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Jackets pleased with ‘14 football schedule

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson

A year ago, its football schedule gave Georgia Tech reason to grumble. This week’s release of the 2014 schedule induced a different reaction.

“Very positive,” senior associate athletic director Ryan Bamford said. “I think it’s a good schedule.”

There were few complaints about the schedule coming into the Tech athletic department. Some of the noteworthy facets: no weeknight games for the first time since 1992, open dates before the Miami and Georgia games and only one ACC team receiving an open date before playing the Yellow Jackets.

Tech has long welcomed ESPN’s cameras for Thursday night games. Bobby Dodd Stadium has hosted 19 such games, the most of any team in the country. The 26 ESPN Thursday night games that the Jackets have played in — including two last season — rank second behind Virginia Tech.

Georgia Tech officials requested no Thursday night home games for 2014, seeking a year’s relief from the logistical challenges the games present. Bamford said he was told that Tech was a candidate for a Thursday road game, but that it did not work out.

Tech had played in an ESPN Thursday night game every year since 1993, except for 2012, when the Jackets played Virginia Tech on a Labor Day night game on ESPN.

Coach Paul Johnson’s seventh season at Tech will be the second in which the nonconference arrangement has been set up according to his preferences, with three nonconference games to open — Wofford on Aug. 30, at Tulane on Sept. 6 and Georgia Southern on Sept. 13. The other year was 2011, when Tech rolled through Western Carolina, Middle Tennessee State and Kansas on its way to a 6-0 start.

Tech will play its first game against Wofford since 1901, its first against Tulane since 1982 and its first ever against Southern — which Johnson led to FCS (formerly Division I-AA) national titles in 1999 and 2000. Tech also will make its first trip to Pittsburgh since 1920.

Another complaint about the 2013 schedule — four division opponents playing nonconference opponents the week before playing Tech and a fifth, North Carolina, getting an open date — did not arise again. Of the six games against Coastal teams, three of the opponents will play other Coastal teams the week before facing Tech, two will play nonconference teams and Duke will have an open date. The two teams playing nonconference teams, Virginia Tech and North Carolina, will face East Carolina and Notre Dame, respectively.

Conspiracy theorists will note that the Tar Heels will not have an open date before facing Tech, as was the case in four of Johnson’s first six seasons, including last year.

While Tech will have an open date before playing the Hurricanes on Oct. 4, Miami will play Duke. Playing at home with extra rest, the Jackets have favorable conditions to beat Miami for the first time since 2008.

The Jackets will play their six division games in a row before finishing the league schedule at N.C. State on Nov. 8 and vs. Clemson on Nov. 15. They’ll be the first ACC team to complete their division games.

It will mark the first time that Tech will have an open date before the Georgia game since 2009. The Bulldogs will play Charleston Southern on the Saturday before the Nov. 29 meeting in Athens.