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UVa Football Preview: Georgia Tech

Despite my best efforts in calling the ACC offices, UVa still has to play Georgia Tech this Saturday. And while the spread is only 10 points, it could get very ugly, very quick. That would seamlessly follow the absurd 2nd half the Cavaliers posted last weekend. What, if anything, can the Hoos do this week to try to complete against the infamous Paul Johnson Triple Option?

Georgia Tech History

I recently filled out a survey which talked about rivals and your opinions about them…..for science. It said to list 4 of your favorite college sports team’s rivals. And when I really looked at it, there was no way I would leave Georgia Tech off that list (after UNC, MD, and VT, of course). And while it is not an old school ACC matchup like the afore mentioned state schools, it has produced a bunch of amazing, spectacular games. Overall, the Hoos and the Jackets are tied in the series 17-17-1, with Tech winning the last 3 of 4. But the 2 games that stand out in my mind are the 1990 41-38 loss to Bobby Ross’ Yellow Jackets when the Hoos were #1 in the nation. GT went on to win the National Championship that season. Secondly, who could forget the ‘hook-and-lateral ’ game of 2001 that saw 1100+ yards of offense and a 4th quarter that would make your head spin. Hoos won the game on a Spinner-to-McMullen-to-Pearman hook and ladder with :22 left to win 39-38 in one of the greatest games of all time.

Georgia Tech Now

The Jackets are right where we thought they would be coming into the season. Georgia Tech is 4-3 on the season and 3-2 in the ACC, smack dab in the middle of the Coastal Division. They have wins over Elon, Duke, North Carolina, and Syracuse, with losses to Virginia Tech, Miami, and BYU. While some Wahoo fans will look at the 38-20 beating BYU put on them, we will quickly note that they put up 38 on Duke and 56 on Syracuse.

Georgia Tech Offense

If you are looking for us to explain the triple option again, please read any one of our previous season’s preview of Georgia Tech. All you really need to know is that they will run the ball (5th in NCAA with 304.4 yards per game). Vad Lee runs the offense under center, and while he is not much of a throwing QB (44.4% completion, 8 TD, 5 INT), he is a running threat as the 3rd option. It’s also the A and B backs that makes this Yellow Jacket offense work and leading the way are David Sims (409, 6), Robert Godhigh (273), and Zach Laskey (261, 4) that will be carrying the load on Saturday.

Georgia Tech Defense

No more Al Groh, which means no more 3-4 in Atlanta. They have gone to the traditional 4-3 formation this year with a nose tackle. While everyone will recognized the big DE Jeremiah Attaochu (18 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks), it is a pretty balanced defense from front to back. The other redshirt seniors the Hoos need to watch out for are safety Jemea Thomas (37 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack, 1 FR) and SLB Brandon Watts (35 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 FR).

How Virginia Covers

1.       Assignment Tackling. The key to the triple option is matchup blocking, whether that encompasses straight up man-to-man or a zone read. More importantly, if your man gets the ball, you need to tackle him or it could be a foot race with the safeties and corners all night long.

2.       3rd and a Country Mile. Forcing GT into passing situations is desired as they only complete less than 45% of their passes on the season. If we leave them with 3rd downs of less than 5, you can be sure that they will run it on 3rd (and 4th) downs and keep the chains moving. 3rd and 8 or more and you can be sure that they will look to the air.

3.       Touchdowns. Paul Johnson does not like to run his field goal kicker on the field. First off, when you have someone that goes for it as much as they do on 4th down, you know that he will use all down afforded to him in the red zone. Secondly, Harrison Butker is only 5/8 on the season, with 2 misses inside of 30. That means that if, IF, the Hoos get in the redzone, they need to convert TDs.

Outlook

Like we said in the opener, UVa is a 10-point underdog in this one, which means on a neutral field, Georgia Tech should beat the Hoos by 2 touchdowns. I think that is generous for UVa, mainly due to time of possession. GT just seems to have the ball longer, and can drag out the game when they are up. Nothing about this game gives us confidence that the Hoos will pull it off, but I’ve seen stranger things. Not many though. Prediction: Georgia Tech 42, UVA 14.

Hamilton Riley

About Hamilton Riley

Mild mannered contractor by day, sports blogger by insomnia.

UVa Football Preview: Georgia Tech

gtMike London & Company gear up for every game, but this one has that extra special something to it.

It’s Homecoming!!! Just kidding.

Georgia Tech is playing some very impressive ball recently, so much so they are ranked 12th in the nation, and are a perfect 6-0 so far. One could make the argument that the teams they have beaten are not all that impressive. Western Carolina, Middle Tennessee, and Kansas have not but up much of a fight. The ACC teams have been solid (UNC, NC State, and Maryland) but are not the top teams in the conference. This week they will face a UVa team with 2 weeks to get ready, on the road, in our Homecoming game, and with extra motivation.  So let’s get to our breakdown.

Coaching

Paul Johnson blah blah Navy blah blah brought in the Triple Option. We all know that is not the story. The real story this week is the return of Al Groh to Charlottesville for the first time since he left the head coaching job with the Wahoos. And while Paul Johnson will be front in center, all eyes will be on GTs defensive coordinator.

Offense

This team lives and dies by the Triple Option. Each year they are tops in the country in rushing yards per game and so far this season they are 4th with 360.5 yards per game. What has made them dangerous this year in the incorporation of the passing game as the ‘fourth option’. Now they are only 95th with 193 yards per game, and while new QB Tevin Washington started off hot, as the schedule got harder, his passing stats have decreased. He still has 10 passing TDs to 2 INTs, but his primary role is facilitating the option run, where his rushing yards are steadily increasing. The other players in the rushing game are Orwin Smith (464 yards, 8 TDs), David Sims (432 yards, 3 TDs), and Roddy Jones (226 yards, 2 TDs). Their one big play receiver is Stephen Hill (552 yards, 4 TDs). In addition to gaining steady yards on the ground, Johnson loves to go for it on 4th down and short regardless of where they are on the field, so getting to them early on  in drives will be paramount.

Defense

Al Groh’s famous 3-4 defense is still being cultivated, but has improved slightly. They are 53rd in points against this year with 24.2 points per game and around 343 yards a game. But when you have an offense like the Yellow Jackets do, that’s all you need. ILB Julian Burnett and Safety Isaiah Johnson are the top tacklers on the team and OLB Jeremiah Attaochu is the leading sacker on the team, which is not surprising, as a majority of the pressure comes from the Linebackers in the 3-4. What is surprising about this team, as with most, is they tend to get worn down the longer they are on the field, and the 2nd and 4th quarters have been the defense’s windfall all year and have kept the ACC teams in position to win, especially in the running game, one thing the Hoos can do well. We saw in the UNC and Maryland game that if you can gain a few first downs on the ground, you can grind back into games.

How Virginia Wins

It might look like a Herculean task, but every team has flaws and Georgia Tech really showed their hand the the past 3 games. First off you have to stop the triple option on first and second down. Long third downs of 7 yards or more will force GT to try to pass the ball, which is not their strong suit. Secondly, you have to match running game with running game. This will keep the Yellow Jacket offense off the field and will wear down the defense so that you can take advantage as the game goes along. Lastly, you have to weather the storm early.  There is a learning curve in stoping the triple option, especially now that Washington can throw the ball, but GT outscores opponents 87-17 in the first quarter and 74-14 in the 3rd. So look for the Jackets to have two scoring spurts during the game. If the Hoos can limit the damage, they can have an opportunity late to pull out a win.

How Virginia Loses

Under the Mike London era, the Hoos don’t like ‘scheme’ teams. They seem to do worse against the Spread, End Around Speed Options, and the Triple Option teams. This usually leads to a lot of early points, the Cavs can not match. And if the Hoos give up a ton of points early, I don’t think they have the firepower to go point for point. On that same note, if Virginia abandons the run in favor of the pass to play catch up, it will lead to short drives that will do more harm than good. Lastly, if the Hoos can not defend the pass in man to man, Tech will jump all over the 7 men in the box and grind out first downs.

Predictions

It will be a very emotional day. Regardless of your feelings for how Al Groh left his coaching legacy at UVa, he bleeds Orange and Blue. He is one of our own and should be treated as such. On the field, it is not that we haven’t seen the triple option before, and with 2 weeks to prepare we should be better than most. But while I think the Hoos can stay in the game, the 8.5 point spread for GT is probably generous for UVa, and it even has moved down to 7 as of today. Look for it to be heavily favoring Tech at halftime, with the Hoos coming back in the 2nd half to make it a game, but GT pulling it out late. Georgia Tech 34, UVa 21.

Hamilton Riley

About Hamilton Riley

Mild mannered contractor by day, sports blogger by insomnia.

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