2012 Virginia Tech Football: What to Watch vs. Georgia Tech

Virginia Tech Hokies (0-0, 0-0) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (0-0, 0-0)

The Hokies start the season off much like they did in 2010 (yikes), in that they will play a marquee team (at least for their schedule) before trying to turn it around and play another team (FCS Austin Peay) just five days later. The scheduling risk to play a game on national TV (which ESPN would have been stupid not to broadcast anyway) in 2010 didn't pay off for the Hokies, as they started the year 0-2 quicker than Tech fans could say "Fire Stiney."

Of course it helps that the Hokies will get a prolonged look at the Georgia Tech offense with them being the first team on the schedule, but that is really overstated, as the players at least didn't start preparing exclusively for Georgia Tech until just over a week ago. But, even taking that into account, we all know about Paul Johnson's documented struggles against teams that have more than a week to prepare for him (the official numbers I found show that he is 3-11 in such games at GT).

To take a look at some of the most important factors in this year's matchup, continue reading after the jump.

I'm ready for this game, so let's jump right in!

Virginia Tech Offense vs. Georgia Tech Defense

  • In the 2011 meeting, the Hokies controlled the time of possession (T.O.P.) in every quarter. That number is two-fold. Both teams rely on that statistic to win. For Georgia Tech, it allows them to wear down opponents with their option attack, and tired legs on defense almost always spell success for an offense predicated so much on speed. For Virginia Tech, keeping the ball more than the Yellow Jackets prevents them from doing just that. It also is a pretty good indicator of the Hokies success under Beamer.
  • As has been reported by various outlets in the past week, Bud Foster thinks the Hokies' best defense against the Georgia Tech is a good offense. It may seem cliché, but data suggests scoring early against the Yellow Jackets makes them more likely to abandon their running attack and opt to pass the ball more to get back into the game. The Hokies will deal with that all day long over sweating over defending the option. Georgia Tech has scored first in all but one of Virginia Tech's games against them under Paul Johnson. Subsequently, last year's nine-point margin of victory was the largest margin of victory for either side.
  • The Yellow Jackets only return one starter on the defensive line (though they do run a 3-4), so the Hokies need to take advantage of that by protecting Logan Thomas with a retooled line of their own. Keeping the pressure off Thomas will help to alleviate some of his responsibilities. This whole thing is on his back right now. Also, opening holes for Tech's young and inexperienced running backs will help acclimate them to the game and by virtue, also take pressure off Thomas. If both those things happen, Thomas will shine (see next bullet).
  • A year ago Thomas put up 209 yards through the air on 7-of-13 passing and 3 TD's 70 yards on the ground and 2 TD's. He was phenomenal and the difference in the game. My point? He was only sacked once. Yes he was hit much more early in the game, but after the Jeremiah Attaochu punch, everything started going Tech's way, starting up front with the offensive line acting like monster trucks and mowing down the GT D-line at the point of attack, allowing the Hokies to convert seemingly every third down in the second half. Yes, Logan is impossible to take down, but the game was won in the trenches in the second half.

Virginia Tech Defense vs. Georgia Tech Offense

  • We all know what Georgia Tech likes to do. Run. The key for the Hokies isn't stopping the run as much as it is limiting the run and keeping them from big plays. It's important that when the triple-option works, it doesn't work for 10+ yards.
  • As I wrote in my Georgia Tech Game Guide:

"Georgia Tech will run the ball over 80 percent of the time according to their 2011 tendencies. Plenty of different players will carry the rock, as six players in 2011 toted the ball at least 50 times. They are also unafraid to go for it on fourth down, which is dangerous when you have so many options to defend in a fourth-and-short situation."

  • Also from the Game Guide:
"When the Yellow Jackets do pass, it's usually a deep throw. Georgia Tech would've led the nation in passing yards per attempt (11.08) by a large margin if they had met the qualifier for number of attempts. Their quarterbacks are historically not very accurate though (probably due in some part to their route selection). Last year they proved that by completing a measly 49 percent."

  • The Hokies bring back one of the nation's top defenses from 2011, and several starters who weren't in action last year against the Yellow Jackets, but the unit is still not at full strength. Tariq Edwards will miss the game, James Gayle isn't slated to start (carrying an ankle injury) and Bruce Taylor still not at full speed in his recovery from a Lisfranc injury.
  • We always hear about this, but it's 100 percent true. We have to play ASSIGNMENT FOOTBALL! That means we have to stick to our assignments no matter what. Defending the option is counter-intuitive. As a defender, you can't just run at a guy and try to tackle him. No matter how much your defensive instincts tell you to go after the guy with the ball, you can't commit unless he's your assignment, without risking the chance of creating a bigger play. Instead, defensive ends are assigned to take a quarterback to prevent them from cutting it up the field and linebackers are assigned to take the pitch man (usually the running back) to prevent them from taking it around the edge. If both players are in the correct position at the time the quarterback and running back turn the corner, the option will fail most of the time. It should be simple to follow, but like I said, it plays tricks on your mind and sometimes it seems like the best thing to do is to ignore the assignment. The key is staying disciplined no matter what and trusting that someone will be there to back you up.
  • Also key to the Hokies survival is the avoidance of cut chop blocks, or the officials' willingness to call them. Georgia Tech specializes in not only performing illegal cut chop blocks, but also getting away with them. In the 2009 VT-GT game, the Hokies coaching staff thought that was the difference. They were so incensed by the missed calls that they sent a lengthy video to the conference's offices for officiating review.

Watch the Box Score

  • Georgia Tech rushing yards
  • Virginia Tech sacks against
  • Virginia Tech 3rd Down %
  • Georgia Tech 3rd Down %
  • T.O.P.

Virginia Tech Players to Watch

Georgia Tech Players to Watch

Final Score

Virginia Tech 31, Georgia Tech 21

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