2009 Virginia Tech Football: What to Watch vs. Georgia Tech

The Team

  • The Hokies are riding high after two dominating performances in three weeks. I'd like to see the Hokies play with confidence but no over-confidence in this game.
  • Paul Johnson has plenty of motivational tools for his team going into this one. Everyone's ragging on his defense. Some are saying the Hokies have a shot at the BCSCG if they win out, but not the Jackets. Kam Chancellor said he knows how to key on Johnson's offense. And Georgia Tech is an underdog at home. I firmly believe Georgia Tech is going to play its best game of the season Saturday. The Hokies have to match that effort.
  • After years of dominance in ACC road games, the Hokies lost three of four league road games last year. A win Saturday would go a long way to reestablishing their road warrior rep.
  • The Jackets' last win over a Top 10 team came in 2006 against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
  • The winner of this game has represented the Coastal in the ACCCG every year the ACCCG has been held.

Virginia Tech Offense vs. Georgia Tech Defense

  • The Georgia Tech defense has struggled at times this season, but has played much better at home than on the road. In games at Miami, Mississippi State and Florida State, the Jackets gave up at least 7.1 yards per play. At home against Clemson they gave up 5.7 yards per play and against North Carolina they gave up 3.5
  • The key in those games was their pass rush. Defensive end Derrick Morgan can be an absolute beast getting to the quarterback. When he is effective, Georgia Tech doesn't have to blitz as much and the middle of the field is vulnerable.
  • This happened last week against Florida State. The Jackets tried blitzing on third down and got burned. They tried dropping into coverage on third down and also got burned. The key is Morgan and his ability to get to the quarterback.
  • Cornerback Jarrard Tarrant is a big threat as a kick returner but has struggled on defense. In fact, the entire Georgia Tech secondary has had trouble this year, especially when lined up man to man. As we know, Tyrod Taylor loves throwing against man coverage and if the Jackets show that this week, he and Jarrett Boykin could have big games.
  • The middle of the Jacket defense got exploited the entire game against Florida State. However, the Hokies haven't used their tight ends as much as we expected this year. If Greg Boone and company were ever going to have a good game, this would be it.
  • Christian Ponder's mobility also gave Georgia Tech fits last week. If Tyrod Taylor can break containment, he could have a big game rushing.
  • I'm not sure if Ryan Williams is going to put up the kind of numbers we saw last week. First of all, he's battling an illness. Second, what Georgia Tech has done well is stopping runners who try to run East-West. North-South runners like Josh Oglesby have had success against the Jackets. Anthony Dixon ran for over 100 yards against them on 18 carries. Jermaine Thomas almost got to the century mark against them last week.
  • I also worry about the offensive linemen, who have taken turns getting dinged up in recent weeks. Now comes work Sergio Render is listed as probably due to a strained pectoral muscle. The Hokies don't have the depth on the line to deal with news like this.
  • The key for the Hokies will be their red zone offense. Billy Hite's play calling in the red zone infuriates me from time to time because we always do the same thing. We run it out of the power I twice, get forced into third and long, run play action even though the defense is coming, have to throw it away and then kick a field goal. Leaving points on the field won't work against Georgia Tech. Stick It In, Stick It In, Stick It In!

Virginia Tech Defense vs. Georgia Tech Offense

  • Whoooo, were do I even start. OK, let's begin with the quarterback Josh Nesbitt. He's improved as a decision maker and as a passer. However, he'll still put the ball on the ground from time to time.
  • Turnovers will be a big key for the Hokies. While stopping the Yellow Jacket offense is tough, they will occasionally stop themselves. Recovering fumbles will be big.
  • Teams have had success against Nesbitt when they've gotten the ball out of his hands quickly. If the dive gets taken away, the ends need to clamp down and force a quick pitch so the linebackers and secondary have enough time to pursue the A-Backs and make the tackle. Miami was very good at this. FSU was not.
  • What I've noticed about Nesbitt is he will call his own number on third down a lot more often than he'll give the dive or pitch the ball. He can do this because he looks a lot bigger and stronger this year than last. He runs high and is tough to bring down. He'll be frustrating on Saturday because he'll convert a lot of third and short plays himself.
  • Another key for the Hokies will be avoiding over-pursuit and reacting too much to the dive play with Dwyer. When everyone bites down on the dive play, that's when Nesbitt or Anthony Allen will break a huge play. Look, Dwyer is going to have at least one long run in this game. But if we can hold him to two to three yards on the rest, we could have a lot of success Saturday.
  • The problem is, our defensive tackles have also been dinged up and haven't gotten the kind of push we'd like to see. John Graves and Taco Thompson have to disrupt the middle of that option attack for the Hokies to get stops against the Jackets.
  • The biggest difference between this year's Jacket team and last year's is the sheer number of weapons Paul Johnson has at his disposal. In addition to Nesbitt and Dwyer, Roddy Jones and Embry Peeples improved a lot after last year's game. And then, GT added Louisville transfer Anthony Allen, who has rattled off some breath taking runs of his own this year.
  • Allen, Peeples and Jones will have big games if the Hokies' tackling woes from earlier this year show up again. 
  • Oh yeah, then there's wide receiver Bey-Bey Thomas. He's a treat when Nesbitt is accurate passing, which has been the case of late. He's a big, strong receiver who's a matchup problem for the Hokies. Winfield said earlier this week the Jackets are running more play action off their dive play and throwing it to Thomas. This play worked a lot against Florida State. Georgia Tech will lull teams to sleep with the constant run game and then hit them over the top to Thomas. They caught Miami doing that the third week of the season.

Outcome

  • At the beginning of the season I picked Virginia Tech to lose two games: Alabama and this one. And like I told Winfield earlier this week, I will keep that prediction.
  • I think the Yellow Jacket offense will get its points and the Hokies will have enough trouble running the ball that they'll be playing catch up to GT throughout the game. In the end, the Jackets will keep the Hokies at arm's length and get a big ACC Coastal win.

Watch the Box Score For

  • Turnovers
  • GT First Down Yards
  • VT Third Down Conversions
  • GT Red Zone Percentage

Virginia Tech Players to Watch

  • 25 - Josh Oglesby, So., RB
  • 81 - Jarrett Boykin, So., WR
  • 26 - Cody Grimm, Sr., LB
  • 22 - Stephen Virgil, Sr., CB

Georgia Tech Players to Watch

  • 9 - Josh Nesbitt, Jr., QB
  • 18 - Anthony Allen, Jr., RB
  • 37 - Jerrard Tarrant, So., CB
  • 91 - Derrick Morgan, Jr., DE

Final Score

Georgia Tech 35, Virginia Tech 30

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