Alcorn State and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jacketswill open up the 2015 season on a Thursday night in Atlanta. Both teams are coming off of stellar 2014 campaigns as the Yellow Jackets won 11 games and upset Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl. The Alcorn State Braves finished 2014 as SWAC champions, winning their first title since the SWAC went to a championship game in 1999.
Georgia Tech welcomes back junior QB Justin Thomas to lead a high-powered offense. The Yellow Jackets do have to replace two of their three top leading running backs and top two receivers but should be in good hands with a number of familiar faces returning.
The 2015 Alcorn State Braves were named the preseason favorite of the Eastern Division at SWAC media days and will be led by senior quarterback John Gibbs Jr., who was named the 2015 SWAC Football Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and selected to the all-conference first team.
This will be the first meeting between these two teams.
Alcorn State at Georgia Tech
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)
TV Channel: ESPN3.com
Spread: Georgia Tech
Three Things to Watch
1. A Heavy Dose of Justin Thomas
You will see a lot of Justin Thomas in the first half of this game. Georgia Tech must figure out who will carry the load as far their running backs go and until that situation plays itself out, Thomas will be making the plays. Also, someone must step up and show they can be a reliable target in the passing game for the Jackets.
2. Who Will Step up on Defense?
Last year, the Yellow Jackets relied heavily on teams turning the ball over on their own accord. Ted Roof will want to change that and have his team causing turnovers. GT lost two of their top five tacklers from last year so there is plenty of room for guys to step up.
3. Keeping the FCS Winning Streak Alive
Georgia Tech is 13-0 since 2001 against FCS foes with an average winning score of 45-10. Alcorn State is a good FCS team and can get some things going on the offensive side of the ball. The Braves averaged 44 points per game last year and have their Senior QB John Gibbs back. Will we see that average rise above 10 points this year?
In eight years as head coach of the Yellow Jackets, Paul Johnson has seen his teams win home openers by an average of 40 points per game. Johnson finally has the type of quarterback that he has dreamed about having in this offense in Justin Thomas. Alcorn State had a great run last year and may do great things again this year; it just won’t start on Thursday night. Atlanta is excited about the possibility of a playoff berth and Georgia Tech will begin that journey with a big win over the Braves on Thursday night.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 48 Alcorn State 7
— Written by Justin Nails, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @justinnails