Thursday, October 7, 2010

game preview: Georgia Tech

Date/Time: October 9, 3:30 PM


History against the Yellow Jackets: 16-15-1

Last matchup: GT 34, UVA 9; 10/24/09 in Charlottesville

Last week: FSU 34, UVA 14; GT 24, WF 20

Line: Georgia Tech by 10

Opposing blogs: From The Rumble Seat

Uniform combination: blue jersey, orange pants

Injury report:


WR Bobby Smith
WR Tim Smith
TE Joe Torchia



FB Terence Fells-Danzer
C Mike Price


OT Landon Bradley
WR Kris Burd
LB Darnell Carter
RB Raynard Horne
WR Brian Oden
TE Colter Phillips

Other useful stuff:
GT season preview
Other half
Updated depth chart

Is this the biggest game of the season? No, but ask around and you'll find a faction of the fanbase that wants this one more than any other this year. Any other. In some circles, the game discussion starts and ends with two words: Al Groh. Tech's Paul Johnson hired Groh to install his 3-4 defense, and the results have been mixed so far, giving UVA fans plenty of reason to believe in the chance of beating the ex-head coach.


- Groh is Groh. You think Al Groh will throw what the FTRS boys call the Grohfense out the window for the UVA game? Detractors and defenders alike can agree on this: Groh doesn't mix things up for the sake of it. He brought what he knows to Georgia Tech, which means they'll be running exactly the same defense UVA ran for nine years. The same defense Mike London ran as defensive coordinator. You know where I'm going with this.

- Big-time safety help on run defense. GT's passing game has been ineffective all season. Joshua Nesbitt is completing passes at under a 40% clip, and the wide receivers have caught just 15 of Nesbitt's 25 completions for an average of 10.9 yards a catch. That's a far cry from 2009 when Demaryius Thomas was the passing game, and averaged over 25 YPC. Bottom line: there's nothing scary about Tech's receivers Stephen Hill and Tyler Melton, and I'm totally happy to let Ras-I Dowling and Chase Minnifield deal with them and cheat the safeties up to help in run support. The corners should be instructed to stick with their receivers - Dowling and Minnifield make one of the best CB tandems in the league and should have little trouble - and the safeties should crash the line of scrimmage and focus on stopping the run.


- Predictability. So London knows the GT defense. Yup, and Al Groh knows the UVA offense. He even feels confident enough to point out to the media that UVA still (despite the many coordinator changes and the head coaching change) runs a lot of the same stuff Groh ran for Billy McMullen. This is the same style of offense Groh likely preferred. Groh is a wizard on defense, and if Bill Lazor allows UVA to fall into too many patterns, it'll get shut right down. GT's defense may have trouble executing but there's something about knowing what's coming that makes that problem go away.

- Changing to the 4-3 defense. Yes, I worry about this. The 3-4 is uniquely able to deal with Johnson's triple option. Because it already demands the use of a big nose tackle that can clog the middle, it can take away the middle option just by being itself, and with fewer players. That leaves more players to roam the edges, spy the QB and RB, and shut down the running game. It can turn those consistent four- and five-yard gains into one- and two-yarders. The 4-3, being what the majority of college teams play, is what this offense was designed to attack. London and Jim Reid need to find a way to neutralize this inherent advantage. Especially if they're going to insist on using a 245-pound defensive tackle.

- Poor passing game. Nothing invigorates the GT offense more than the ability to dominate in time-of-possession, and nothing facilitates that kind of domination like three-and-outs on offense brought about by incomplete passes. An efficient, well-run passing game won't guarantee victory here, but an inaccurate outing by Verica will likely guarantee a loss.


I like UVA's chances a lot better without Rodney McLeod - or any of the defensive backs for that matter - on the injury report. I tell ya though: for all that we didn't know about this team following the first three games, we don't know much more after the fourth. It doesn't help that GT is still kind of a work in progress themselves. The Jackets' offense isn't a high-powered Ferrari - it's more like a smooth four-cylinder engine with insanely good gas mileage. Only, one of the cylinders is misfiring, thanks to the lack of a wide receiver to make the passing game go. Mileage may vary. And the switch to the 3-4 is a big shift, as far as these things go. Not quite on the scale of Rich Rodriguez bringing the ninja spread to one of the Big Tenniest of Big Ten schools, but the growing pains are similar at Tech.

Remember, Wake Forest is one of the conference's worst teams, and Tech barely beat their 4th-string quarterback. So this is not the GT of the past two years. Still: we have our own growing pains, and it's still a safe bet that the offense will still have more bad times than good on Saturday.

So....what? Very few outcomes would surprise me on Saturday. GT is a team ripe for a blowout and you know how UVA teams of late have pulled surprise blowouts out of their asses when least expected. So even with that, I'd just shrug and chalk it up to a developing pattern. I'm feeling too wishy-washy about this game to make an actual prediction, so let's put it this way: the outcome that would not-surprise me the most would be a close loss. We're on the road, after all.


Virginia Tech vs. Central Michigan, 12:00
Boston College @ NC State, 12:00
Clemson @ North Carolina, 3:30
Wake Forest vs. Navy, 6:30
Florida State @ Miami, 8:00
Duke, Maryland: bye week

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