GT - Virginia Game Preview

The Jackets couldn't have started the season better with a perfect 6-0 record. The Jackets will put that on the line when they travel to a place where they've traditionally struggled over the past couple of decades. Yet, the Jackets will need to stay focused and inspired to come out of Charlottesville with a win and continue their trek toward another ACC championship.

Has Paul Johnson exorcised the demons of Scott Stadium? He marched in there in his second year as head coach (2009) and came away with the first victory in Charlottesville since 1990. He hopes to continue the success with his second trip to the grounds that still terrorize many Tech fans. This time he gets to carry the coach he coached against in his defensive coordinator, Al Groh. This will be Coach Groh's first time returning to UVA since his firing. They get to take on a 3-2 Cavaliers team that is a bit difficult to get a grasp on in terms of figuring out how good they really are.

This Cavaliers offense is probably as balanced an offense as the Jackets will face this year. The Hoos rank in the upper half of the ACC in both rushing and passing. Perry Jones and Kevin Parks will share the majority of the carries from the halfback position and both average about 70 yards per game. Clifton Richardson averages another 40. While Michael Rocco has thrown for over 1000 yards he has only thrown 2 TDs and 7 INTs, a ratio that can't be very appealing to Cavs fans.

The Jackets defense will likely key in on the run as that's been their Achilles heel this year. This young secondary, on the other hand, has been spectacular and ranks 1st in the conference and 15th in the nation in pass defense. They only allowed 87 yards against Maryland last week.The defense as a whole ranks 31st in the nation and 5th in the conference. That's not tremendous but is a giant leap up from the GT defense of recent years.

Virginia's defense also sits in the upper half of the ACC. The Cavs are allowing around 22 points per game and giving up slightly over 300 yards per game. Linebacker Steve Greer leads the Hoos in tackles with 8.2 per game. Meanwhile, the Tech offense, while slowed in recent weeks, is still one of the best in the nation. This will be the first team that has two weeks to prepare for the vaunted option attack and traditionally that seems to give other teams a little bit of a bump in successfully defending the Jackets. However, Coach Johnson doesn't put a whole lot of stock into that as he sees his team's own execution as the determining factor for success.

The two things holding Virginia back from being a much better team are scoring defense and turnovers. The Cavs are next to last in the ACC in turnover margin with a -0.8 margin. Anytime you have a negative turnover margin you are probably going to lose games. The 3 points allowed in the William and Mary game really skews some of the defensive stats. Since then, the Hoos have given up 31, 28, 30 and 20 points in losses to UNC and Southern Miss and unimpressive wins over Indiana and Idaho. That's not going to cut it against an offense still averaging over 46 points per game.

The Jackets became bowl eligible this past weekend but it's a much different feeling becoming bowl eligible in the earliest possible game as opposed to the next to the last week of the regular season. The Jackets are looking for more and to continue their path to the ACC championship they will need to reverse the trend of the last two games and come out inspired. The BYE week for the Hoos and the traditional struggles in Charlottesville are working against the Jackets and slow start could catch up to them if the Jackets are not careful and focused.

Who: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (HC Paul Johnson) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (HC Mike London)
When: Saturday October 15th, 2011 @ 3:30 pm (ESPNU)
Where: Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, VA

NOTES

  • The Jackets were the first team to become bowl eligible for the 2011 season.
  • The Jackets are ranked 12th in both polls.
  • The Jackets and The Clemson Tigers remain the ACC's 2 undefeated teams and 2 of 13 in the nation. Both sit at 6-0.
  • The Jackets have only won once (2009) in Charlottesville since their big victory over #1 Virginia in 1990.
  • This game is UVA's Homecoming game.