On the ACC teleconference on Wednesday, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson made an off-handed remark about Miami having an open date before playing the Yellow Jackets.
“I think that’s a rule in our league,” he said. “I think everybody takes a week off before they play us.”
It might seem like that to Johnson this season. After Saturday, Tech has two more division games where the opponent will play the Jackets after an open date, Duke and North Carolina. For the Duke game, though, both teams will have the week off prior to the game.
Are the Jackets as frequently put at a rest disadvantage as some fans (and a certain coach) think?
In the past three years, Georgia Tech has been at a disadvantage from a rest standpoint three times in ACC play. The most any team has been disadvantaged is four times, which has been the plight of Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. Further, the Jackets have gained a rest advantage only once in the past three seasons. Clemson is the only team that has not gained that edge once.
Over the past three seasons, Virginia, N.C. State and Boston College have benefited most from games where one team had more rest than the other, while Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest were at the greatest disadvantage.
How has this happened? Hard to say. Two teams at the top, Virginia and N.C. State, both typically schedule their four non-conference games in the first four weeks, which may somehow explain their being in advantageous positions so often. On the other hand, Virginia Tech does the same thing, and the Hokies have been shortchanged on rest four times, tied with Wake Forest for the most.
In a perfect world, it would be even, but I would submit that making a schedules with a number of moving parts is not a perfect world. The ACC series with Notre Dame, non-conference games and the preferences of ESPN for its Thursday night package add complexity to ensuring that the schedule is fair. Equal rest is a principal built into the ACC scheduling model, but one obviously not always achieved.
It would appear that the team with extra rest has been at a competitive advantage. In 2014-2015, teams playing after open dates against teams that played the previous week were 14-8.
Tech followed the pattern, beating Miami in 2014 after an open date and losing to Duke after the Blue Devils had a bye week. Both were pattern breakers – the Jackets had lost five in a row to Miami, while Duke had lost 10 in a row to Tech. For good measure, the Jackets came off their second open date of the season to end another five-game losing streak, to Georgia.
It’s good to be the team with rest.
“I think it makes a difference no matter who you play,” Johnson said. “You get a chance to get people back healthy, and you have extra time to prepare.”
Miami coach Mark Richt, whose team was off last week while the Jackets were tangling with Clemson, wasn’t complaining. He used the open date to give his player a mental and physical break and then began preparing the defense for the Jackets’ spread-option offense.
“But you scheme them at a pace that is not as fast and rapid as it has to be when you only have one week to do it,” he said. “We were able to take a little bit more time, be a little bit more deliberate. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes it’s not good if you have too many good ideas that you just don’t have enough time to practice them all.”