VT Defense vs GT Offense
Lately, the vogue defensive strategy for the opposition has been to "make Reggie Ball win the game". He has responded the last weeks. Unfortunately not all the GT WRs have followed his progression. His "stats" (which are misleading) still look pedestrian, but one who watches the game can see growth from his early season struggles. If not for the drops the team has been hampered with lately, his numbers would be very respectable.
So, will VT stick to the script of the previous 3-4 teams? YES. In the minds of the Hokies, their defense is on par with the Miami's of the world. So I fully expect to see the Hokies bring one safety into the "box" all night. We'll likely see Calvin Johnson played with deep help to his side and everyone else 1-on-1. VT is fast on the edges so I wouldn't be shocked to see Reggie throw a near pick or 2. How will the GT WRs respond to going against the higher caliber athletes VT will put on the field? This is a key match-up. The VT DBs bring a much higher skill level and speed than either Maryland or Duke. I've been highly critical of 2 of our top 4 WRs lately and we really need the entire WR corp to perform. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't see much changing there. We will need more of the same from Levon Thomas and Calvin Johnson.
IMO, the success of GT will largely depend on ***surprise*** the running game. I think GT has to take advantage of the 8th man in the box. They have to find the right holes a few times and break out some big chunks of yardage (ala the Chris Woods run against Miami) to keep VT honest. We need RBs P. J. Daniels, Rashaun Grant, and/or Woods to bust a couple of 20-yard plus runs early on. I know the book says to throw when 8 are in the box, but against a blitzing team, all it takes is a little luck with a defender in the wrong hole and all of a sudden there is a track race. Chan Gailey has been stubborn with the run in the past and I hope he is again Thursday. I think VT has a propensity to breakdown on the blitz. If we stay patient and attempt to pound them, I feel one of our backs will find a crease and turn the tide in the game. Nothing slows the blitz faster than getting burned for a big play. The running game will be an investment Thursday night, so just like you stocks, give it time to work and be effective...
GT Defense vs VT Offense
The key will be how much push up the middle is generated. Paging Mansfield Wrotto, Joe Anoai, and Darryl Richard. We need to get a nice push up the middle early in this game. Bryan Randall's first few series usually sum up his play for the game. This is one of those times, I wouldn't be surprised to see the GT defensive line try and give him a little ‘Welcome to the ATL/ACC' tap early on. If GT gets a few hits on him early, we should see the INT total for the team start to increase. We need to allow our play-making secondary a chance to pick a few of his wayward passes.
The most interesting match-up in my opinion is the LBs and how they manage the flats and the middle of the field. VT doesn't strike me as a smash mouth type team. I am more concerned about RBs in the flats and their TE, Jeff King, getting 1st downs on drags across the field. We need to stop these type plays which have traditionally hurt GT defenses. Besides getting easy/cheap yards, they help the QB find a rhythm, which GT doesn't want to allow Randall to discover.
More than anything I want to see major attitude out of the GT defense. I've been disappointed with some aspects of the defense. We've been clutching and dragging down too many ball carriers allowing for far too many cheap yards. I want to see guys making hits instead of just getting tackles. Getting tackles is the ultimate goal, but the method used is the difference between 2nd and 5 and 2nd and 8 from time-to-time. The other thing I want is for America (especially HS football players) to see the passion and emotion exhibited when GT plays defense. This is our first game with real exposure in a few weeks. This week can go a long way to solidifying GT as a defensive powerhouse...
There will be collective prayers going up on every kickoff, punt, field goal, etc. VT is the gold standard when it comes to special teams. Honestly, it's easy to say, VT will get a blocked kick or a return for a TD, I'll make my own bold prediction. GT makes the solid plays on Thursday and VT makes the highlight plays, but not a good highlight play from their perspective. GT will have a couple big returns from the punt game and VT will fumble a punt. In light of all the criticism, GT Special Teams perform admirably. The Jackets absolutely have to contain the VT Special teams to keep momentum on our side early in the game.
Add it all up, and I'm calling for a hard-hitting, penalty filled game. I expect the Hive to call VT players "thugs/punks" and I expect the same from the VT board. I have a feeling this new rivalry will start off on the right foot, filled with disdain for the opposition. I think GT wins the turnover battle and Reggie continues his solid play. My prediction is GT (5-2) wins by 6 points. 3 Turnovers, 4 Sacks by the GT Defense. This win could catapult the unpredictable Jackets into a new state of production under the Gailey watch. Fans could also start planning for a trip to Florida in late December/early January as well with a sound victory.
See you Thursday Night at Bobby Dodd. Bee Loud... Bee Proud...