Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech
September 25, 2013
By Joe Nelson
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The ACC takes center stage again on Thursday night after last week’s sloppy game between Clemson and NC State. This week’s game features two Coastal division rivals in a rematch of a game that went overtime last season. The winner of this game could have a head start on the division title and the winner will almost certainly find themselves in the Top 25 next week with both teams in the ‘others receiving votes’ list this week.
Matchup: Virginia Tech Hokies at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Venue: Bobby Dood Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (grass)
Date: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Time/TV: 7:30 PM ET – ESPN
Line: Georgia Tech -7½, Over/Under 43½
Last Meeting: 2012 at Virginia Tech (-7½), Virginia Tech 20-17 OT
These teams opened the 2012 season on Labor Day with a compelling game led by defense. A 7-7 tie was broken in the fourth quarter and after Georgia Tech seemingly won the game with a touchdown with 44 seconds to go, Virginia Tech managed to force overtime with a late field goal. The Hokies prevailed in overtime but neither team went on to have the season that most expected as both teams finished with just seven wins even after bowl victories.
Georgia Tech was the representative in the ACC Championship game last season by default as North Carolina and Miami were not eligible for the postseason but the Yellow Jackets played highly ranked Florida State tough and then went on to soundly defeat USC in the Sun Bowl, a win that provided a nice finish to an otherwise rocky season. Things are looking much more promising this year with back-to-back ACC wins over Duke and North Carolina the last two weeks. The Yellow Jackets are in the midst of a very tough stretch of the schedule however with road games at Miami and at BYU the next two weeks.
While Virginia Tech lost the big opening game with Alabama by 25-points, it was about as impressive as a 25-point loss could be. The defending two-time national champions were held to just 206 total yards and while the Hokies did not accomplish a lot on offense either the defense earned major respect. Alabama might have been in caught in a very tight game if not for three non-offensive touchdowns that helped them pull away. Virginia Tech has won all three games since the opening loss but the wins have not come easily, with a 15-10 win at East Carolina and needing three overtimes to beat Marshall 29-21, getting big tests from two of the better teams in Conference USA the last two weeks.
After facing passing offenses the last two weeks, the Virginia Tech defense will face a difficult adjustment on a short week with Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack. The Hokies have won four of the five games in this series since Paul Johnson took over in Atlanta in 2008 but only one meeting was decided by more than seven points. Georgia Tech has rushed for 345 yards per game this season but if the Yellow Jackets are going to compete for the division title again it will be because of the improvement on defense, allowing just 11 points per game through three games and limiting Duke and North Carolina to just 34 combined points. Last week’s win over the Tar Heels was particularly impressive as the team did not panic after falling behind 20-7 and the defense did not allow a point in the second half.
While Conference USA may not be that strong this season, holding East Carolina to 10 points and Marshall to just 21 points in an impressive showing for the Virginia Tech defense as those two teams could end up among the higher scoring teams in the nation by the time the season is over. The secondary for the Hokies may be one of the best in the nation even with cornerback Antone Exum still out of action for likely a few more weeks. Defending the pass will not be the issue this week as the Hokies will need to hold up front against the rushing attack and the linebacker unit which may be the weakest spot of the defense will have a big test.
Sophomore quarterback Vad Lee already has passed for seven touchdowns this season for Georgia Tech while also scoring on a rushing touchdown in each game. Lee is second on the team in rushing behind senior running back David Sims but this is a team that really spreads the ball around as in three games 14 different players have at least two carries. Junior DeAndre Smelter has been the leading receiver and his size adds another dimension to an offense that has been passing just enough to keep the offense running smoothly. One area of concern for Georgia Tech has been in the kicking game as the Yellow Jackets are just one for three on field goal attempts with both misses from freshman Harrison Butker coming from less than 40 yards.
The Virginia Tech offense starts with senior quarterback Logan Thomas who is one of the biggest mobile quarterbacks that college football has ever seen. He has worked hard on his passing now in his third season as a starter but he has thrown six interceptions already this season and is not any closer to shedding his reputation as a turnover-prone quarterback. His numbers have improved after completing just four passes against Alabama but he has thrown an interception in every game and is yet to complete more than 59 percent of his passes in a single game this season, not even against Western Carolina. After rushing minimally in the first three games of the season Thomas ran 23 times last week including two touchdown runs and the Hokies are most dangerous when he is providing a threat on the ground as well as he did rush for over 400 yards last season. Freshman Trey Edmunds has been the top rusher for the Hokies, averaging 4.5 yards per carry with 352 yards in four games and the Hokies have three receivers with at least 12 catches but there have been few big plays in the passing game.
This game will provide the biggest test of the season for the Georgia Tech offense as last year the Yellow Jackets had to work for just 288 yards against the Hokies in the opening week loss. The Georgia Tech defense also allowed Thomas to have one of his better games last year and it will be interesting to see if the Yellow Jackets have really improved as much as the early season numbers are suggesting as this was a team that allowed 28 points and 374 yards per game last season. Georgia Tech was just 4-3 S/U at home last year but Virginia Tech only won once on the road last season, though they have already matched that win count this season.
Last Meeting: Georgia Tech went up 17-14 with just 44 seconds to go last season in Blacksburg in the opening game of the season to seemingly deliver a great upset win. Virginia Tech had two timeouts left and they got a 22-yard play on first down to approach midfield. After a few short completions it was 4th and 4 with just 13 seconds left at the Georgia Tech 47-yard line. The Hokies managed to connect for a 23-yard play to give kicker Cody Journell a chance. Journell had missed a kick earlier in the fourth quarter from a shorter distance and this was his first game after being suspended for the Sugar Bowl the previous season. He hit the 41-yard field goal to force overtime and after the Hokies got an interception in overtime on Georgia Tech’s possession, he drilled the game-winner from short range.
Series History: Georgia Tech is just 1-4 S/U but 4-1 ATS in the last five years of this series. Since 1990 Georgia Tech is 3-7 S/U and 5-5 ATS in the series. Two years ago in Atlanta Virginia Tech won 37-26 as a slight home favorite and the last win for the Yellow Jackets came at home in 2009, 28-23 as a slight home underdog over a then #4 Hokies squad. This will be the first time since 2008 that neither team is ranked in this matchup.
Line Movement: After opening at -7½ the line did push up to -8 but has settled back down to -7½. The total has climbed, opening at 41½ and up to 43½ at most outlets by Wednesday.
Virginia Tech Historical Trends: Since 1980 Virginia Tech is 64-42-3 ATS as an underdog, including going 16-9-1 ATS since 2001. Virginia Tech is just 1-4-1 ATS in the last six games as an underdog however going back to the 2010 season. Since 2004 Virginia Tech is 34-10 S/U and 28-16 ATS in road games but since the start of the 2012 season the Hokies are 2-4 S/U and 0-6 ATS in road games.
Georgia Tech Historical Trends: Georgia Tech is just 49-61-7 ATS as a home favorite since 1980. Since Paul Johnson took over the Yellow Jackets are 21-6 S/U and a 15-10-2 ATS as a home favorite however. Georgia Tech has won and covered in six consecutive games as a favorite of seven or more points.