#12 Georgia Tech at UVA Preview

24Oct09

So who would have thought at this point of the season that not only would UVA be in control of their own destiny in the ACC but also that all VT fans have to back the mighty Cavaliers this weekend for their own hopes of an ACC championship to be revived? College football…..where rooting for your rivals happens! Without further getting into the state of college football lets look at the matchup.

If there’s one word I can use to describe watching your team play Georgia Tech, it is frustrating. 4 yards, 3 yards, 8 yards, 1 yard, 3 yards, 12 yards, fumble, 5 yards, 7 yards, touchdown. Time left in the first quarter: 4 minutes 30 seconds. Time your team has had the ball: 0. Blood boiling fist clenches: 3.

Georgia Tech’s triple option offense has proved to be an efficient and effective weapon in the ACC after coach Paul Johnson moved over from Navy. As of this week GT leads the nation in rushing with 1,917 yards and is 2nd in the country with 22 rushing touchdowns. What makes this rushing attack so frustrating to watch is you know what is coming every play and it is still extremely difficult to stop when executed well. GT employs a zone blocking scheme and utilizes smaller offensive lineman and cut blocks to keep the defense on their heels. Their offensive lineman use very wide splits and will immediately go to the second level without engaging the defensive lineman. This is contrary to most offenses which the defensive and offensive lineman are basically matched up. A great example of the success and dangers of this kind of scheme can be seen in this video. (Keep your eyes on the DTackle 3rd from the bottom)

You can clearly see the guard shooting past the Virginia Tech Dtackle John Graves and going directly after the linebacker. The Tackle then chop blocks the unaware Graves. This is actually a legal play according the the NCAA since the guard did not initiate the contact. Graves was hurt on this play and did not return in this game and his status is uncertain for this week. There is a fine line between chop blocking and cut blocking and GT walks this line very closely albeit legally.

What really makes this offense so dangerous though, is the running ability of Quarterback Josh Nesbitt. Nesbitt right now is 22nd in the country in rushing, averaging 4.1 yards per carry and has 9 touchdowns. Check out this quote from Virginia Tech defensive line coach Charley Wiles from Kyle Tucker’s blog (Great blog not only for VT fans but for any serious Cfootball fans, great insight on there from the coaches themselves):

“But I think the guy who also brings so much to the table – which we saw last year, and this year probably has 58-60 more carries – is the quarterback. He’s a beast. Nesbitt is just a player, man. He’s physical. He’s hard to tackle. He’s always falling forward. He’s the guy to me, as well as the fullback. Dwyer gets in the open field, he runs like a tailback, he’s 225 pounds and he’s dynamic. But you can take the fullback away, like we did a year ago, by trying to beat him up and take the dive, take the dive, take the dive. But Nesbitt is the guy. People are taking the fullback away and they’re putting it in his hands, and he’s very, very capable and tough. He’s a good player, man. He is.”

Bottom line: if UVA wants to win this game on Saturday, they are going to have to take away Nesbitt.

The not so crazy thing is? I think they can do it. Virginia’s defense led by Senior Dtackle Nate Collins (ACC defensive lineman of the week) and corners Ras-I Dowling and Chris Cook really matches up well with the triple option offense. Although UVA only ranks 44th in the country in rushing defense they have only allowed 82 yards per game during their win streak as opposed to over 180 yards per game early in the season. More importantly what can really take the option attack away is the ability of corners to get off their blocks. Dowling and Cook should be up for the challenge and force Nesbitt and company to be unable to string as many plays out wide of the linebackers and D-Ends. This would really force Dwyer and Nesbitt up the field more quickly where Steve Greer and the rest of the linebacking core will have to really tackle well to keep GT in 3rd and longs where they struggle to convert in passing situations.

Demaryius Thomas…..congratulations you have met Georgia Tech’s passing offense. Thomas might very well be the most underrated Wide Recerver in the country right now. Thomas is 12th in the country in receiving yards after only 27 catches! He is averages 25 yards per catch including a key 57 yard reception last week…..Nesbitt’s only completion the entire game. Which basically means Nesbitt is playing 500 with Thomas and a usually shorter cornerback about 7 times a game (that game we played as kids? no? maybe? ). Anyway, Georgia Tech utilizes Thomas perfectly in keeping the downfield threat there the entire game and forcing the defense to man up on a very physical, jump ball receiver. GT is 111th in the country in receiving yards but 8th in passing efficiency which shows they make their throws count. It will be up to Cook or Dowling to not get lulled to sleep by the running game and always be looking for that downfield pass which Johnson likes to call when the defense least expects it. If you get can force Georgia Tech into 3rd and long situations they really have no consistent way to convert. This will be key in keeping Georgia Tech from sustaining long, time-sucking drives.

I waited to write this preview until Friday for one major reason and that was to wait for the UVA injury report to come out. Jameel Sewell and Mikell Simpson both are probable to play and are the two most important players for UVA’s offense.  Sewell only has 5 touchdown passes and 5 interceptions on the year so far but has been much more efficient and accurate with this throws. I am sure it was tough for him to get back into the flow of the position after being away from the game so long and not even starting the first few games this season. Vic Hall has also really embraced the wide receiver position and can be a difference maker there. Georgia Tech has struggled at time containing wide receivers and Hall, Kris Burd, and Tim Smith are going to have to provide a consistent threat in order to give Simpson, who is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and 5 tds, room to move the chains against an inconsistent GTech defense.

Georgia Tech’s defense which came up big in the 1st half against Virginia Tech last week will be looking for a repeat performance. They are going to have to play with the same passion and energy they brought on the field against the Hokies if they want to come out on top against a team that they have struggled against in recent years. GT’s defense is giving up 26 points and 380 yards per game which is only good enough for 149th and 166th in the country. Defensive end Derrick Morgan is one of the better players at his position in the ACC and has a good balance of run stopping and pass rushing ability.

I expect this game to be a close hard fought contest. Georgia Tech’s triple option offense has been dominant so far this year and you have to expect them to put points on the board and shorten the game. It is going to be up to UVA’s defense to keep them in 3rd and longs and give their offense as many chances as possible to capitalize on the mistakes that the offense makes. GT is averaging 3 fumbles a game and if the Cavaliers want to win this game they are going to have to do what VT was unable to do last week and put points on the board whenever they get on Georgia Tech’s side of the field. I think Simpson will have some good runs and Sewell is much more mobile than he gets credit for. GT had a tough time containing Tyrod Taylor when the pocket broke down and was able to pick up some key first downs. Right now I just don’t think Sewell’s passing ability will be consistent enough against a front 4 that will put pressure on him all game. If they can find creative ways to get Vic Hall and Simpson the ball in space and keep Demaryius Thomas quiet I think that they will have a chance, especially with the physicality of the UVA corners but UVA has not proven to me they can consistently take care of the ball and keep up with an offense that is averaging 32.4 points per game. I hope I’m wrong Cavalier fans.

Prediction: GT 24-UVA 17

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One Response to “#12 Georgia Tech at UVA Preview”

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