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Preview: Virginia Tech Hokies vs Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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As of late last evening, with Duke's defeat of UNC, winning this game suddenly means that Virginia Tech nabs the Coastal Division. The Jackets are bowl eligible after last year's disaster if they pull off the upset. The game means something big to both teams. It's going to be a serious challenge. Time for a late fall grudge match between the Hokies and the Yellow Jackets. You know it's ACC Football crunch time. #OneGameOnTeamRightNow

Andrew's is going to be busy on Saturday
Andrew's is going to be busy on Saturday
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The last couple of seasons, the "Battle of the Techs" hasn't meant a whole lot for either team.  There is a reason for the normal Thursday publication of the preview being bumped to Friday morning; Duke beat Carolina 28-27 on national TV at Wallace Wade Stadium.  The significance of that game changed the dynamic of this contest between the Jackets and the Hokies to something that actually is significant for both football teams.

First, because you always give a nod of politeness to the opponent, after Georgia Tech's very bad season last year, Paul Johnson's cracked weird and dangerous triple option rolls into Lane Stadium with a serious snoot full of vengeance for last season's defeat at home; but also with the Yellow Jackets at 5-4 this season, a win guarantees a post season bowl game.

Second, and most importantly to Hokie Nation, with the Blue Devils taking the train bell from the Heels that puts Tech solidly in first place for the ACC Coastal Division by a game and a tie breaker.  The simple numbers are that IF Virginia Tech wins tomorrow; we earn the right to meet Clemson in Orlando.  When the first whistle blew on the opening game of the 2016 season, Virginia Tech was picked to finish 4th and maybe a shot at 3rd for the ACC Coastal.  Win tomorrow, seal it.  We can still win by beating the Wahoos, but wouldn't it be better to have a Senior Day/Night game on Thanksgiving weekend and only have to deal with keeping the Commonwealth cup against an increasingly dangerous Cavalier football team?

Look, there is not a ton of history between Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.  You'd think being big East Coast schools that we'd be talking about one of those long history lists with games in the 19th century sprinkling the grid, but no, the Hokies and the Jackets are basically an ACC Coastal creation.  They aren't an "historic" rival, but they are a new age, post-Tobacco Road ACC rival.  Currently Tech leads the series 9 games to 4, but look at those game scores and the total point spread between the teams.  Check out the extraction of the grid from Hokie Sports:

Season

Date

Site

Score (VT-Opp)

Rank

2015

Thu., Nov 12, 2015

Atlanta, Ga.

W, 23-21

NR/NR

2014

Sat., Sep 20, 2014

Blacksburg, Va.

L, 24-27

NR/NR

2013

Thu., Sep 26, 2013

Atlanta, Ga.

W, 17-10

NR/NR

2012

Mon., Sep 3, 2012

Blacksburg, Va.

W, 20-17 (OT)

16/NR

2011

Thu., Nov 10, 2011

Atlanta, Ga.

W, 37-26

10/20

2010

Thu., Nov 4, 2010

Blacksburg, Va.

W, 28-21

20/NR

2009

Sat., Oct 17, 2009

Atlanta, Ga.

L, 23-28

4/19

2008

Sat., Sep 13, 2008

Blacksburg, Va.

W, 20-17

NR/NR

2007

Thu., Nov 1, 2007

Atlanta, Ga.

W, 27-3

11/NR

2006

Sat., Sep 30, 2006

Blacksburg, Va.

L, 27-38

11/24

2005

Sat., Sep 24, 2005

Blacksburg, Va.

W, 51-7

4/15

2004

Thu., Oct 28, 2004

Atlanta, Ga.

W, 34-20

22/NR

1990

Sat., Nov 10, 1990

Atlanta, Ga.

L, 3-6

NR/7

Total points between the teams:

334-241

Average Score:

26-19

Most Points Scored:

51/38 (2005/2006)

Fewest Points Scored:

3/3 (1990/2007)

Dear readers, that is tight.  Yes, the Hokies are on top by a hair over 2 to 1, but Georgia Tech has given us every inch of a serious pain over the course of 13 games.  There have only been two games approaching shootout status, and since 2012, no game has gone over a one score differential.  That's "Danger Close" every single time these two teams tee it up and run plays against each other.

This season, I expect very little different, and I am completely discounting the overly generous point spreads being offered by the wise guys in the desert southwest.  (Currently we are giving them two full touchdowns and PATs at 14) Sorry, that just doesn't compute in my world of telling the story, vs. grinding out betting lines.  These teams have a building grudge match going, and the Yellow Jackets are not interested in remaining on the short end of the W/L column.

So what do the Golden '32 roadsters have to put on Worsham Field tomorrow afternoon?  The first problem is Paul Johnson's cracked triple option.  I call it a cracked triple option because GT doesn't run it from the standard two back set.  They'll run it from a single offset back, and it's newest iteration is running consistently from the shotgun/spread or offset pistol  (I'd have to go through some film to see if they are running a true pistol -€” we'll see Saturday) but Johnson will run that option from any formation, and beat opponents to death with it.  The second thing they'll show up with is those dangerous option passes up the seams for deep yardage.  Johnson gets the defense to load the box, and sneaks in one or two of those dangerous passes where the zone over safety is left on a switch off one-on-one coverage situation, and behind the power curve on picking up the receiver.

We need to see who is coming to Lane, and what we are up against again this year; so we go to Yahoo Sports Team Page for some stats and analysis:

The Jackets have Justin Thomas at Quarterback for one last season.  His numbers are not hugely over the top impressive, but they are solid for an Option style QB.  He's only got a total of 1168 yards passing up on the charts, but that include 7 touchdowns and a quarterback rating of a very solid 159.  That means he makes few mistakes and he certainly takes advantage of his chances when he gets them.  Of course being a Triple option QB, means that Thomas is also toting significant yardage totals on the ground as GT's 2nd leading rusher at 561 yards.   I have also salted Matthew Jordan's numbers into the mix, because he's played in six games with some passes and 122 yards on the ground.  He's quite capable of running the football team, too.

Georgia Tech Passing Game:

Player

Comp

Att

Yds

Y/A

Y/G

TD

Int

Long

Sack

YdsL

QBRat

Justin Thomas

62

114

1168

10.2

129.8

7

1

83

12

79

159.0

Matthew Jordan

1

2

77

38.5

12.8

1

1

77

0

0

438.4

Add to the dangerous nature of the Justin Thomas bus, there is the known problem dealing with Dedrick Mills and his 578 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns.  The Thomas / Mills combination is good for fifteen touchdowns.  This is serious stuff from the top, but the Jackets do spread the running chores around and there are several other dangerous backs in line to burn up turf and score points.  The final upshot is that the Rambling Wreck has pushed it's running numbers to 18th in College FBS.  That's not trivial, and it is certainly something that the Hokies are going to have to deal with again, this season.

Georgia Tech Running Game:

Player

Rush

Yds

Y/G

Avg

Long

TD

Dedrick Mills

114

578

82.6

5.1

39

10

Justin Thomas

112

561

62.3

5.0

82

5

Marcus Marshall

52

299

37.4

5.8

50

1

Clinton Lynch

28

298

33.1

10.6

45

1

Qua Searcy

30

166

18.4

5.5

31

0

Matthew Jordan

32

122

20.3

3.8

15

4

J.J. Green

18

103

14.7

5.7

23

1

We won't dwell too much on the GT passing game.  It's very often not a huge factor in their offensive scheme, except when Johnson is up against Bud Foster.  Then, it often becomes explosive and problematic.  We have to remember that we are missing our best safety Terrell Edmunds for half of the football game.  That's a guarantee that Paul Johnson is going to try to find some way to exploit that loss during the first half.

Georgia Tech Passing Stats:

Player

Rec

Yds

Y/G

Avg

Long

TD

Clinton Lynch

12

392

43.6

32.7

83

5

Ricky Jeune

20

326

40.8

16.3

40

1

Brad Stewart

14

275

34.4

19.6

50

0

Georgia Tech's passing offense is ranked 276th, which is slightly ridiculous given that there aren't that many teams of any significance in the FBS.  (We'll be kind.) and it's total 118th position puts it on the low side of total offense for Division 1a.  That's going to be of little importance, tomorrow.  The Jackets are going to bring it, and the Hokies better be ready for playing against the option.

Virginia Tech wins if we can score more points per minute of possession than the Yellow Jackets.  The Hokies must keep the Yellow Jacket offense off the field, and when the Wrecks have the ball we need to flatten their tires.  Playing defense against any sort of triple option involves keying, discipline, and speed to the sideline.  The magic in stopping the option is not allowing any player in the possession chain from Dive to Slant to pitch to the outside an chance to cut up field for any significant yardage.  That means stuffing the dive, forcing the QB to keep the ball, stopping him from cutting up field, and then stringing out the pitch so that the halfback has only the sideline and line of scrimmage to run into.  That sounds complex, but it's relatively simple.  Sometimes the simplest things are the most difficult to accomplish.

The Hokies cannot get into that Red Zone Malaise that they have been sporting of the last couple of games.  We need to score touchdowns, score them often, and not worry about grinding out 2 or 3 yards on first downs to put us behind the sticks on third.  It's critical for Tech to maintain possession, yes.  But it's even more important that we finish drives and cross the goal line.  Joey's foot isn't going to help us if Johnson gets his option rolling.

So, it's discipline and speed on defense combined with fast mix it up, downfield passing offense that scores lots of points.

The Hokies can and should win this.  HOWEVER!!! They equally CAN lose this one, so we need to bring it, and leave it all on the field tomorrow.

One Game.  One Team.  Right Now!

GO HOKIES!!!!!