GoJackets Preview: Virginia game

The Virginia Cavaliers come to Atlanta this weekend for Georgia Tech's homecoming. The Yellow Jackets have a little history on their side as they attempt to win their 13th straight homecoming game.

The Virginia Cavaliers come to Atlanta this weekend for Georgia Tech's homecoming. The Yellow Jackets have a little history on their side as they attempt to win their 13th straight homecoming game. The home team has also been the winner in this series 13 of the last 14 games.

However, this game depends on how Tech's opponent may look. Which Virginia team will show up? The Virginia that started the year 1-3? Probably not. The Virginia that has been more efficient offensively winning its last 3 games? Doubt it, with the defense they'll be playing. I expect the Virginia team that can't win on the road to show up. However, I do expect to see Virginia keeping the game closer than their other road games.

Breakdown:

Georgia Tech Offense - The Yellow Jackets are ninth in the nation averaging 248.1 rushing yards per game. B-back Jonathan Dwyer is leading the ACC in rushing and quarterback Josh Nesbitt has shown the ability to have a breakout game running the ball. It will be interesting to see how the triple option fares as Dwyer will take handoffs with only one defensive tackle on the field.

Getting wide receiver Demaryius Thomas involved in the game could really help the Yellow Jackets, as he is averaging nearly 19 yards every time he catches the ball. He has been the lone standout receiver and a go-to guy on third downs.

Tech's offensive line will be called upon to do a better job up front this week. Facing Virginia's 3-4 scheme may be better for Tech's line though, as they have primarily struggled with big defensive tackles. If they keep the penalties to a minimum, we could see the Yellow Jacket offense we saw against Mississippi State.

The X-factor for the Jackets' offense this game is Nesbitt. Dwyer will be called upon to carry a huge load but Nesbitt will have to be sharp in making his reads for this offense to roll. He continuously has made plays when things looked broken down. If he makes plays and the reads, Tech will shine on the scoreboard Saturday. "[Nesbitt] has a calm confidence about his ability and doesn't get rattled. The more he plays, the better he will get," Coach Paul Johnson said this week.

Virginia Offense - The last three games have been quite the turnaround for the Cavaliers as they've averaged over 377 total yards per game and 27 points per game.

Running back Cedric Peerman has gotten back into action after beginning the season hampered by an injury. Peerman busted loose in wins over Maryland and East Carolina for 273 rushing yards when he came back. However, North Carolina shut him down last week to 44 yards on 17 carries. Virginia was still able to pull out the victory in overtime. But, if you look at the stats, Virginia's offense is much better when they get Peerman running well.

Wide Receiver Kevin Ogletree is a weapon averaging 65 receiving yards per game. Virginia also likes to pass out to its tight ends and running backs, forcing opposing teams' linebackers and defensive backs to be disciplined.

Quarterback Marc Verica has been a pleasant surprise to the Cavaliers since they lost quarterbacks Jameel Sewell in the offseason to academic issues and Peter Lalich just a few weeks ago to off-the-field problems. Since throwing four interceptions at Duke, Verica has passed over 71% the last three games with three touchdowns and two interceptions. If Virginia can continue to get this kind of work out of Verica they will be in any game, especially against Tech on Saturday.

The X-factor for the Cavaliers' offense in the game will be their offensive line. A big group led by future NFL first round pick Eugene Monroe has its toughest test this season since their first game with USC. Georgia Tech's defensive line is used to getting a big push most every down.

Georgia Tech Defense - Why are the Yellow Jackets sitting on a 6-1 record? This group is the answer.

The defensive line is as good as any line in the nation led by a trio of seniors: end Michael Johnson, tackle Vance Walker, and tackle Darryl Richard. All three lineman should be playing on Sundays next year. The defensive line is the head of a Tech defense that leads the nation in tackles for loss. They also help the Yellow Jackets lead the ACC in sacks.

The linebackers, led by Kyle Jackson and Sedric Griffin, are as solid as they come despite being a young unit. Look for Brad Jefferson, Tony Clark, and Anthony Barnes to also make contributions. This has been a crucial unit for Tech's redzone defense which ranks eighth in the nation allowing scores 65% of the time inside the 20-yard line. Only seven of these 13 scores have been touchdowns.

The secondary has been the biggest surprise on the defense for many Tech fans this year. This unit is eighth in the nation in pass defense, sixth in the nation in pass efficiency defense, and seventh in interceptions. Rover Morgan Burnett is the star, leading the team in tackles and tied for the nation's lead in interceptions with 5. The Jackets will surely miss senior leader Jahi Word-Daniels this game, as he is out with a hamstring injury.

The X-factor on the defense will be sophomore end Derrick Morgan. As is the case in every other game, Morgan likely won't be double teamed. He has really stepped out of the shadow of the three seniors on the line, as he in second in the ACC in sacks and fourth in the conference in tackles for loss.

Virginia Defense - The Cavalier defense shut out Maryland despite giving up over 300 yards. It only gave up 258 yards to Duke on a day Duke's defense played better and capitalized off turnovers. Other than these two games, it hasn't pretty as they have shown vulnerability against the run. But they have done enough the last few games to pull out wins.

The defensive line is led by freshman Matt Conrath and senior Alex Field who combine for 10 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. This unit is called upon to set it up for the linebackers to make plays. Tech's offensive line will have it's hands full though, as all the linemen and linebackers are huge.

The linebackers are supposed to be the strength of the defense. Senior Clint Stintim is the shining star leading the ACC in sacks and is sixth in the conference in tackles for loss. Senior Jon Copper has been a playmaker on the unit leading the Cavaliers in tackles.

The secondary as been the bright spot on this defense. They've only given up over 200 yards against USC and Maryland who they shut out. They have 11 interceptions led by sophomore Ras-I Dowling with three. Dowling also has five passes defended which also leads the team. Watch out for senior safety Byron Glaspy who has 33 tackles and one interception.

Keys to the game:

Georgia Tech - Quarterback Josh Nesbitt making his reads and helping the offense not to make any mistakes. Will he make the big plays?

Virginia - How quarterback Marc Verica responds to the pressure of an away game and the pressure of a great defensive line. Will he be cool in the pocket?

Prediction:

The Yellow Jackets will stuff Virginia's running game causing the passing game to have limited effects. Tech gets an early turnover or two as their defense does its work, winning a 13th straight homecoming game.

GT 24-13


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