TaxSlayer Bowl: Georgia Tech 33, Kentucky 18, 5 Things That Matter, What’s Next For 2017?
Georgia Tech got past Kentucky 33-18 in an interesting TaxSlayer Bowl. What are the five things that matter and what’s next in 2017?
Georgia Tech owns the SEC
The Yellow Jackets did what they needed to do early on with long marches and the scoring drives right away for a 23-3 lead going into the fourth, but the running game was supposed to be able to grind out the clock, and struggled to do it. That let UK back in it, and it got a whole lot closer than it probably should’ve been.
Georgia Tech closed out the season with four straight wins, a fun upset over Georgia, and now a second win over an SEC team – to go along with an earlier win over Vanderbilt – to close out a nice nine-win season proving that, yeah, the Paul Johnson era is still more than fine. The system really does work.
Kentucky’s ground game was fine, but it wasn’t enough
The offensive balance was a positive, but Kentucky needed the ground game to be explosive like it was against Louisville – and it wasn’t. There were a couple of decent runs here and there, but there wasn’t the sustained pop needed to overcome the early good start and the big Tech lead. Stephen Johnson is a good passer who managed to come up with a few good throws to get the Cats back in the game late, but he needed to take off and run wild. With a month to prepare, the Georgia Tech defense was ready for him.
The ACC’s good bowl season continues
Louisville might have lost to LSU, but between Florida State’s win over Michigan the night before, and the good performances by Miami, NC State, Boston College, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech, the conference represented itself well this bowl season. Considering the way the Wildcats dropped Louisville in the regular season finale, this was a good moment for the ACC to bounce back against that other league in the region. These things matter when it comes to recruiting, offseason attitude, and perception. Yeah, the ACC can play a little bit – the bowl games are proving it.
What’s next for Georgia Tech in 2017?
The Yellow Jackets might lose veteran QB Justin Thomas, but the rest of the offense returns loaded. All the top backs return to the option offense that Matthew Jordan – possibly the new starting quarterback – will get to run. All the receivers are back, and while center Freddie Burden is done, four starters return up front.
The defense isn’t so lucky with three starters gone off the line, including the tackle combination of Francis Kallon and Patrick Gamble. Star tackler P.J. Davis is done in the middle of the linebacking corps, but six starters in the back seven return, including all four starters in the secondary and the outside linebacker options.
What’s next for Kentucky in 2017?
Is this just the beginning of a good run of winning seasons under Mark Stoops? It’ll be a ton of fun with the backfield returning QB Stephen Johnson and RB Boom Williams – maybe. There’s a chance he leaves early, but the Wildcats have backs ready to fill in with speed in the rotation. Ryan Timmons is gone, but the rest of the receiving corps is back, and the line should be tremendous with four starters back. However, losing star C Jon Toth is a problem.
The defense that stepped up this season should be loaded with veterans, too, getting three starters back up front, the entire linebacking corps, and three starters in the secondary. The Cats have to replace safety Marcus McWilson and DE Courtney Miggins, but four of the top five tacklers return.