Here we go! The battle of the Techs once again has big implications in the ACC title race. Since the formation of the divisions the winner of this game has gone on to represent the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship Game. While neither team can lock it in with a win, the winner will definitely be in the drivers seat.
What's more, both teams will be coming off bye weeks. Both teams will be rested. Georgia Tech is returning some key starters on offense (see Hokies on Defense). In all, this is a big test for the Hokies.
The nation's 2nd best rushing offense vs. the nation's 6th best rushing defense. Not only is a potent offense it's also one that most teams rarely face and have trouble preparing for. Rushing for 328 yards a game, the Yellow Jackets come out with the spread option offense. This is a very intelligent offense that can cause several headaches if executed to the level that Coach Paul Johnson has been able to. Despite slipping two games to Virginia and Miami, the Jackets bounced back knocking off Clemson with 383 yards on the ground. Quarterback Tevin Washington had 176 of those yards -- a Georgia Tech record for a quarterback -- and knocked the Tigers out of contention for the national title.
Hokies on Offense
The talk of the town is one thing: time of possession. The Hokies and the media are all emphasizing how important it is for Virginia Tech to hold the ball on offense to keep the Yellow Jacket offense off of the field.
"We have to control the ball in order to win this game," Blake DeChristopher said in today's press conference.
Coach Frank Beamer today shrugged off suggestions that the Hokies might hold the snap deeper into the play clock to accomplish the desired time of possession. "The key to doing so is execution."
Execution means staying out of bad situation. "They don't put their corners in a bind... they make you earn your points," Logan Thomas said emphasizing the need for the Hokies to execute and be patient and willing to take what the defense gives you.
"Every quarterback wants the deep ball." Hitting the short route passes that keeps you moving forward and out of 3rd and long situations will give the Hokies breathing room on defense.
Bringing it all together the Hokies will need to get into a rhythm that they feel comfortable in and move the ball in order to keep the Jackets off of the ball. All that said, the Hokies will also need to finish these drives and score points as another 14 point game as in the one against Duke just won't cut it.
To do that they will have to contend with a very stingy defense. One that allows 23.3 points per game and is 16th nationally against the pass. With 11 interceptions on the year, Thomas will have to be accurate against a backfield that spreads the love equally with three DBs with at least two interceptions.
Hokies on Defense
The key to defending any offense is playing assignment football. Play where you're supposed to be and the offense will struggle to move the ball on you. This is ten times more important against the triple threat offense which comes at you at with leading rusher Washington. But it doesn't end with him. The Jackets have 7 players with over 30 carries this year. With almost 3000 yards on the year, this offense is driven by the run. The return of center Jay Finch and guard Will Jackson to the Jacket's front line, getting at the rusher(s) will be all the more difficult.
But what this does is set up defenses for disaster. Defenses creep up and Washington is able to find receivers deep. He has thrown at least one 35-yard or more touchdown in each of their first five games. The Hokies will have to play with an awareness that this can happen and prevent it by first having proper match ups in single coverage as Foster is likely to stack eight or more in the box. Second, not getting burned by the option pass by keeping those match ups tight.
"Everybody's ready to take on the challenge of this unique offense," said Kyle Fuller who will be moving from corner to Mike LB once again for this game. He did so as a freshman in last year's game against Georgia Tech. This is one of many changes coach Foster is making to deal with the unique Georgia Tech attack.
Jack Tyler will come in at ILB and J.R. Collins will move from DE to DT. Corey Marshall takes Collins place at DE. The reasoning? Speed. “It’s a combination of some experience and speed,” Foster said. “That’s the bottom line: just trying to get our best people on the field.”
Hokies on Special Teams
Thank Jebus Cody Journell will be back for this game. Tyler Weiss was not very useful against Duke and Journell was missed. Michael Branthover is showing signs of improvement and believe you me he really, really needs to have a stellar game to ensure the Hokies aren't fighting the field position game.
On the receiving end, the miscues of dropped balls and running in the wrong direction will have to be nonexistent. There were far too many close calls against Duke with the ball ending up on the ground.
"You need to be at your best in November." --Frank Beamer
Virginia Tech hasn't lost on the road in two years. Eleven straight victories on the road. That last loss came in Atlanta against the Yellow Jackets...