Nov. 19, 12:30, ACC Network
Here's The Deal … At this time last week, Georgia Tech and Duke were clinging to hopes of winning the Coastal Division and earning bowl eligibility, respectively. Neither pursuit is a possibility at this time. The Yellow Jackets fell at home to Virginia Tech on national TV last Thursday night, ending any hopes of playing for a second ACC championship in the last three years. Losers of three of its last four games, the Ramblin' Wreck will spend the next two Saturdays looking to recapture some momentum, and improve their bowl appeal.
The Blue Devils will not be a part of the postseason for the 16th consecutive year, suffering the ineligible-clinching loss to Virginia a week ago. A loser of five straight games since edging above the .500 mark on Oct. 1, Duke has been unable to make the necessary strides under fourth-year head coach David Cutcliffe. And if a quality leader, such as Cutcliffe, can't get this thing turned around, there are justifiable concerns in Durham that no one will.
Why Georgia Tech Might Win: A subpar Blue Devils has yielded at least 40 points in three games this season. The Yellow Jackets are liable to be No. 4. They run a fine-tuned option system that takes time to prepare for, spreading the field with hard-to-contain playmakers. Six different players have rushed for more than 200 yards on the nation's third-ranked ground game, headed by QB Tevin Washington, A-back Orwin Smith and B-back David Sims.
Georgia Tech has shown a penchant under head coach Paul Johnson for scoring quickly, and wearing out opposing defenses with its methodical and unyielding ground attack. And if Duke overcommits, Washington will exploit the secondary with help from big-play WR Stephen Hill.
Why Duke Might Win: For good reason, Al Groh's Georgia Tech defense is under scrutiny. The unit has been a letdown during the lean last month, bottoming out in the 37-26 loss to Virginia Tech. It's sporadic and inconsistent, especially against the run. Now, the Blue Devils are not exactly built to exploit opposing front walls, but the passing game will be dangerous if the Yellow Jackets are unable to mount a pass rush. While QB Sean Renfree has struggled in his junior year, he has an intimate knowledge of the system, and a talented receiving corps led by TE Cooper Helfet and wideouts Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner.
What To Watch Out For: Little went right for the Georgia Tech defense a week ago, but the unit is not without talented players. The Isaiah Johnson-led secondary has been consistent for most of the year, and sets up an intriguing matchup with all of those sure-handed Duke receivers. The Yellow Jackets' most combustible defender—for both good and bad—has been sophomore LB Jeremiah Attaochu. He has a great future as an edge rusher on the Flats, but needs to do a better job of controlling his emotions, and avoiding unnecessary penalties. One such eruption last week will cost him the first half of Saturday's game.
What Will Happen: A week after the emotional loss to Virginia Tech, just how motivated will Georgia Tech be for this trip to Wallace Wade Stadium? It's a justifiable concern for Johnson and his assistants. While it might get out of the chute slowly, it's not as if Duke has shown an aptitude for capitalizing on the other guy's malaise. Once the Yellow Jackets snap out of their funk, they'll start to roll downhill, building some distance on the Blue Devils with a spate of long bursts, accentuated by a couple of well-timed heaves from Washington to Hill.
CFN Prediction: Georgia Tech 31 … Duke 17