If it was possible, Stephen Hill just made Georgia Tech’s offense a little scarier

Dr. Saturday

Georgia Tech 35, North Carolina 28.
Before today, the assumption here and elsewhere was that Georgia Tech's white-hot start on offense couldn't possibly last against non-cupcake defenses. After today, the assumption should be that Georgia Tech's offense makes it a serious contender for the ACC title — and not only because of another big rushing day out of the triple option.

Of course, the big rushing day was still there, as usual: The Yellow Jackets shredded a front seven loaded with future draft picks for 312 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, on well over five yards per carry. But the revelation against the Tar Heels was junior receiver Stephen Hill, who used every inch of his 6-foot-5 frame to singlehandedly provide Tech with the viable downfield threat it so conspicuously lacked last year. In the first quarter, Hill went into a neighboring zip code to bring down a one-handed catch that set up a field goal; in the second quarter, he was left wide open for a 59-yard touchdown from quarterback Tevin Washington, and later outfought a defender for a 34-yard jump ball that set up another touchdown inside the UNC five-yard line. For the day, Hill had six catches for 151 of Tech's 184 receiving yards and looked for all the world like the second coming of former All-ACC star Demariyus Thomas. Defensive coordinators may want to sit down for this.

If it seems a little strange to be going on about the passing game of a team that kept the ball on the ground on more than 80 percent of its offensive snaps today — right on schedule for the season — it shouldn't: In Georgia Tech's scheme, big rushing days are a given. But as the last two years have proved, those few snaps when the ball is in the air that can be the difference between a conference championship and a losing record.

In 2009, the offense routinely made defenses pay for over-playing the triple option, taking advantage of one-on-one coverage against Thomas to average a full yard more per pass than any other team in the nation. The Jackets led the ACC in total and scoring offense, won the conference championship and sent Thomas on to the first round of the NFL Draft after averaging an absurd 25 yards per catch.{YSP:MORE}

In 2010, with nothing resembling a go-to receiver (Hill led the team with just 15 catches for the entire year), scoring plummeted by a touchdown per game and Tech fell from 10-4 wins to 6-7 — despite leading the nation in rushing for the second consecutive season. The biggest difference: Pass efficiency, which fell from the best number in the ACC in '09 with Thomas delivering big plays downfield to the worst without no one filling his shoes.

As we speak, the Tech boasts the most efficient passing attack in the country by a mile, which likely isn't going to hold as the opposing defenses over the rest of the schedule begin to resemble North Carolina's more closely than they do Western Carolina's. Tevin Washington remains a glorified tailback who's only occasionally asked to make very basic throws. But as long as defenses are forced to obsess over the option, and as long as there's a 6-foot-5 leaper on the other end of those throws waiting to go up against outmanned cornerbacks, this offense once again looks like the ACC's worst nightmare.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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