Deja Vu. The top 15 Virginia Tech Hokies play host to the top 25 Yellow Jackets in a game to seize control of the ACC Coastal Division in an early (and pivotal) conference game. Seems like just last year we were in this same situation about the same time. Well, that's because we were. And, for the Yellow Jacket fans, boy was it ugly. Now, normally I am not one to live in the past. But, given the outcome of last year's game, it will certainly play a part. The question lingers as to whether it serves as the proper motivation for the Yellow Jackets or whether it will serve as doubt about their abilities.
So, are the Hokies their usual selves?
Yes and no. On defense, VT boasts the top rated defense (statistically year to date) in the conference. The only caveat to that is that the level of competition hasn't exactly been stellar. Nevertheless, with their top-notch defensive coordinator Bud Foster, you can still expect that these guys will defend.
No holes at all in their D?
I wouldn't say that they have any real gaping holes, but there are some areas that Reggie, Calvin, and crew can look to exploit. Cincinnati (probably the best team VT has played so far) struck with several long gainers to set up most of their points. That tells me there might be some big play vulnerability. So, its a good bet that the Yellow Jackets will take some shots deep and likely connect on a couple. Reggie Ball, however, needs to watch the coverages as VT has really excelled at intercepting passes this season. Fortunately, that has been a strong suit of his thus far this season - throwing only one real interception of consequence.
I also expect that the Jackets will attempt to use VT's pursuit against them and use a lot of misdirection on the ground. Misdirection is a staple of the GT offense, so it should come as no surprise.
Got it. Solid D. So, then this new QB and offense of VT must not be that good?
Its really tough to say. Thus far, the Hokies have faced Duke, UNC, and Cincinnati - three teams that immediately make one think of defense (HA!). And, they haven't exactly overwhelmed any of them to date. My answer is that I don't think they are that good - at least not yet. On top of all that, their #1 receiver David Clowney is coming off an appendectomy. He'll play, but you can't expect 100% from him. And, their #2 receiver Josh Morgan is suspended. The Hokies are pretty deep at receiver, but that's still a lot of dropoff from full strength.
In typical Beamer fashion, a large percentage of their points have been set up by special teams and defense. Glennon has been efficient in that he hasn't made any real mistakes. But, neither has he done much to make you really worry. On top of that, Glennon hasn't faced anything like the pressure that Jon Tenuta's defense will exert. Last, the Hokie offensive line hasn't really come together yet and has been inconsistent and sometimes confused. Brandon Ore, however, is possibly the best running back that the Jacket defense has faced this year to date.
One thing that should be corrected is a common misconception about the GT defense. Most people believe that the GT defense is all about blitzing to stop the pass. That's really not the case as much as folks would believe. Tenuta's blitzes are targeted as much (or even more) towards the run as they are the pass. Having said that, if Ore can get past the first tackler or three, then he could rip off some big gains. But, I believe he is going to face a lot of tacklers in the backfield unless the Hokies O-Line steps it up substantially from their performances to date.
BEAMERBALL (aka special teams)!
It was Beamerball that turned the tide last year. And, VT has a clear advantage here. Really though, this advantage is about punt/kick blocking as it is anything else. If (!!) the Jackets can get their punts and kicks off, then there is nothing about the VT return game that is that spectacular (relatively speaking). The kickoff return problems that plagued the Jackets early on looked improved drastically the last 2 weeks (looking downright acceptable vs UVa).
Key to the game?
There's no matchup in this game that really stands out all that much as a clear gamewinner for either team. The O vs D and special team matchups largely offset the small advantages that a particular team has in any area. Like most folks that have done some prognosticating on this matchup, I expect a low-scoring affair. To me, the key is how the Yellow Jackets weather the inevitable momentum shift towards the Hokies. There is ebb and flow in every game. Last year, the Hokies got it going in their direction, the crowd took off, the Hokies poured it on, and the Jackets had a hard time recovering before the game was out of hand. If GT can maintain their composure, weather the storm, and wait for that momentum to swing back in their favor (and it will if they don't panic), then the game will come right down to the end.
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