TaQuon Marshall and the Yellow Jackets look to knock off the Hokies to get a step closer to bowl eligibility
Virginia Tech went to Miami feeling very confident about its chances. The Hokies had seen a North Carolina team that had been destroyed in Blacksburg 59-7 take the Hurricanes to the bitter end the previous week before falling 24-19. They undoubtedly felt that they were better than Miami.
But Miami claimed control of the ACC Coastal Division with a 28-10 victory, and now Virginia Tech has to regroup and face the option attack of Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are also coming off a loss, 40-36 in Charlottesville against Virginia. At 4-4, with a game cancelled due to Hurricane Irma and No. 1 Georgia coming to Atlanta on Thanksgiving weekend, Georgia Tech's bowl eligibility may hinge on this result.
Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 11 at 12:20 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ACC Network
Spread: Virginia Tech -3
Three Things to Watch
1. TaQuon Marshall — the good and bad
Overall, the Georgia Tech quarterback has had a very good season and seems to be a great fit for Paul Johnson’s offense. He has rushed for 870 yards and 14 touchdowns, with 143 of those yards and two scores coming last week against Virginia. In the Georgia Tech system, the passing game is about connecting on big plays, and Marshall has averaged more than 18 yards per completion. Completion percentage is not as important for a Jackets quarterback, but it’s hard to ignore the recent trend. In his last two games, he is just 9-of-35 and last week threw his first two picks of the season. He also has fumbled eight times in eight games. A former running back, Marshall is still undergoing refinement, and he needs to eliminate the miscues this week.
2. Virginia Tech front seven
Going against an inconsistent Miami offensive line, the Hokies' defensive front was expected to control the action. But Miami more than held its own in this department, a key factor in the Hurricanes’ win. This week brings a different challenge. Virginia Tech is more talented than the Georgia Tech blockers, but the Hokie defenders must be in the right position and be able to get off blocks. Winning first down and putting the Yellow Jackets in bad down-and-distance situations will be very important.
3. Virginia Tech’s receivers vs. Georgia Tech’s secondary
Georgia Tech has a strong rushing defense, but the Jackets don’t put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. The Hokies’ offensive line wasn’t great last week but should be able to hold off the Georgia Tech rush and give quarterback Josh Jackson time to throw. That sets up a battle between Cam Phillips (above, right), Sean Savoy and the other Virginia Tech receivers against Corey Griffin, Lawrence Austin and the Georgia Tech defensive backs. Safety A.J. Gray missed last Saturday’s game with an injury and is questionable for this week. He has been one of the Jackets' top defenders this season, and his presence would give them a boost.
Virginia Tech put so much mentally into last week’s contest, and now that the division is out of reach, you have to wonder about the team’s psyche going into this week. There is still plenty to play for as a New Year’s Six Bowl is still a possibility, but the Hokies have to get past the loss in Miami. They will face a Georgia Tech squad that has lost three of its last four and also may be desperate at 4-4, needing two more wins to get to a bowl. Kick and punt coverage have hurt the Yellow Jackets immensely, as have mistakes at key moments. Virginia Tech will win the battle up front defensively, and the offense will make enough plays in the passing game to give the Hokies a victory.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Georgia Tech 21
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.