For Vanderbilt, they've been struggling but they were almost able to pull off a nice upset in Columbia against South Carolina last Saturday. Leading in the 4th quarter 10-7, the defense gave up a touchdown pass to go down 14-10. The Commodore offense had a couple chances from there but couldn't execute to get the score or the win.
Keys to the Game:
Vanderbilt Offense – Pound the ball. For Vanderbilt, having success with their ground game is vital for them in this game. They ran the ball pretty well last week at South Carolina and that kept them in the game. Freshman running back Warren Norman has been solid this season making his impact running the ball and returning kicks on special teams. If he and the Vandy offense can keep Georgia Tech's defense on the field and the ball way from Tech's offense, things will get interesting.
Georgia Tech Offense – Discipline. There is the ever-meaningful execution and importance of making blocks and correct reads in this offense that help to destroy opposing defenses, but the Yellow Jackets need to limit their mistakes to become more consistent. Yes, it seems that they're scoring and gaining yards at a high rate, but as Coach Johnson said, things can get better and need to get better. Georgia Tech may be 37th in the nation but penalties can really kill a Yellow Jacket offensive drive. If they can keep it under six penalties for the game, Tech shouldn't struggle.
Vanderbilt Defense – 3rd down defense. Especially in 2nd half play, Georgia Tech has been controlling the clock by making good on their 3rd down execution. Also, the Yellow Jackets have been great on 4th downs. So, if Vanderbilt can get the early stops on 3rd downs outside of 4-down territory, they'll have the opportunity to take field position and the clock away from Georgia Tech. For the record, Tech is making good on 52% of its 3rd down conversions and is 73% on their 4th down tries.
Georgia Tech Defense – Contain the QB. Vandy's Larry Smith is a quarterback gifted with athleticism and can make an impact running the ball. Georgia Tech needs to keep him and the running game from going anywhere and force them to pass from the pocket. If they can get Vanderbilt in some 3rd and long passing situations, then they should be pretty successful as the Commodores aren't much of a threat through the air.
Who to Watch:
VU RB #27 Warren Norman (pictured above) – The true freshman is averaging over 66 rushing yards per game, almost six yards per carry, and has scored three touchdowns. He is also a huge threat as a kick returner averaging 29 yards per return and has scored twice this season.
VU CB #5 Myron Lewis – The big senior has made 34 tackles and three interceptions this season. He may be the biggest and most talented corner that GT wideout Demaryius Thomas will have seen so far this season.
GT B-back #21 Jonathan Dwyer – Dwyer is silently having the same type of season he had last year up to this point. He exploded on the last stretch of 2008 on his way to ACC Player of the Year. "The Diesel" is showing no signs of slowing down averaging 110 rushing yards per game the last five games and has three touchdowns over that stretch.
GT LB #51 Brad Jefferson – Georgia Tech's recent success against the run has come large in part due to the play of their linebackers. The junior and captain Jefferson leads the team with 50 tackles and is really starting to play consistently after Tech "simplified" their defensive schemes a couple weeks ago.
Key Stat to the Game:
Time of Possession – Much has been made of this in recent weeks as Georgia Tech now leads the nation in controlling the clock averaging almost 35 minutes per game with the ball. Vanderbilt is 117th in the nation in this category and will be desperate at trying to turn this part of the game. During Tech's five-game winning streak, they're averaging over 38 minutes per game. Teams are rarely even getting 50 plays off in the game against GT. In games against UNC and at UVA, the Yellow Jackets held the ball for more than 42 minutes.