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NCAA Football Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Rant Sports College Football Rankings: No. 59 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech Quarterback

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are coming off a disappointing 7-6 campaign that finished with a loss to the Ole Miss Rebels in the Music City Bowl. They enter 2014 looking to right the ship and get back towards the top of the ACC.

Paul Johnson has had a lot of turnover in his program from a season ago. There are more questions than answers for the 2014 Yellow Jackets on both offense and defense. Johnson will come into this season with his back against the wall, otherwise the hot seat talk will probably be running wild by season’s end.

Between a steady decline for the Jackets on the field and a boatload of transfers off the field, Johnson shouldn’t feel terribly comfortable coming into this season. If he and the Jackets are going to avoid that distraction, they need to get into a rhythm early, especially with Johnson’s offense.

Offense

The Yellow Jackets’ triple-option offense once again was top-10 in the nation in rushing a year ago. One thing you can count on is the running game to work well. The Achilles’ heel for the Jackets has been throwing the ball. That will be even more difficult this season as talented quarterback Vad Lee transferred out of the program this offseason.

For the Jackets to be successful, they’ll need to find someone to run Johnson’s offense. That person looks to be Justin Thomas. He was Lee’s backup from a year ago, has experience in the system and played well in spots last season.

Another challenge is that the Jackets must replace their top two leading rushers David Sims and Robert Godhigh. The good news is they have highly-regarded freshman Myles Autry on campus, who could be a real game-changer at the running back position. Tech needs him to live up to live up to his potential quickly.

They’ll also need to develop some semblance of a passing game to keep teams honest. The leading receiver from a year ago was Godhigh, who was the running back. That can’t happen again if the Jackets want to be successful this season.

Defense

The Yellow Jackets surprised many a season ago, finishing  top-25 in the nation in scoring defense during Ted Roof‘s first season as defensive coordinator. However, they will have to replace some of their best players from last season’s team.

Their leader in tackles and interceptions, Jamea Thomasis gone to the NFL, along with superstar pass rusher Jeremiah Attaochu. All in all, four of their top six tacklers are gone from the roster. That’s a lot of production to replace. The Jackets need for a guy like Quayshawn Nealy to step up big and be a leader on the defense. In addition, they need the move to bring in top JUCO recruit Kenderius Whitehead to pay big dividends early.

That being said, it will be tough for the Jackets to repeat their success on defense from last season with that much production to replace.

Schedule

Tech’s schedule is a bit of a challenge for this season. It’s light in the non-conference area, with the only tough game out of conference being the annual tilt with the hated Georgia Bulldogs. They should begin the season with three wins against WoffordTulane and Georgia Southern.

The schedule gets dicey from there. There are five games that are likely to be losses on the remaining schedule against Virginia Tech, Miami, Duke, Clemson and Georgia. That means they will need to win the other four games to get back to seven wins.

If Tech can pull off a couple of upsets, then a nine-win season is within reach, but a seven- or eight-win season is most likely. Time will tell whether that will be enough to buy Paul Johnson another year on the Flats.

Brandon Daniel is an SEC football writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Rant, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google