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.
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.