Johnson won the ACC less than a decade ago — and the Orange Bowl not even three seasons ago — while running the triple option. That’s a wonderful sentence to type. For all of us who love college football because of its countless paths toward winning, Tech has served as a go-to example.
Johnson lives in a recruiting hotbed but barely signs top-50 classes, and he’s won nine or more games four times in the last nine seasons regardless. And in an era with increasingly proficient passing quarterbacks, he asks his to spend most of their time reading whether to stick the ball in a fullback’s belly or run with it. That is delightfully off-kilter.
When Johnson left Navy in 2008, the Midshipmen promoted offensive coordinator Ken NIumatalolo, and Niu has responded with some of the steadiest play in college football. Over nine seasons, Navy has won either eight or nine games six times, winning 10-plus twice and dipping to 5-7 just one time.
Johnson has had similar success, but with none of the stability. He has averaged a healthy 7.9 wins per year, but the ride has turned into a roller coaster:
- 2012: 7-7 and 28th in S&P+
- 2013: 7-6 and 41st
- 2014: 11-3 and 16th
- 2015: 3-9 and 60th
- 2016: 9-4 and 45th
Tech finished eighth in the AP poll in 2014, its best finish since splitting the national title with Colorado in 1990. The Yellow Jackets began 2015 ranked 16th but succumbed to massive youth and injury issues. In 2016 — with no expectations, a painfully young skill corps, and a banged-up line — they surged back to nine wins.
Like a good option quarterback, Tech has kept expectations flat-footed. But here’s what we know: