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Ga. Tech at Va. Tech

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Editor's note: Christian Alexander is locked and loaded with another pick pack for Thursday's college football action!

Georgia Tech (5-3, 3-2 ACC) at #20 Virginia Tech (6-2, 4-0 ACC)
7:45 PM ESPN
Lane Stadium (Natural Grass)
Sports.com Line: Virginia Tech -13 O/U 56

With the score 28-24, and having a play on 'over' 57.5, I just needed one more touchdown last Thursday night to seal a winner. And so as Florida State lined up from the three yard line with under a minute left in the game, I realized it was cutting it a little close but felt confident the Seminoles were about to punch it in for the go-ahead score and in the process, give me a “W”.

Of course, no sooner had that thought crossed my mind than FSU QB Christian Ponder took the snap and fumbled the ball – by brushing it against one of his teammates no less – and NC State recovered to end the game. Ah yes, the joys of gambling...

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Trying to forget that game – and a few others from this past weekend – let’s turn the page and take a look at what’s on the docket for tonight. Staying in ACC country, we have a great showdown between two of the best teams in the conference over the past three years. Georgia Tech is the reigning ACC Champion, while Virginia Tech won both the 2007 & 2008 conference titles.

If Georgia Tech is to repeat as ACC Champs, coach Paul Johnson knows his team had better start winning – and now. Thanks to Virginia’s unexpected upset of Miami last weekend, Virginia Tech now leads a trio of teams including the Hurricanes, Georgia Tech and North Carolina by two games in the ACC Coastal Division. That means Georgia Tech must not only beat Virginia Tech but also Miami and Duke, and then hope the Hokies lose another conference game for the Yellow Jackets to go back to Charlotte to play in the ACC Championship Game.

But first things first. This Thursday night in Blacksburg, VA the weather is calling for rain showers and cold temperatures and if that wasn’t enough, the Yellow Jackets will have a face a Virginia Tech team with revenge on their mind. Last year the Hokies were ranked No. 4 in the nation but were tripped up in Atlanta by a score of 28-23.

To take down Virginia Tech again and keep their ACC title hopes alive, Georgia Tech is going to have to figure out a way to slow down a Virginia Tech offense which is currently firing on all cylinders.

After starting the year 0-2, including an embarrassing loss to James Madison, Virginia Tech has ripped off six straight wins. Coach Beamer’s crew has looked increasingly impressive these last few weeks, posting at least 40 points in the last four games.

The offense is run by QB Tyrod Taylor who is flying under the radar as one of the best signal callers in college football this season. Taylor has the Hokies perfectly in balance, averaging 214.8 yards on the ground and 209.9 yards in the air while averaging 37 points a game. Besides running a balanced attack, Taylor has made few mistakes as his 15-3 touchdown pass-interception ratio would indicate.

Taylor teams up with RB’s Darren Evans and Ryan Williams (hamstring) to give the Hokies a potent ground attack which might be bad news for Georgia Tech’s defense which is ranked 75th in the nation against the run.

That said, if one team in this game should be worrying about the others ground game it’s Virginia Tech. Georgia Tech will again bring coach Paul Johnson’s vaunted triple-option scheme that has dented the Hokies for over 300 yards rushing in each of the last two seasons.

This year Georgia Tech has picked up where they left off in seasons past and predictably, the Yellow Jackets lead the ACC in rushing (317.4 yards per game). The maestro of the triple-option is quarterback Joshua Nesbitt who needs just 280 rushing yards to become the eighth player in NCAA history with 3,000 career rushing yards and 3,000 career passing yards.

The senior teams up with “A-back” Orwin Smith – who averages a whopping 11.4 yards per carry - and “B-back” Anthony Allen (86.5 ypg & five touchdowns) to give the Yellow Jackets an extremely dangerous backfield.

Don’t think Frank Beamer hasn’t been preparing for this game a while. Word has it that Beamer and his staff paid a visit to Iowa last spring to pick the brains of the Hawkeyes staff after they held the Yellow Jackets to nine first downs last year in an Orange Bowl win. Talk about advance scouting.

Preparation however seems to be Paul Johnson’s forte. In fact, Georgia Tech is 8-2 over the past three years when the team has more than seven days to prepare. Combine that stat with the fact that the Yellow Jackets have never lost consecutive games during Paul Johnson’s watch – and they lost to Clemson 27-13 last time out – and maybe we should begin to regard the home team as the underdog.

One thing is for sure: The home team has been in this spotlight before as this will be the ninth straight year Virginia Tech has hosted a Thursday night game. The Hokies are 16-5 in Thursday night games since 1994. Virginia Tech has been a moneymaker this season with a 6-1 mark against the spread while Georgia Tech has not been quite as generous with a 3-4 ATS mark.

  
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