Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech are on opposite ends of the ACC Coastal Standings. At 1-3, the Yellow Jackets are at the bottom of the division, and on Thursday night they’ll head to Lane Stadium, home of the Coastal leading Hokies.
Both teams had the weekend off, with Georgia Tech trying to rebound from a 28-14 loss to Duke where the Blue Devils ripped open a tie game late in the third quarter thanks to Jackets turnovers on three consecutive series. The Hokies were more fortunate, surviving North Carolina with a 98-yard drive in the waning moments of the fourth quarter to beat the Tar Heels 22-19.
Virginia Tech leads the series 9-6, but the Jackets have won three of the last four.
Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech
Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Virginia Tech -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Virginia Tech receivers vs. Georgia Tech secondary
Damon Hazelton has led the way for the Hokies this year with 29 receptions for 515 yards and five scores. With Sean Savoy, Eric Kumah and Hezekiah Grimsley, quarterback Ryan Willis has some other fine targets as well. And they will be a focus for the Jackets pass defense that ranks 75th nationally. Even after four sacks against Duke — and with Anree Saint-Amour harassing Duke quarterback Daniel Jones for much of the day — Georgia Tech is still 87th with just 1.71 sacks per game, which puts a lot of pressure on the secondary. Led by Wofford graduate transfer Malik Rivera, the Jackets have intercepted eight passes this season, which is a nice number considering the team’s problems with rushing the passer.
2. Georgia Tech offensive line vs. Virginia Tech defensive front
Obviously, Georgia Tech has to have huge rushing numbers if they are going to succeed. That means the linemen will have to play error free in blocking a talented Virginia Tech defense, something Paul Johnson stated that the group did not do in key moments against Duke. The Hokies have not had a lot of success stopping the pass this year, but their rushing defense has been solid, which will be far more important this week. Defending Georgia Tech’s rushing attack is not like slowing down the running games of other teams on the Hokies’ schedule, however, and defensive coordinator Bud Foster will need his unit to know and execute its assignments properly.
3. Third down conversions
Based on their offensive system, Georgia Tech aims to put itself in good down and distance situations. When going right, the Jackets will have a lot of third-and-shorts. They are third in the league in third-down conversion rates, but their problem resides on the defensive side of the ball. Georgia Tech ranks last in the ACC — and 123rd in America — in opponents’ third-down conversions. On the other sideline, the Hokies are pretty good at staying on the field and middle of the road at getting the other team off. So it really is about the Jackets and whether they can allow their offense more opportunities.
There is talk around Atlanta about Paul Johnson, his buyout number, and what his job status may be. Unfortunately, there are some quality teams remaining on the Georgia Tech schedule with Miami and Georgia still waiting down the road. Going to Blacksburg on a Thursday night is not fun either. The Hokies are a team that should be able to at least give the Georgia Tech option some things to think about, and their offense will move the ball in the passing game, which should open up room for Steven Peoples and the other Virginia Tech backs. The Yellow jackets have won their last two games at Lane Stadium. But they won’t win this one as Virginia Tech will go to 4-0 in the league.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Georgia Tech 14
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.