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Matchup: #10 Virginia Tech (8-1) at #20 Georgia Tech (7-2)
Venue: Bobby Dodd Stadium at Grant Field (Natural Grass)
Date: Thursday, Nov. 9
Time/TV: 8:00 pm ET - ESPN
Line: Virginia Tech -1, o/u 48.5
The Thursday night roller coaster continues for me in 2011. After completely misjudging the Miami/Virginia game two weeks ago, I nailed my Thursday night parlay last week when Florida State (-14) had little trouble with Boston College, winning 38-7, while Tulsa (+2) won outright at Central Florida, 24-17. The pair of wins pushes my Thursday night record back to a respectable 7-4 (63%) and gives me some much needed momentum to finish the season out.
For the final leg of 2011, we’ll stay in the ACC and head to Atlanta to catch up with Georgia Tech as they host Virginia Tech in a crucial ACC tilt. How important has this game been the past few years? Since 2005, the survivor of the Virginia Tech/Georgia Tech game has represented the Coastal Division in the ACC championship game.
For much of 2011, it looked as if Georgia Tech might run away with the Coastal Division. And when I say “run away with it”, that is exactly what I mean. Behind coach Paul Johnson’s triple option offense, the Yellow Jackets had the number one rushing offense in the nation and were a perfect 6-0 to start the season.
What happened next was either a case of inconsistent play from Georgia Tech or simply opposing defenses learning how to properly defense the Jackets. Ultimately, it was probably a little bit of both but whatever the reason, Georgia Tech lost in back-to-back weeks against Virginia and Miami and looked very pedestrian in the process.
But just when all the experts were set to write off Johnson’s crew in 2011, the Jackets righted their ship with an impressive 31-17 win against Clemson – handing the Tigers their first loss of the season. Now rested after a bye week, the Jackets see a huge opportunity with the Hokies coming to town. Win, and Paul Johnson’s team could very week end up in the ACC Championship.
The formula for the Jackets Thursday night will be what it has always been under Johnson: limit the mistakes, play decent defense and using a devastating ground game for offense – and certainly not in that order. Behind junior quarterback Tevin Washington , Georgia Tech averages 328 rushing yards a game, good for 2nd in the nation. As one would expect, the Jackets don’t boast much of a passing offense, only averaging 146 yards a game through the air (105th nationally).
It’s good news and bad news for coach Frank Beamer as he faces Georgia Tech’s triple-option. On the plus side, the Hokies too are coming off their bye week and extra preparation for Johnson’s schemes is absolutely critical to defending it. Georgia Tech’s first loss in 2011 came facing a Virginia team who was fresh off their bye week and the extra reps in practice were seen as a key to the upset win.
The bad news for Beamer and company is that while his defense ranks sixth in the nation against the run, allowing just 86.3 yards per game on the ground, eight of the top nine tacklers from the 2010 Georgia Tech game won’t be in the lineup Thursday night either due to graduation or injury. Even worse, the Georgia Tech has averaged 311 rushing yards per game against Beamer since Paul Johnson took over in Atlanta in 2008. And that average isn’t trending in the right direction as the Jackets rushed for 278 rushing yards in 2008, 309 in 2009, and 346 last year. It’s safe to say that if Johnson’s option can top 346 yards on the ground Thursday night, the Hokies will likely be flying back to Virginia with a loss.
But the Hokies have won four of the last six against Georgia Tech and enter this game on a four game winning streak. The key for Virginia Tech Thursday night will likely be its own running game. Virginia Tech star running back David Wilson is the nation's second-leading rusher with 1,185 yards on the season. The junior has eight 100-yard games so far in 2011, including six straight. Paired with sophomore QB Logan, the Hokies have a blue collar offense which predominately keeps the ball on the ground. It’s not sexy but can be highly effective in combination with a solid defense and always potent special teams.
The bottom line in this one is Georgia Tech has averaged 41 points a game during a six-game home winning streak while the Hokies have held their last three opponents to 17 points or fewer. Whichever team comes closest to continuing those respective metrics will win this game.
Virginia Tech is 2-7 against the spread
The Hokies are 4-0 SU on the road, but 0-4 ATS
The ‘under’ has gone 3-1 on the road for V-Tech
Georgia Tech is 5-3 ATS
The Yellow Jackets have gone 5-0 SU at home (4-1 ATS)
The last three meetings between the two teams have been decided by seven points or less.
Virginia Tech has won two of the three during this span, but G-Tech has covered all three. The ‘under’ has cashed in all three.