Thursday, November 9, 2017

Moving on: Battle of the Tech's

Virginia Tech heads to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech.


By: Adam Pace
November 9, 2017

(Photo: ramblinwreck.com)

After a disappointing loss to Miami, the Hokies look to get back on track against the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech. If you have followed this series over the years, you can almost guarantee it's going to be a close game that is won in the fourth quarter. The spread option offense that Georgia Tech runs does a great job of controlling the clock and moving the football. Their head coach Paul Johnson, isn't afraid to go for it on fourth and short either, making the difficulty of stopping this offense even harder. Since the Yellow Jackets control the clock so much, it's even more important that you score touchdowns when you have the ball. Last year, Georgia Tech came into Blacksburg and shut the Hokies down on offense and got out of town with a victory. 

(Photo: Virginia Tech Athletics: Dave Knachel)

What the Hokies need to do to win.

With Virginia Tech officially being eliminated from the ACC championship game, the talk this week has been what motivates them now? All the coaches and players have said winning 10 games and going to a good bowl is the motivation, but will we still see a fire from this team? Having to play at Bobby Dodd Stadium at noon isn't an electric environment and can certainly cause you to get off to a slow start. That could be trouble, especially for an offense that can't seem to get off to a hot start.

If the Hokies want to get out of the ATL with a victory, they have to jump on the Jackets early. Slow starts have hurt this team time and time again this season. The youth and the lack of a go to big play player, have kept this offense from being able to put points up early against good opponents. The Hokies will have their work cut out for them in this game as well, as the Jackets have the ninth ranked defense in the nation. This worries me a lot because the film is out on the Hokies now. Tech's receivers have shown time and time again that they struggle to get separation and with the Hokies lack of a running game, this has the makings of a long day for the offense. Offensively, this unit will have to first protect the ball. They did not do a great job of this last week against Miami and will need to make sure this isn't an issue again against the Jackets. Second, they have to find a way to move the ball early and not have such a slow start. Maybe this calls for a trick play or an early play action bomb, but this offense needs to score on either their first or second possession to give the defense a little bit of breathing room. Finally, they have to find a way to run the ball consistently. The Hokies defense will be tired, so that means this offense needs to be able to move the chains and take a little time off the clock. The best way to do that, is on the ground. Running hasn't been a strong point for this team but they need to find something this week.

Defensively, the Hokies need to make sure they don't fall for the misdirection, like they did last week. Miami was able to get big plays on the ground off misdirection time and time again. The linebackers for the Hokies were fooled big time and weren't able to recover allowing the Hurricanes to gash them for big yardage. This isn't exactly what you want to hear when you are about to play a team that lives on the art of deception. The option that the Jackets run is all about reading the defense and trying to fool them into thinking they know where the ball is going. It requires the defensive players to know their assignments and trust their teammates. Bud knows how to coach against this offense, but can the players do a better job of staying disciplined than they did last year against the Jackets and last week against the Hurricanes? This Yellow Jacket team is lead by junior quarterback TaQoun Marshall, who is a great runner (870 yards) but is very limited in the passing game (667 yards). Virginia Tech will need to get good penetration on first and second down and force Marshall to have to throw the ball down field.

Prediction

I'll be honest, I really don't know who to pick on this one. Georgia Tech always give the Hokies fits and it always comes down to the end of the game. The other factor in this one is Georgia Tech is currently 4-4 on the year. Their game against UCF was canceled due to a hurricane and it probably won't be made up. Left on their schedule after the Hokies are Duke and Georgia. It's safe to say that the Jackets will probably beat Duke but I don't believe they will beat the number one team in the nation. So it is absolutely crucial they beat the Hokies on Saturday if they want to go to a bowl game. It never fails that every time we have the chance to give the Yellow Jackets a bad year and possibly get Paul Johnson fired, they show up and beat us, saving their season and their coach's job. 

But on the other hand, the road team has won the last four games. In addition, Paul Johnson's group has never been able to beat a Bud Foster defense two years in a row. This game is a complete toss up and one that will no doubt come down to the whether the Hokies offense can score points or not. Virginia Tech's offense has taken a lot of criticism this week and while most of it is probably over the top, some of it is fair. Justin Fuente should be able to use that as motivation this week to try to get the best out of his guys and motivate them to go prove a point this weekend. If the Hokies can limit the Jackets to 17 points or less, than I think they can win this one. But if that option offense starts to shine and light up the score board, the Hokies don't have the offense to keep up. With all of that being said, I always trust Bud Foster. Fuente and Cornelsen will do just enough to get the offense to score and the Hokies will sneak out of Atlanta with a victory. Give me the Hokies to win a close one, 20-14. Let's Go.......

Adam's season predictions: 7-2


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