I’m not taking a shot at these two universities with high academic prestige in saying this game is for the college football nerd. I really believe Vanderbilt (1-1) vs. Georgia Tech (2-0) is a game that college football junkies should be interested in watching.
Georgia Tech has given opposing coaches headaches since 2008 when Paul Johnson took over as head coach.
College football people (as in coaches, analysts, former coaches, etc.) must be curious to see if defensive master mind Derek Mason can find a way to shut down the unique triple-option of Johnson’s Yellow Jackets. I consider myself a ‘college football nerd,’ and I’m very intrigued by this matchup.
Why run an option offense?
The triple option is an offense not commonly seen in the game of football past the high school level. It uses a running quarterback with a deep roster of three or four running backs to create misdirection and deception to wear down defenses. Most teams using the triple option (Georgia Tech, Air Force, Navy) are trying to compensate for their lack of pure size, speed and/or athletic ability. Air Force and Navy are military academies, which can’t recruit the same players as the big schools. Georgia Tech is an engineering school that struggles to land big time prospects. Some people say Vandy should follow suit and run a similar offense (but that’s a different story).
Can Vandy stop it?
Mason has done wonders with the Vanderbilt defense since taking control at the end of the 2014 season. The defense went from ranking 65th in the country to 35th from 2014 to 2015. Last season, the Dores only gave up 21 points per game compared to 34 before Mason took over the defense.
This season, the defense is back to making big plays. Oren Burks alone has disrupted opposing offenses with forced fumbles, an interception and sacks in the first two games.
The Commodores need this win vs Tech to inch closer to six wins for bowl eligibility. The Yellow Jackets are 2-0 so far and already have seven rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Justin Thomas is experienced and has a solid group of runners behind him who have put up 241 rushing yards per game.
The question isn’t about whether Mason is capable of coming up with a game plan to stop the triple option. It’s about whether his guys can implement the game plan and trust their keys. I wrote earlier how the triple option is about misdirection and deception. It really challenges the discipline of a defense in the players following their keys to make the correct read, and in turn, fulfill their assignment each play. All it takes is one missed assignment and Tech is off for a big run.
I think Vanderbilt’s Black Death defense is fully capable of mastering their keys for this week’s game. Georgia Tech is coming off a 3-9 season and isn’t near the threat they have been in recent years. The Commodores are currently a 6.5-point underdog in Atlanta. Not a bad pick to keep an eye on for later in the week.