Written by Brian Pohl
Atlanta, GA- The 2018 college football season is finally upon us and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets kick off their season with a home matchup against the Alcorn State Braves from historic Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Looking to bounce back after a disappointing 5-6 record in 2017, the Yellow Jackets start their 126th football season against an Alcorn State team in search of their first ever victory over a Power Five Conference team.
Georgia Tech is optimistic about their team heading into 2018, and a big reason for that is the return of 15 overall starters, including eight on defense and six on offense.
Headlining the offense is senior quarterback TaQuon Marshall. As a Junior in 2017, Marshall rushed for over 1,000 yards in his first year under center with 17 rushing touchdowns. The senior should benefit from a full offseason with the playbook to further his understanding and mastering of the triple-option offense that Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson is so known for.
Alongside Marshall, the other offensive headliner is junior B-back KirVonte Benson. Rushing for over 1,000 yards last season, Benson and Marshall became only the second duo in Georgia Tech football history to surpass the feat in the same season. The upperclassmen will look to duplicate and build on their success from last season and improve their overall record.
Also returning 100 percent of their players that attributed to their passing yardage, the Yellow Jackets made a strong emphasis on improving this aspect of their game in the offseason.
Taquon Marshall assessed himself on where he has improved in the passing game heading into the season, “I’ve been trying to stay in the pocket a bit more, put the ball in good spots, throw the balls on time. Everything’s been looking good on film so hopefully, it’ll translate over to the games.” He continued, “I have a lot of confidence in the guys around me, so I just put the ball in their hands.”
Last season, Georgia Tech lost three games where their opponents took the lead in the final 82-seconds of regulation or overtime. While the sting of those losses is still being felt, the Yellow Jackets are using them as motivation, stating that if they can correct those mistakes late in games, along with returning a majority of their starters, Georgia Tech can compete for, and be a dark horse to win, the ACC Coastal Division in 2018. History is on coach Johnson’s side, as the last three seasons his teams have finished under .500, they have bounced back to win at least eight games the following year.
Their opponent, the Alcorn State Braves, enter the season as the four-time defending Southwestern Athletic Conference champions. Picked as the favorites to win the conference again, the Braves will try to win just their fourth ever game over an FBS team when they take on Georgia Tech.
Headlining the Alcorn State offense is senior running back P.J. Simmons. Voted as a preseason HBCU First-Team honoree, Simmons rushed for 687-yards and seven touchdowns last season. The Braves will need a big performance from their senior leader if they are to pull off the upset in Atlanta on Saturday.
After seeing significant playing time last season, junior quarterback Noah Johnson has been named the starter heading into 2018. Last season, Johnson threw for 782-yards and four touchdowns, while rushing for another 333-yards and six touchdowns.
Like Georgia Tech, the Braves are known for their rushing attack, albeit they play more of a current offensive style compared to the Yellow Jackets. This will be a game of who can better possess the football in the trenches, with the advantage going towards Georgia Tech with all of their returning talent and experience.
Georgia Tech and Alcorn State will kick off at 12:30 ET from historical Bobby Dodd Stadium.