ACC clash features Top-25 foes in Atlanta
Atlanta, GA – Two of the ACC's best collide in Atlanta on ranked Virginia Tech Hokies take on the 20th- ranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in what may very well determine the Coastal Division crown.
Frank Beamer's Hokies are in the divisional driver's seat, boasting a 4-1 conference record. Virginia Tech enters this contest with a four-game win streak in tow, following a harder-than-expected 14-10 win over Duke last time out. It certainly wasn't pretty, but a win nonetheless.
"Every week is not going to be magnificent, and this week certainly wasn't magnificent for us," said Beamer following the Duke win. "But sometimes, when you can get through a game when it wasn't so good, that's big in the big picture."
Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets are very much in the hunt for the Coastal Division crown, sitting at 4-2 in league play. Tech halted a two-game skid last time out, posting its most impressive win of the season, handing previously unbeaten Clemson its only loss of the season, 31-17.
These two schools have combined for all six ACC Coastal Division titles. Virginia Tech holds a 5-3 advantage in this series. The Hokies have won three of the last four meetings, including a 28-21 victory in Blacksburg last season.
As has been the case for awhile in Blacksburg, the Hokies rely heavily on a potent ground game. The team's workhorse this season is junior David Wilson. The 5-10, 205-pounder leads the ACC in rushing at 1,185 yards, averaging just over 130 yards per game. He also leads the team with seven rushing TDs, one ahead of quarterback Logan Thomas (6).
A 6-6 sophomore, Thomas has also provided Tech's offense with balance, completing 60.9 percent of his throws, for 1,934 yards and 11 TDs. A full arsenal is at Thomas' disposal downfield, in the form of wideouts like Danny Coale, Jarrett Boykin, D.J. Coles and Marcus Davis. Coale leads the team in receptions (42) and receiving yards (627).
Paul Johnson is certainly concerned with Thomas' ability to make plays.
"I think that you've got to try to get him off his spot where he throws and contain him and not let him hurt you throwing the ball because he's a good athlete and he can pull it down and run it. Rush lanes are important and you hope that he doesn't get hot, because when he gets hot, he goes in streaks. He got hot in the Miami game and he was unbelievable. You've got to change some things up and not let him get comfortable and hope that you can do some things that maybe he hasn't seen."
The Hokies are once again one of the premier defensive teams in the nation, allowing just 15.4 ppg. Opponents are averaging under 300 yards of total offense and Tech has been extremely stingy against the run (86.3 ypg).
The unit took a hit a few weeks ago when leading tackler Bruce Taylor went down with a season-ending injury. There is still plenty of playmakers on the roster, highlighted by players like defensive end J.R. Collins (31 tackles, six sacks), cornerback Jayron Hosley (31 tackles, three INTs) and linebackers Tariq Edwards (43 tackles, 8.0 TFLs, two INTs) and Kyle Fuller (43 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks).
It will be strength against strength, when Georgia Tech's prolific ground game will attempt to find running room against the stingy Hokies. Not many teams do it better than the Yellow Jackets, who are putting up 474.6 yards of total offense, including 328.0 ypg on the ground.
The triple option is spearheaded by quarterback Tevin Washington, who leads the team with 636 yards and 10 rushing scores. Running backs David Sims (564 yards, four TDs) and Orwin Smith (553 yards, 10 TDs) are certainly capable of moving the chains as well. Georgia Tech is averaging nearly six yards per carry and has scored 34 rushing TDs to date.
The Yellow Jackets have had some problems with consistency on the defensive side of things. The team has played the pass well (185.0 ypg), but has been vulnerable against the run (162.4 ypg).
Junior linebacker Julian Burnett is the most active defender, leading the team with 81 total tackles. Safety Isaiah Johnson is a distant second with 48 tackles and tied with cornerback Rod Sweeting (38 tackles) with three INTs.