Georgia Tech-Va Tech preview

SITE: Bobby Dodd Stadium

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TIME: Saturday, 6:00 PM ET
WEATHER: 53 degrees, Partly Cloudy
RADIO: Georgia Tech ISP Network (WQXI 790-AM Atlanta, WYAY 106.7-FM Atlanta)
RECORDS: No. 19 Georgia Tech 5-1, No. 4 Virginia Tech 5-1
COACHES: Georgia Tech - Paul Johnson (14-5, second season), Frank Beamer (182-90-2, twenty third season)
Georgia Tech Players to watch:
QB Josh Nesbitt (Jr., 6-1, 214), B-Back Jonathan Dwyer (Jr., 6-0, 235), A-Back Anthony Allen (RS Jr., 6-0, 225), WR Demaryius Thomas (RS Jr., 6-3, 229), OG Cord Howard (RS Sr.,6-5, 300), DE Derrick Morgan (Jr., 6-4, 270), LB Brad Jefferson (Jr., 6-2, 236), DB Morgan Burnett (Jr., 6-1, 210), DB/PR Jerrard Tarrant (RS So., 6-0, 202)
Virginia Tech Players to watch:
QB Tyrod Taylor (Jr., 6-1, 216) RB Ryan Williams (RS Fr, 5-10, 206), WR Jarett Boykin (So., 6-2, 215), LG Sergio Render (Sr., 6-3, 313), LT Ed Wang (RS Sr., 6-5, 309), DE Jason Worilds (RS Jr., 6-2, 262), LB Cody Grimm (RS Sr., 5-11, 210), CB Rashad Carmichael (RS Jr., 5-11, 186), CB Stephan Virgil (Sr., 5-11, 189) FS Kam Chancellor (Sr., 6-4, 230)
Georgia Tech keys to the game
Contain the freshman. Running back Ryan Williams has the ability to run for 200 yards against GT. He's just that good. Williams easily leads the ACC in rushing and he ranks sixth nationally with 122 rushing yards per game. He has also run for 9 touchdowns, which ties him for fourth place in the nation. He is a tough runner with a low center of gravity, but also has the ability to make people miss in the open field. GT will need to limit him to small chunks rather than large gashes. This is most easily achieved with penetration by the defensive line and solid tackling by the linebackers.
Early Lead. GT would do well to score a touchdown on the first drive in order to put some pressure on Tyrod Taylor and the Virginia Tech offense. The more that the Yellow Jackets can force him to pass, the better they will be. Taylor has had a breakout season so far with eight touchdowns against only one interception because they don't ask him to do too much within the offense. He only averages 17 pass attempts per game and he completes 55 percent, which is pedestrian for a quarterback. Where he does the most damage is by scrambling around in the pocket, buying time for his wide receivers to get open. Everybody remembers the play he made against Nebraska to beat them at the last second. The more that GT makes him pass, the more likely he is to try and force the issue, which will provide interception opportunities.
Continue the offensive momentum. The offense is on a tear right now and at the moment it doesn't seem like anybody can stop the Ramblin' Wreck. Nesbitt's progress has been instrumental to the success of the Yellow Jackets and he will need to continue playing at a high level. He made several big plays against FSU last week and made intelligent reads in the triple option all game long. Last year GT had several missed opportunities against VT which ended up costing them the game. They will need to capitalize this year if they expect to take down the Hokies.
Virginia Tech keys to the game
Red Zone Defense. The Hokies have given up only six touchdowns this year in 22 attempts by the opposing offense. This ranks them fourth best nationally in touchdown efficiency defense behind only Ole Miss, Florida, and USC. GT on the other hand has been a force to be reckoned with in the red zone over the last two games, scoring touchdowns on eight of their ten offensive chances. VT will need to limit GT to field goal attempts in order to come away with victory at Bobby Dodd.
Beamer Ball. Virginia Tech is once again one of the better teams nationally on special teams. They rank in the top 40 in net punting, kick returns, and kick return defense. In what will likely be a close game, a big play on special teams such as a kick/punt return or a blocked punt/field goal could decide the outcome. VT should have the decided advantage against Georgia Tech, who ranks in the bottom 25 nationally in both punt and kick return defense.
Turnovers. Both teams are good at creating turnovers with GT ranking first in the ACC and VT ranking second at slightly less than one turnover gained per game. VT will need to win this battle if they expect to win on the road in a hostile environment. About the only time the triple option has been stopped lately is when it has stopped itself with fumbles. Last week FSU nearly stole a win from the Jackets by forcing three fumbles and then recovering all three of them for turnovers. On the season GT averages 3 fumbles per game and only loses only one of those. VT needs to recover at least two in order to help their chances.
Another Shootout?
GT has won their last two games by an average score of 46-38. Both teams will once again bring high powered offenses to the field on Saturday. VT is first in the ACC with 34.2 points per game while GT ranks third with 33.2 points per game. The biggest difference, however, may be VT's defense, which ranks second in the ACC giving up only 17.7 points per game. The key to that statistic has been their red zone defense as previously described.
B. Thomas
Demaryius Thomas or as his jersey indicates, "B Thomas", leads the ACC with 103 receiving yards per game which also ranks him 15th nationally. He appears in my report just about every week, which won't stop until any cornerback in the ACC is able to shut him down. This week he once again will have a huge size advantage against the Hokie cornerbacks, who are both listed at around 5-11, 190. Bay-Bay is 6-3, 230 and should again be able to feast on man coverage when his number is called.
Third down efficiency
The Jackets top the ACC at converting on third down with a 52.4 percent success rate. This is mostly due to the fact that GT puts themselves in very manageable third and short situations. Nesbitt has been extremely successful this season at running the mid-line option in order to pick up a first down. If he ever comes up short, the Jackets will usually go for it where they are a perfect six for six on fourth down conversions. VT on the other hand tops the ACC in third down defense, with their opponents only converting 27.7 percent of their attempts. GT will need to get the upper hand in this category so that they can continue to dominate the time of possession battle as they have so far this season.
Explosive Passing Attacks
GT leads the ACC and ranks fourth nationally with 277 rushing yards per game, while VT is second in the ACC and ranks 16th nationally with 208 rushing yards per game. Not the way to start a passing attack segment right? But get this, GT also leads the nation with 12 passing yards per attempt and VT is tied for third nationally with 9.9 yards per attempt. This can mostly be attributed to the success of their running games. Both teams do not need to pass much and when they do the opponent is usually not expecting it, which results in huge gains through the air.
Coastal Division Leader
Either Georgia Tech or Virginia Tech has represented the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship game every year since its inception. This year Miami is also in the hunt which makes this game even larger so that GT can potentially control their own destiny once again. A win would put them in a three-way tie for first place. The scenarios for who would go to the championship game become complicated with a three way tie so that break down will have to wait for another day if necessary.
Injury Update
Out: DE Robert Hall (knee), LB Kyle Jackson (foot), Kevin Cone (ankle)
Doubtful: Anthony Egbuniwe (undisclosed illness)
Questionable: DB Cooper Taylor (undisclosed)
Georgia Tech missed several opportunities last year and were flagged for two questionable penalties that ended up costing them the game against Virginia Tech. During the off season, Kam Chancellor also decided to run his mouth and state that the Hokie Defense has the option figured out. This is another game that was circled on the calendar before the season began so the team will be even more focused than normal this weekend. The defense will look to rebound after being scrutinized all week for their lackluster performances during the last two games. The offense also comes in on a roll and will be looking to prove that there is nobody in the ACC that can stop them. The Yellow Jackets will come out and make a statement on Saturday and win by two touchdowns, 31-17.