Friday, October 16

Virginia Tech vs Georgia Tech Preview

By Daniel Smithey

It’s that time again - half way through the ACC season - and from here on out every game is a big one, but none will be tougher than Saturday evening's match up between the 19th ranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and your 4th ranked Virginia Tech Hokies.   If the Hokies can leave Atlanta with a win the stage will be set for them to go straight to the ACC championship  ....  and with some help to the national championship game.  

Back to the matter at hand though, the Yellow Jackets bring an option attack, and the leading rushing attack in the ACC, into Bobby Dodd stadium on their homecoming night.   No doubt the stadium will be rocking for this night game.  The  Hokies are 4-1 against the Yellow Jackets since joining the ACC, escaping last year at home with a 20-17 win.  The Hokies are coming off an impressive win against Boston College in a game that both the offense and defense dominated from start to finish only giving up 3 total yards in the 1st half and they will be looking to duplicate that performance in Atlanta.

The Hokies have struggled this year to put together back- to-back dominating performances.  If ever there was a time for the Hokies not to have a meltdown, this is it.   But I don’t see this as a trap game.  The coaching staff knew prior to the season that this would be one of the toughest games, and that the Coastal division would probably come down to this game; and that’s why Bud Foster and his crew spent extra time in the off season watching film and studying Georgia Tech's option attack  The Hokies have prepared differently this week than any other games they have prepared for all year.  They took out the individual drills and ran more first-team defense against the scout team which was run by Antoine Exum  (the ex-high school quarterback and now free safety)  to try and simulate Josh Nesbitt.  Sounds like Bud Foster will have his defense ready and when this defense is focused and hitting on all cylinders they are lights out (see the Miami and BC games).

It would appear that this one will be a shootout with GT’s rushing attack being first in the conference in yards per game and with the way the Hokies offense has really turned over a new leaf, putting up over 370 yards a game since that game winning drive against Nebraska.  However, the key to beating the Yellow Jackets is getting up on them early and forcing them to throw the ball.  Josh Nesbitt and his Georgia Tech offense struggled as they were forced to go to the air ofter in the 2nd half as they trailed Miami for most of the game. 

That’s not to say they can’t throw the ball however, when they do go to the air (which is about a 1-to-5 ratio from running) they like to go deep on play action and have been extremely successful, usually going to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas who leads the ACC in receiving yards.  The Hokie defense must stay extremely disciplined and maintain their assignments - something they have struggled with at times this year giving up a lot of big plays in the process.    Last season the Hokies keyed in on Jonathan Dwyer and held him to under 50 yards rushing, but Nesbitt ran all over them.  Nesbitt is much improved since last season (running for 151 yards against the Hokies last year and turning the ball over 4 times with 2 fumbles and 2 interceptions).

If the Hokies can create turnovers again  I'd look for the Hokies offense to capitalize on those turnovers with a heavy dose of Ryan Williams, the ACC’s leading rusher and Heisman hopeful, mixed in with some Tyrod Taylor play-action passes down the field.   Tyrod isn’t doing to bad himself sitting number nine in passing efficiency in the country, and throwing 8 touchdowns with just 1 interception.  The GT defense should have its hands full this week with a balanced attack from the Hokie offense, but look for some big plays from both offenses in this game as there will be play makers all over the field for both teams.

Now for the defensive side of the ball - an area in which both teams have struggled at times.  The Hokies "bugga boo" this year has been the big play.  The Hokies will look to take advantage with Coach Foster sending pressure in the form of Jason Worlids and sure tackler Cody Grim, to try and slow down the GT rushing attack.  Containment is the key as the jackets try to block down field and get one on one match ups with linebackers and corners.  Also when your playing Georgia Tech, tackling is very important as one missed tackle can lead to 6 points on the board.

At defensive back, look for corner Rock Carmichael, who has emerged as the top corner for the Hokies, to have his hands full with Thomas all day.  While the Hokies D has been giving up the big play, they have really been buckling down when the opposing team gets in the redzone and have done a great job of keeping teams out of the end zone.  I would look for that to continue again this week due to Coach Foster's excellent "bend but don't break" defense.

The Yellow Jackets really struggled last week against the Florida State Seminoles, giving up 44 points in the win.  If the Hokies can limit the big plays, which they have done in their two big wins this year against Miami and Boston College, they should be able to keep the Georgia Tech offense under wraps.   The Hokies defense will look to capitalize on turnovers turning them into points, something the Virginia Tech defense has become accustomed too since the mid-90's. 

On special teams, the Hokies will look to use their patented "BeamerBall" to help sway the momentum against the Yellow Jackets this weekend.  So far this season, the Hokies have scored on a kick return, punt return, and a blocked punt.   Also, punter Brent Bowden has been booming the ball and if need be, Tech will look to use him to control the field position battle.  GT is averaging 26.7 yards per punt return, so it will be a challenge for Hokie gunners Zach Luckett and Alonzo Tweedy to get downfield and contain the Yellow Jackets return man, Jerrard Tarrant, from taking his third punt back for a touchdown this season.

"Beamerball" versus. "Paul Johnsonball" should be an interesting match up and a tough game for the Hokies.  On the road, at night, and under the lights is prime time football.  If the Hokies want to be in the national championship, this is where you find out if you’re ready.  They better bring there A-game as the Jackets will be looking to spoil the Hokies dreams of playing in a third straight ACC Championship game.

This is a must win game for both teams and is being anticipated as the ACC championship for all intensive purposes since preseason predictions came out.  Get your Chicago maroon shirts out in full force and your keys ready to jingle as there are sure to be plenty of key plays in this game. GO HOKIES!!!

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