Kickoff: 8 p.m. (TV: ESPN, Radio: 940-AM)
Stadium: Georgia Dome (71,977)
Kickoff weather: High of 63, low of 53, cloudy, 10 percent chance of rain
Series: Tied 1-1
Last meeting: Virginia Tech won 7-6 in Athens in 1932
Odds: Virginia Tech favored by 2.5
Injuries: Georgia: Probable: PK Brandon Coutu (hamstring), WR A.J. Bryant (groin); Questionable: TE Coleman Watson (groin); Suspended: C Ian Smith, G Seth Watts. Virginia Tech: Probable: OG Ryan Shuman (knee), RB Branden Ore (ankle), DE Noland Burchette (back).
Of the two sides of Virginia Tech's defense, its rush defense is the weaker, giving up almost 100 yards per game, so Kregg Lumpkin and Danny Ware could have a busy day. Ware, at least, hopes so. "It's terrible when you don't get but two carries a game and a catch here and there," Georgia's second-string back said. "You may only get eight touches per game. That's when nobody likes it." For the Hokies, starter Branden Ore is confident he'll get plenty of carries. Ore missed the final regular season game due to an ankle injury but is back near full strength. "We feel very comfortable and confident that the Branden Ore that has carried us a lot this season is going to be the same Branden Ore who's going to be on the field Saturday night," Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said. Ore averages 5 yards per carry and 99.5 per game.
Georgia freshman quarterback Matthew Stafford is happy he's had more than a week to prepare for Virginia Tech's defense. "They play some different coverages that not a lot of teams we've played this year play, and they do some stuff up front that's a little different," Stafford said. "Teams that only have one week to prepare for them, it's going to be tough. Having this extra time is really going to help us I think. It gives me more time to study them and just become more comfortable with what the looks are going to be." Tech quarterback Sean Glennon, a sophomore in his first year as starter, finished fourth in the ACC in passer efficiency and fifth in yards per game (174.8), but he, like Stafford, has improved tremendously down the stretch. "He played better than I expected him to," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. "That's a compliment to him. He likes being the quarterback at Virginia Tech. He likes the pressure that comes along with that. He got better each and every ball game."
Georgia's defense will have to be wary of Ore, a power runner in the mold of some SEC backs who have hurt the Bulldogs running up the gut this season. Middle linebacker Jarvis Jackson will be the key to today's defensive effort as he'll more often than not have the best shot at stopping Ore before a big play can develop. The Hokies, despite their reputation for aggressive defense, don't blitz much. That doesn't mean they read and react either, though. "It's something that we're used to seeing, very fast, athletic defenses," Bulldog fullback Brannan Southerland said. "They seem to center their defense around those two linebackers (Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi). They're making all the plays." Virginia Tech defensive coordinator is familiar with Mark Richt's offense and doesn't expect it to change much even with Mike Bobo calling the plays for just the second time. The key component to a Richt offense, Foster said, is taking "nine to 12 deep shots" per game so the Hokies will be ready for the long ball.
Georgia is ecstatic to have place-kicker Brandon Coutu back in the fold. After missing the final seven games of the season due to a hamstring tear, Coutu will return to handle extra point and field goal duties today and hopes to jumpstart what could be an All-American season in 2007. Richt said for the first time Friday that the Bulldogs were worried at first that Coutu might never kick again. Coutu has not been as sharp in practice as he was before the injury, but the Bulldogs are confident he can hit from any normal range, Richt said. Punt returner Mikey Henderson needs to have a big day if he hopes to make history. Henderson's average has slipped to 15.6 yards per return, which is still third best in the nation but is .1 yards off Scott Woerner's school record set in 1980. The Hokies, who play the famed BeamerBall style of special teams, also have an electrifying punt returner. Eddie Royal is 16th in the nation, averaging 11.95 yards per return. He also returns kickoffs but finished just ninth in his league in that stat. The biggest thing to watch out for from a Beamer team is blocked kicks. Virginia Tech has blocked 113 in his 239 games as head coach.