The Yellow Jackets had ACC Coastal Division foe Miami beaten, only to see the Hurricanes complete a 28-yard pass on fourth-and-10 in the final minute on a drive that led to a game-winning field goal. The 25-24 loss to Miami dropped Georgia Tech to 3-2 and 2-1 in the conference, a mark that could easily be spotless. The Jackets' only other loss was a 42-41, double-overtime decision to Tennessee in the opener.
From a record standpoint, Wake Forest isn't all that different, but the perspective is slightly happier, as one has to think that, deep down, the Demon Deacons can live with their two losses to Florida State and Clemson. Overall, Wake is 4-2 with a 1-2 league mark, and that's about as good as they could have expected at this point.
Even in the topsy-turvy Atlantic Division, it would be a surprise to see coach Dave Clawson's Wake team make much noise in the title chase, so the Demon Deacons are fit for the underdog label this weekend. And even though Georgia Tech has to be sick about what could have been, the Yellow Jackets still have the chance to win out and hope someone knocks off Miami in order to take the Coastal.
Wake Forest at Georgia Tech
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Georgia Tech -6.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Good bye
The bye week came at the right time for the Demon Deacons in a number of ways, though it remains to be seen just how much that will pay off against Georgia Tech. For one, coming off games against two of the more physically imposing teams in the conference in Florida State and Clemson, the Demon Deacons got valuable rest. The most important player to return from injury will be quarterback John Wolford, who is probable to return from a shoulder injury. But the most significant benefit from the bye could be getting the extra time to prepare for Georgia Tech's option looks. No one wants to face the Tech offense on a short week, and even though there's no guarantee the Demon Deacons will be completely ready for it, having that added week could prove key.
2. Recovery mode
Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof has taken some heat for the Miami loss, as the Yellow Jackets allowed 481 yards to the Hurricanes, including that late drive to finish off the win. What the Yellow Jackets need to do is respond with the type of effort that puts that game in the past. There have been some bright spots, as senior defensive lineman Antonio Simmons has 4.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for a loss this season. He and the rest of the defense will have to do their best to contain Wolford, who has an excellent young talent at wide receiver in redshirt freshman Greg Dortch (a team-leading 35 receptions for 430 yards and five touchdowns). It won't take the sting off the Miami finish, but the Yellow Jackets can regain some confidence with a strong effort against Wake.
3. Point man
Replacing a three-year starter at quarterback is never easy, especially when that player is Justin Thomas, who brilliantly led Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson's offense. Enter TaQuon Marshall, who has stepped in admirably and been the type of signal-caller the Yellow Jackets can win with. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound junior has rushed for 541 yards and nine touchdowns and also thrown for 388 yards and five touchdowns. Although Miami held Marshall to just 18 yards on the ground, he should see increased production this week. When Marshall is playing well, the Tech offense is a nightmare to deal with, and that could be the case this weekend.
Both teams have a lot to play for, as the Demon Deacons are inching close to bowl eligibility and the Yellow Jackets still have a shot at making the ACC title game if everything breaks right. Although Wake is a tougher out than normal, this is still a game the Yellow Jackets should win. Everything rests on how well Paul Johnson can get his team to recover mentally from that Miami loss. Look for Tech to move on well enough to sneak past Wake, a team that is better than a lot of people realize.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 27, Wake Forest 23
— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.