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Georgia has six games left but hasn't done anything to indicate to coach Kirby Smart which direction it is heading. (Brant Sanderlin / bsanderlin@ajc.com)

Podcast: Paul Johnson on critics, future; will Tech finish better than UGA?

Georgia Tech had a significant win over Georgia Southern Saturday – significant because any win by either of the two major local football programs qualifies as a departure.

The Jackets had lost three straight, albeit two of them coming to teams better than them (Clemson, Miami) and one that’s at least as good and was favored (at Pittsburgh). Georgia, a Sybil-like mess since winning its opener against North Carolina, has dropped three of its last four games, including Saturday to Vanderbilt 17-16. The Commodores were 2-17 in SEC games under Derek Mason and hadn’t won in Athens since 2006.

Tech and Georgia both are 4-3. If you had to bet which team right now would finish with a better record, which would it be? It might come down to that last regular season game in Athens.

I’ll get to the remaining schedule breakdown shortly. But can you imagine the reaction if Tech coach Paul Johnson goes into Sanford Stadium and wins this year’s meeting, just as he did in his first season over Mark Richt in 2008?

Zach Klein and I spoke to Johnson in the latest edition of the “We Never Played The Game” podcast and he had a number of gems in the interview.

Among the topics discussed: comparing the results of Tech’s and Georgia’s programs when the two have contrasting economic situations; perceptions of him as being a difficult and ornery guy who blames players for everything and picks fights with the media; his relationship with former athletic director Mike Bobinski and whether he believes he’s in trouble with a new A.D. (Todd Stansbury) coming in.

A few snippets:

• On comparisons between Bobinski and Dan Radakovich: “(Bobinski and I) weren’t particularly close but we didn’t turn our head every time the guy walked down the hall. I just never saw him much. … Dan was very hands on. Dan would be in my office three times a week. We had a relationship. Most of the ADs I’ve worked with had that direct contact with the football coach.”

How often was Bobinski in his office? “In three, four years? I probably can count them on one hand.”

• Contrasting the economic realities of Tech vs. many Power 5 conference programs: “I was set to hire (defensive coordinator) Ellis Johnson (in 2008) and we didn’t have the money. That’s what happens when one program says go hire who you want and the other one says you’ve got $250,000 to hire a coordinator.” (Tech hired Dave Wommack, who was fired after two years when he wouldn’t accept a demotion.)

• On his negative reputation: “Basically I think what happens is people get a perception of you and they run with it. The guys I get in a big a disagreement with, some radio guys, they don’t know me from Adam’s house cat. And then they get personal. But when it comes back on them, they can’t handle it.”

And then there was that time back when he coached high school basketball when he threatened to deck a referee. No, seriously.

It’s a great, raw interview that I’m sure you’ll enjoy, even if you don’t like Johnson.

OK, back to the breakdown.

Records: Georgia 4-3 overall, 2-3 in the SEC. Georgia Tech: 4-3 overall, 1-3 in the ACC.

Remaining schedules: Georgia: vs. No. 15 Florida (5-1), at Kentucky (3-3), vs. No. 21 Auburn (4-2), vs Louisiana-Lafayette (2-4), vs. Georgia Tech (4-3). Georgia Tech: vs Duke (3-4), at No. 22 North Carolina (5-2), at Virginia Tech (4-2), vs. Virginia, at Georgia.

Each has only two games that could be termed likely wins – Georgia vs. Kentucky and Louisiana-Lafayette; Tech in home games vs. Duke and Virginia.

Common opponent: Georgia lost at home to a Vandy team that Tech handled easily 38-7. They managed only 75 yards rushing against a defense that the Jackets pounded for 289 yards on the ground, 511 yards in total offense, five touchdowns and a 38-7 win.

Best win: Georgia opened the season by beating North Carolina 33-24. The Tar Heels have won five of six since. Tech’s four wins have come over Boston College, Mercer, Vanderbilt and Georgia Southern. Not an impressive group. Vandy’s the best of the four.

Worst loss: Tech’s best win is Georgia worst loss. The Dogs were a two-touchdown favorite at home but lost to the Commodores on homecoming day. Tech was an underdog in all three of its losses. The loss at Pittsburgh wasn’t as bad as Georgia’s.

Worst moment of the season: Tech had consecutive fumbles by quarterback Justin Thomas on consecutive possessions that turned into touchdowns against Miami. That ultimately decided the game (35-21). But those are player mistakes. Georgia had the worst coaching mistake against Vanderbilt. On a crucial fourth-and-1 late in the game, the Dogs chose to pitch the ball to Isaiah McKenzie instead of handing off to either Nick Chubb or Sony Michel. The play failed.

Even if you believe the play call wasn’t awful, consider this: Vanderbilt knew it was coming. Inside linebacker Zach Cunningham, who chased down McKenzie for the tackle, told the Tennessean he knew the play once he saw Georgia’s alignment: “Coach (Mason) alerted to us to the exact play they were going to run. It was something we saw on film, but also (Mason) knew it from their formation.”

So Georgia was outcoached by Vanderbilt. That might be the greatest indictment of all.

Again, for the Paul Johnson podcast, click here.

Subscribe to the new, “We Never Played The Game” podcast on iTunes with Jeff Schultz and WSB’s Zach Klein. New episodes every Monday and Thursday.

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