Friday, September 12, 2008

Hokie Matchup: vs. Georgia Tech

This weekend's Hokie matchup finds Virginia Tech meeting Georgia Tech at VT's home in Lane Stadium. Last year was an emotional ride for the Hokies, as the VT QBs had their jerseys stolen before the game and were forced to wear old GT jerseys donated by the opposing team. VT dominated in that game, but this year will likely be a different story.

VT only has a one-game lead in this series, 3-2, that dates back to 1990. While GT is the better team right now, 2-0 overall, 1-0 ACC, (VT is 1-1 overall, 0-0, ACC), VT isn't likely to make this easy for them. Historically, VT has the advantage — the Hokies are 16-1 in conference openers under head coach Frank Beamer, going 12-1 in the Big East and 4-0 since moving to the ACC in 2004. Also historically, VT should be OK, because the last two times the team lost its season opener (as it did against ECU this year), the Hokies ended up still winning the ACC and going to a bowl game (the previous two times were in 1995 and 2004, losing to BC and USC, respectively).

While the Hokies have history on their side, the stats back the Yellow Jackets right now. Check it out:

TEAM AVERAGES & NCAA RANKS
OFFENSETMPER GAME AVERAGE / NCAA RANK
Total YardsGT
370.0 / 72nd
VT
305.0 / 98th
Passing YardsGT
114.5 / 113th
VT
122.5 / 110th
Rushing YardsGT
255.5 / 15th
VT
182.5 / 40th
Points ScoredGT
30.0 / 56th
VT
23.0 / 86th
Source: ESPN.com

So, who will win tomorrow's game?

I think both teams will put up quite a fight, but ultimately it will come down to the coaching decisions made by Frank Beamer and his staff and also on how well the young Hokies are mentally and physically prepared for an ACC battle.

If Beamer leaves fifth-year QB dud Sean Glennon on the bench for the majority of the game, allowing Tyrod Taylor to get the ball to receivers with his approximately 80-percent passing completion rate (so far this season) and to run the ball downfield for 60-yard QB scampers, that'll help a lot. If the VT coaching staff actually learns their lesson the third time around and just kicks the field goal instead of going for it on fourth down in the first quarter of the game, that'll help a lot too. If the Hokies' special teams perform as well as they have been and block some kicks, that'll help even more. However, I would like to see the special teams get a little more aggressive, block a few more kicks (or force some rushed, poor kicks) and get some better returns than they have been (man, I really wish we still had Eddie Royal doing for us what he's doing for Denver now).

Georgia Tech will not be able to beat the Hokies in the air. The VT secondary, even though there are some younger players on the defensive lineup, is just too good for a team like GT to beat. But, we saw that VT's defense against the running game wasn't very good against ECU. And, GT has a decent running game. If the Yellow Jackets keep the ball on the ground, don't have any turnovers, and remain free of too many penalties, they have a really good chance of shocking the Hokies early on.

So it'll take a combination of a lot of things to really determine tomorrow's outcome. It all just depends on whether there's smart coaching going on and whether or not special teams and turnovers are a factor. I wouldn't even dare try to call this one, but I hope the Hokies can pull it off and show us that the ECU loss and the slow start against Furman were just examples of the old cliché "working the bugs out."

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