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ACC schedule review: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Paul Johnson led Georgia Tech to a 9-4 record and a bowl win last season. AP Photo/David Tulis

This week we’re examining each ACC team’s schedule, identifying the biggest games, looming upsets and most grueling stretches for each.

Next up: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Georgia Tech has some momentum headed into 2017 following a bounceback 9-4 season that featured wins over Georgia, Virginia Tech and Kentucky in the bowl game. The key question surrounds quarterback, where Matthew Jordan takes over from three-year starter Justin Thomas. The Jackets also need improvement from their pass rush and run defense to make it back to the ACC championship game.

Toughest three-game stretch: Virginia Tech (Nov. 11), at Duke (Nov. 18), Georgia (Nov. 25). Coach Paul Johnson had choice words about his team's schedule when it was revealed last month because, once again, multiple opponents have a bye before they face the Jackets. But on paper, Georgia Tech has a manageable schedule even though it rates high in degree of difficulty. Its more difficult Coastal Division games are split apart, and the bye comes nearly at the midway point in the season (and between North Carolina and Miami). The stretch at the end could prove to be the most challenging. Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech are long-time nemesis (the Hokies lead the overall series); Duke has won two of the last three in this series and plays a similar team in Army the previous week; and Georgia figures to be improved this season.

Potential trap game: at Virginia (Nov. 4)

The Virginia game comes in between two of the most difficult ACC games Georgia Tech will play: at Clemson on Oct. 28 and then home to Virginia Tech on Nov. 11. Virginia fits the classic definition of "trap game." The Cavaliers should be improved in Year 2 under Bronco Mendenhall, so this is a game Georgia Tech can’t afford to overlook, especially since there isn’t a wide margin separating teams in the Coastal Division standings.

Swing game: at Clemson (Oct. 28)

Georgia Tech last won in Death Valley in 2008 in Dabo Swinney’s first game as Clemson head coach. Much has changed with the Clemson program since then, as the Tigers have won four of the last five meetings. A win on the road would obviously improve the Jackets’ chances in the Coastal Division and would provide plenty of fodder for Johnson, who said last year nobody in the ACC is scared of Clemson or Florida State. Of course, a win over Georgia swings the feelings of the fan base no matter the results of the entire season.

Projected W-L: Georgia Tech returns a solid nucleus of players, and its schedule sets up for another run at the Coastal Division. Given the way many teams are rebuilding in the Coastal, it is easy to envision eight wins as a minimum in 2017.