Mike Hlas is an award-winning columnist with the Cedar Rapids Gazette and force behind The Hlog. Each week he will break down the biggest mismatches in college football. Considering the increasing number of Bowl Championship Series teams scheduling games against cupcake opponents, Mike's task is more complex than trying to get his brother-in-law fired as an Alaska state trooper.
Georgia Tech’s football team has a serious challenge to face Saturday in Atlanta. It will try to defeat Gardner-Webb as soundly as it beat Jacksonville State.
This is the college football world of the 21st Century. A team in a BCS conference is playing two I-AA teams in the same season. Georgia Tech will try to seize on its momentum of a 4-1 start under new coach Paul Johnson by playing Gardner-Webb? That sounds more like a law firm or insurance agency. Or something a Gardner uses to trap flies.
The Yellow Jackets are trying to sell tickets in the sports-saturated Atlanta market. They haven’t been doing a bad job lately with gatherings of 48 and 46 thousand fans, respectively, for home routs over Mississippi State and Duke the last two weeks. A victory at Boston College in September generated belief that Johnson has the Ramblin’ Wreck ramblin’ in the right direction. Tech has rambled, all right, for 290 rushing yards per game.
But no matter how much they maul the Runnin’ Bulldogs of Gardner-Webb, the momentum slows down. For one thing, no one in Atlanta but the Yellow Jackets and their girlfriends will care about this game. For another, this win won’t help Georgia Tech attain bowl-eligibility. In an NCAA rule sure to be altered in the future to make I-A coaches’ lives even easier, only one win over a I-AA squad counts toward a bowl bid. So Tech must go 7-5 instead of 6-6 to be in line for its third trip to the spectacular Humanitarian Bowl in fabulous Boise, Idaho.
Now, let’s be fair to Georgia Tech on this piece of scheduling. It wasn’t the school’s fault. Tech was stuck trying to find an opponent earlier this year when Army canceled its game against the Jackets in West Point, N.Y. Army athletic director Kevin Anderson said his school was afraid the Black Knights would be too taxed physically playing Georgia Tech between trips to Texas A&M and Air Force. Which seems odd, since Army played A&M on Sept. 27 and doesn’t go to Air Force until Nov. 1. This is just football and not actual combat, right?
Gardner-Webb, from the small North Carolina town of Boiling Springs, is 2-3 after consecutive defeats to Sam Houston State and Charleston Southern. But the Bulldogs do own wins over Tusculum and Austin Peay.
Their quarterback is named Stan Doolittle. He’s from Ninety Six, S.C. That’s right. Stan Doolittle from Ninety Six. He sounds like a Dr. Seuss character. But nothing will be whimsical about the beating the Bulldogs will take in Atlanta.