Last weekend, the Virginia Cavaliers inched closer to their first ACC Coastal title, defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels 38-31 in Chapel Hill. Virginia (6-3, 4-2 ACC) will begin a stretch of three straight games at home to end the season this week as the Cavs host the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Scott Stadium.
Georgia Tech (2-6, 1-4) has just one conference win on the season, a victory over the Miami Hurricanes on Oct. 19. Last week, the Yellow Jackets lost at home to the Pittsburgh Panthers 20-10. Now, Georgia Tech will try to keep its slim bowl hopes alive with a victory.
In a series dating back to 1965, the Yellow Jackets have a 21-19-1 edge over the Cavaliers. In their last meeting a year ago, Georgia Tech was able to come away with the 34-31 overtime victory.
Georgia Tech at Virginia
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 9 at 12:30 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network Extra
Spread: Virginia -15
When Georgia Tech Has the Ball
Georgia Tech has struggled this season offensively in the transition from a triple-option offense to a pro-style offense. But the Yellow Jackets have also had their moments, showing improvement under first-year head coach Geoff Collins.
In their upset over Miami, Jordan Mason rushed for 141 yards and a touchdown, and he currently leads Georgia Tech with 622 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Quarterback James Graham can also move outside of the pocket, running for 122 yards and one touchdown this year.
The problem is that the Yellow Jackets offense will be matched up against one of the nation’s best defenses this Saturday. Virginia is ranked 17th in the country in total defense, allowing only 310.1 yards per game. The Cavaliers defense did have an off week against the Tar Heels, though, allowing 539 total yards.
When Virginia Has the Ball
After a disappointing showing in a loss against Louisville on Oct. 26, the Virginia offense was able to get back on track last weekend against North Carolina. Quarterback Bryce Perkins accounted for five touchdowns and 490 total yards in the victory, throwing three touchdown passes and running for two scores. With Georgia Tech’s lackluster defense, there’s no reason to believe Perkins and Virginia cannot have another stellar day offensively.
The Yellow Jackets are currently ranked 75th in total defense, giving up an average of 405.5 yards per game. Last week against Pitt, Georgia Tech held the Panthers and quarterback Kenny Pickett to just 204 yards through the air and intercepted Pickett twice. However, Pitt was able to rush for 158 yards, and that proved to be the difference in the win.
Expect Virginia to have a balanced attack, especially since Georgia Tech has a tough time stopping the ground game.
Virginia has its eyes on the prize. The Cavs are a pair of ACC wins away from winning their first Coastal Division title. However, they will need to take care of business against the Yellow Jackets.
Even as Georgia Tech sits at 2-6, this is a game that Virginia cannot take lightly. The Yellow Jackets are capable of running the football effectively. If Georgia Tech can have some success on the ground, it will keep the Jackets in the game.
But Virginia has too much talent on both sides of the ball, along with more depth at every position. As long as the Cavaliers can focus on their opponent, this should be an easy win for them.
Prediction: Virginia 37, Georgia Tech 13
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.