record over the Demon Deacons. However, Wake Forest reversed their program with the hiring of Jim Grobe as head coach in 2001. Grobe had a mostly successful 13 year tenure with the Deacons, including winning the 2006 ACC Championship 9-6 over the Jackets. Winning the ACC crown gave Wake Forest the belief that more ACC championships are possible to be achieved.
Grobe resigned in December of 2013 and the Deacons went on to hire Dave Clawson. Since the hiring of Clawson, Wake Forest has held winning seasons since 2016.
"What Clawson has done has been nothing short of impressive," Lemons told All Yellow Jackets. "I fully think he's changed the trajectory of Wake Forest football... being the smallest P5 school in the nation, recruiting can be challenging and Clawson has done extremely well given the circumstances."
Similar to Wake Forest, Georgia Tech has had a change in paths regarding the football program as well. With the hiring of Geoff Collins in 2019, the Jackets are rebuilding and progressing. Collins has high expectations and facing another program that's also trending in the same direction could test the Yellow Jackets in their improvements.
Recruiting in the Same Pool
Georgia is a rich state in terms of college football recruits. Like Georgia Tech, the Deacons have dipped into the recruitment taking place in the areas surrounding Atlanta.
"Since Clawson has come on, the recruiting has gotten immensely better," said Lemons. "I think they had roughly 30 or so offers out to Georgia kids for the 2020 cycle but only 1 hit."
Defensively for the 2020 class, the Jackets nabbed a few kids Wake Forest was also targeting, including LB Khatavian Franks, DE Jared Ivey, DE Kyle Kennard, and LB Tyson Meiguez.
The 4-2-5 Defense vs. the Up-Tempo Spread Offense
Andrew Thacker's 4-2-5 defense relies on the players to use their instincts and make quick decisions on reading the opposing offense's play. As Collins and Thacker continue to bulk their players and recruit more prospects that fit into the scheme, the Jackets are able to able to rely heavily on the intuition of the defense and the match up of strength against bigger receivers. The 4-2-5 is ideally suited to handle spread offenses.
Wake Forest ran a 4-2-5 from 2014-16 under then defensive coordinator Mike Elko. It appears the Deacons have learned the weaknesses and strengths from that type of defense and have used it to their advantage. The type of up-tempo spread offense Wake Forest uses causes defenses to quickly adjust to unbalanced formations.
"Wake runs a bit of a hybrid 4-2-5 itself," said Lemons. "The defense would be able to match-up better against the good wide receiving corps Wake has and force Wake to win the line of scrimmage and keep them honest through the running game."
Neither offense or defense are uncommon in college football, but the 4-2-5 would test the Deacon's offensive line as well as the up-tempo spread challenging Tech's corners.
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