Friday, October 24, 2008

game preview: Georgia Tech


History against the Yellow Jackets: 15-14-1

Last matchup: UVA 28, GT 28 in 2007

Team records: UVA 4-3 (2-1), GT 6-1 (3-1)

Last week: UVA beat North Carolina 16-13; GT beat Clemson 21-17

Line: GT by 11.5

GT blogs: The LegacyX4, Georgia Tech Sports

Georgia Tech season preview here.

Q&A with The LegacyX4 here.

UVA injury report:

OUT: LB Aaron Clark, RB Max Milien, DE Zane Parr, FB Keith Payne, TE Joe Torchia

DOUBTFUL: LB Antonio Appleby

QUESTIONABLE: NT Nick Jenkins, K Yannick Reyering

PROBABLE: WR Maurice Covington, TE Andrew Devlin, DE Alex Field, LB Steve Greer, RB Raynard Horne, FB Curt Orshoski, LG Austin Pasztor, LG Zak Stair

GT injury report:

OUT: WR Tyler Melton, B-back Quincy Kelly, CB Jahi Word-Daniels

QUESTIONABLE: DB Martin Frierson

PROBABLE: A-back Embry Peoples, OL A.J. Smith

Before I start, a quick bonus link to sneak in: the ACC Roundtable roundup is up at Tar Heel Mania.

OK. For a second straight week, we square off against an opponent that I can't muster a single ounce of hatred for. In fact - true story - had I not been accepted at Mr. Jefferson's University, my college choices would have come down to Michigan and Georgia Tech. They have some quality tradition down there in Atlanta. Fortunately, however, the big envelope came in the mail from Charlottesville and I spent four years admiring the sundresses in the stands instead of worrying about The Ratio.


- The glaringly obvious question in this game is how the defense will react to the Paul Johnson offense. Gap discipline is absolutely critical, as is winning the individual battles along the line. Maybe half the plays will be the triple-read-option that is the foundation of this offense; the quarterback typically has three choices, which involve some version of choosing between handing to the fullback, handing to the halfback (which Johnson calls the B-back) or keeping it himself. More traditional option pitches are also run. The 3-4 defense requires a solid nose tackle to occupy the middle of the line - this is utterly critical against Georgia Tech, otherwise the middle of the line will be a soft spot, and linebackers that otherwise can freely flow to the sides to stop the pitch must now watch the middle.

- The DBs must also stay disciplined. Johnson picks up huge chunks of yardage by ordering a play-action pass if he notices the safeties and/or corners cheating against the run. The upshot of running all the damn time is that sometimes a receiver finds himself wide the hell open and the quarterback finds him a split second later. Usually that receiver is Demaryius Thomas, who despite playing in an offense that runs all the damn time, has stats that put him in same company as many of the conference's best receivers. Ras-I is playing, so our hopes of shutting him down are boosted.

- The offense must be efficient and effective. OK, duh. However, you shouldn't need to be told that an offense like GT's that has about an 80/20 run/pass split has little trouble sitting on a lead. Not that Tech can't pull off a comeback, but they're perfectly capable of making seven minutes in the fourth quarter disappear and never come back. Some big plays, therefore, are called for here, because the running game is still not consistent enough to be relied upon to score and score often.


- Overaggressive linebacker play. The DL must be super-aggressive, because the offense is highly disruptible with a lineman in the backfield, or even if the D-line can't be pushed off the line of scrimmage. But linebackers are free to roam about, and if they start chasing down guys who don't have the ball, they're going to leave that second level free for 11 and 12 yard gains. Sintim is as good a linebacker as anyone in the ACC and plays emotional - he can't let those emotions get the better of him. On a similar token, it looks as though Appleby will be out and Childs will get his first start. I think Childs is a fine backer, but I'd probably feel a lot more comfortable with veteran eyes reading the offense from that MLB spot instead of a guy making his first start in a hostile environment.

- Recurring theme: the offensive line can easily lose this for us. We're probably OK as long as Michael Johnson lines up across from Monroe on pass plays, but if he's Barker's assignment instead, I worry. Barker will need help. Conversely, I'd prefer that on running plays, Johnson does line up on Barker's side so that we can get that off-left-tackle run working like it has in recent times.

- The road gremlins. Seems like more of them live at Bobby Dodd than anywhere. I dunno how many times I've tuned into a UVA game played here that we've looked like we forgot how to play football.


Jeeeeeeeeesh......I really don't like our chances here. The oddsmakers would seem to be crazy - a team on a 3-game win streak is an 11.5 point dog? Well, yeah. They must know of our history here. Frankly this is exactly the kind of game we lose all the time. I'm not optimistic about this. Not against this offense that Bob Pruett's never schemed for, not in this stadium, and not against this defense that is top-ten in the land in most worth-a-damn categories. If the defensive line plays like it did against Richmond and not like it did against UNC, we have a fighting chance. If the linebackers also play like they did against UNC and not like they did against USC, we look even better. I just don't see it. The Paul Johnson offense attacks weaknesses. It's perfectly suited to take advantage of any weakness they see in the defense. Maybe a defensive end is playing on a bad shoulder. Maybe one of the linebackers is a freshman pressed into emergency action. Like a boxer aiming for the cut on his opponent's face, Johnson is an expert at showing his players just where, when, and how to exploit the soft spot in any defense. A defense without any weak points can shut it down, but Johnson and Josh Nesbitt have ways of busting loose 25-yard gains just when you think you've got them bottled up. The running game has been slowly regressing, the defense is not the inhuman machine it needs to be in order to be sure of shutting down GT.....I think we lose this one. I hope and pray I'm proven wrong, because this is unquestionably the toughest test left until Blacksburg, and I'd hate to get in the Coastal driver's seat like we have only to find out we can't drive stick.


Boston College at North Carolina, 12:00
Wake Forest at Miami, 12:00
Duke at Vanderbilt, 3:00
Virginia Tech at Florida State, 3:30
NC State at Maryland, 3:30
Off: Clemson

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