The Case For Georgia Tech And The Option Offense

Every year, football pundits and experts say the same thing about Georgia Tech. It usually goes something to the tune of “They’re good, but is the option offense still a viable one?” I am here to say that the answer to that question is a resounding “yes”.

Each year the option offense is ridiculed for being a “high school offensive scheme” that “can’t compete with the best teams”, and each year Tech piles on more yards per game than nearly any other team in the country. The option offense doesn’t get nearly the national credit it deserves. 

Georgia Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson knows this more than just about anyone else around campus. It is his “high school offense” that gets ridiculed at the first signs of trouble, yet manages to gain the second highest rushing yards-per-game in the FBS in 2014.

Year after year pundits and analysts question the validity of the option offense, and year after year, Johnson puts them in their place. Only rarely are “experts” willing to cede that the offense can be viable, yet they come back with the usual “but it could never work in the SEC.” Well, Georgia Tech can show you two solid victories against two solid SEC opponents in 2014. My absolute favorite quote from Johnson came after Tech's thrilling win over UGA when he exclaimed “how about that high school offense?” He made another similar statement after their Orange Bowl victory over Mississippi State. 

The 2014 season provides perfect evidence to show just how successful the option offense can be when done right. Tech was projected to finish 6th in the ACC's Coastal Division, and Johnson was a few bad games away from being fired. They instead finished 1st in the Coastal and came two points (and star wide receiver DeAndre Smelter's ACL) away from beating then-undefeated Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. They then went on to demolish early-season favorite Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl on New Years Eve. 

Here is how the option offense ranked nationally for the 2014 season:

#1 in rushing yards

#6 in yards per attempt

#2 in rushing TDs

#11 in total yards

#10 in points per game

#6 in 1st downs

#1 in 3rd down conversions

(according to ESPN)

After this fantastic season, people still said that the option offense only works because Georgia Tech never plays “good” teams because they compete in the mediocre Coastal Division of the ACC. When looking at the final AP Top 10 rankings from 2014 however, a different story can be seen. Tech was 3-1 against Top 25 teams (again, using the season-ending rankings), with an average opponent rank of 10.2. Those three wins came against opponents with an average ranking of 11.6. Yet they never played, let alone beat, anyone good? Here is a full breakdown of these stats for the entire AP Poll Final Top 10:

Actual Top Ten

Ohio State   
5Michigan State
6Florida State
8Georgia Tech

Average Ranking Of Top 25 Opponent Played

1Michigan State (3.3)
2Ohio State (6)
3Baylor (8.6)
4Georgia Tech (10.2)
5Oregon (11.6)
6Florida State (12.2)
7Alabama (13)
8TCU (14)
9UGA (16.6)
10UCLA (16.7)

Average Ranking Of Top 25 Opponent Beat

1Ohio State (6)
2Michigan State (7)
3Baylor (10.5)
4Georgia Tech (11.6)
5Oregon (12.2)
6Florida State (15.6)
7Alabama (15.6)
8TCU (17.5)
9UGA (18.7)
10UCLA (18.8)

Average Ranking Of Top 25 Opponent Lost To

1Ohio State (-)
2Michigan State (1.5)
3Florida State (2)
4Baylor (5)
5Georgia Tech (6)
6TCU (7)
7UGA (8)
8Alabama (9)
9Oregon (10)
10UCLA (11.5)

Georgia Tech can compete with the top teams in the nation. Furthering this point, Georgia Tech’s lone Top 25 loss came by only two points against Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. In fact, Georgia Tech’s three losses were only by an astoundingly small 13 points combined. Teams can rarely slow down the option offense, meaning Tech almost never gets blown out. They are firmly competitive in every single game they play. 

The stats show that the option offense can make waves in the NCAA. It is reliable, consistent, and has the ability to steamroll opponents when executed well. Hopefully as Georgia Tech continues to do well, the option offense can drop its “high school offense” moniker and be respected for the powerhouse offense it is. 

Post Week One Addendum:

Yes it was Alcorn State, but the first team offense still managed to put up 34 points in the first quarter alone. That’s a lot of points no matter who the opponent is. Tech’s offense looks like it’s already firing on all cylinders. This trend should easily continue this upcoming Saturday against Tulane. I believe Tech is an early favorite to win the ACC Coastal, and has a great chance at winning the ACC Championship. If they can hang on with a tough schedule and only drop one game (possibly two), I think they're a dark-horse candidate for the College Football Playoff. At the very least, I expect them to finish for a second straight year in the Top Ten.

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