Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets running back Deon Hill runs with the ball against the Miami Hurricanes during the first quarter at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday. (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)
ATLANTA — Perhaps the best way to describe what awaits Georgia Tech’s football team as it prepares for this Saturday’s game against Brigham Young might be the often-used catchphrase from the 1970s British comedy show, “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”
And now for something completely different.
And there are plenty of features of the Yellow Jackets’ (3-2, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) 7 p.m. kickoff at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah, that are radically different from anything they’ve faced so far this season.
For one thing, Tech steps out of the division and the conference to take on the Cougars (3-2) after four straight games against ACC Coastal Division foes.
But while the change of pace might provide the Jackets with a needed break after the grind of those four division games, particularly after losses to No. 24 Virginia Tech and 14th-ranked Miami in the last two, coach Paul Johnson doesn’t expect BYU to be any less challenging.
“I don’t know about refreshing,” Johnson said Tuesday during his weekly press briefing. “You’ve got a physical, tough opponent to go play on the road. So, it’s a challenge. Nobody likes to lose. You want to try to get that out of your system as fast as you can. So, it’s a chance to go play another game.”
But this game will be played under dramatically different conditions from anything the Jackets have played in so far this season.
After enduring near 90-degree heat in Miami last week, the air will be considerably cooler this week, with temperatures expected be perhaps as low as the upper ’40s by game time.
The air in the 4,549-foot elevation of the Rocky Mountains in northern Utah will also be a lot thinner than that both the 1,050-foot elevation of Atlanta the Jackets are used to, or the near-sea level of Miami that they played in last week.
Throw in a two-hour time difference, and there are a lot of adjustments Tech’s players will have to make.
But Johnson preferred to downplay those adjustments Tuesday.
“Coming off a road trip to Miami, I told someone a minute ago that we had a chance to play in 90 degrees (last) Saturday and maybe the high (40s) this Saturday,” Johnson said. “That’s a pretty good variance, (as is) going across two time zones. But more important than that, we’re going up against a pretty good football team.
“It could be (a factor), if you let it. You can’t control it. We don’t talk about it a lot. When we were at Hawaii (and played at BYU) we didn’t talk about it a lot. I can remember taking teams out to that part of the country at Georgia Southern a couple times for the playoffs. We just went and played and didn’t worry about it. There’s no remedy for it. We can go out there a couple of weeks and become accustomed to it. … We may have to play more guys and watch if they’re tired. But it’s been my experience that the more you talk about it, the more they think about it. If you just go play, you play. It’s a factor, but there’s nothing you can do about it.”
There are some things the Jackets can do something about — among them, cut down on the mental and physical mistakes that have plagued the past two weeks in losses, and take better advantage of opportunities presented to them.
If they can do that, Johnson emphasizes, there is plenty about their remaining season they can still control.
“It’s like I told our football team. We’ve still got more than half the season to go,” Johnson said. “We’re disappointed we lost the (last) two games the league, but also the two teams that beat us are a combined 9-1 with the one loss coming to the No. 1 team in the country. So, you try to get better and see if you can’t win this game. You take it week by week. We can still have a pretty good season if we can get the thing turned.”