ACC rivals help to get the college football action started early this week as the Virginia Tech Hokies play host to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 EST on Thursday, October 25, at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia. The game will be available nationally on ESPN.
Virginia Tech has opened the week as 3-point favorites at home. Click here to see the betting odds for all of this week’s college football games.
The Hokies have had a rather unusual season. They had a game canceled due to weather and then suffered an embarrassing defeat against Old Dominion. Virginia Tech bounced back from that loss with a win the following week, only to lose to Notre Dame in lopsided fashion. However, they again managed to rebound from that loss with a close win against North Carolina a couple weeks ago.
Through it all, the Hokies are 4-2 overall and 3-0 in ACC play, which means they control their own destiny with regard to reaching the ACC Championship Game. With three other teams in the ACC Coastal division having just one conference loss, Virginia Tech doesn’t have much margin for error down the stretch. However, the Hokies will play four of their final five games at home, which could give them an edge in the crazy Coastal division race.
Georgia Tech, meanwhile, is out of contention in the Coastal division and just hoping to get to a bowl game. The Yellow Jackets endured a three-game losing streak in September and are also coming off a loss to Duke in their last game. To date, their only wins have come against Alcorn State, Bowling Green, and Louisville.
At 3-4 overall, Georgia Tech is in danger of missing out on a bowl for the third time in the last four years, which has Paul Johnson on the hot seat. The Yellow Jackets need three wins in their final five games to become bowl eligible, which won’t be easy with Miami, Virginia, and Georgia lurking on their schedule in November. Thursday’s game in Blacksburg is essentially a must-win for Georgia Tech.
The good news for the Yellow Jackets is that they’ve gotten the better of this rivalry in recent years. Georgia Tech has beaten Virginia Tech in three of their last four seasons, including their last two trips to Blacksburg.
Given Georgia Tech’s desperation, it’s a little tempting to take the Yellow Jackets. However, the only two FBS teams the Yellow Jackets have beaten this year have a combined record of 3-12. They haven’t proven they can beat a quality team, much less do it on the road. With only three points to cover, I feel comfortable leaning toward Virginia Tech.
As usual, the Georgia Tech triple-option throws a wrench into things. Nothing the Hokies have done defensively this season actually applies when trying to predict their ability to keep the triple-option offense contained. That being said, Virginia Tech faces the Yellow Jackets on a yearly basis, so the older members of their defense have seen the triple-option before. The Hokies also had last weekend off, so they’ve had a little extra time to prepare. Perhaps more importantly, Georgia Tech’s offense is less able to expose a Virginia Tech secondary that’s been exposed at times this season.
It may be more relevant to look at Georgia Tech’s success, or thereof, against other ACC opponents. Outside of their 66-point explosion against lowly Louisville, the Yellow Jackets are averaging just 18 points per game against conference opponents. A lot of those points have also come late in games when Georgia Tech was trailing by a substantial margin.
Against the Hokies, I’m not sure if Georgia Tech can plan on being able to score an abundance of points, so the Yellow Jackets may need their defense to keep them in the game. On that side of the ball, GTU has been average at best, giving up 33 points per game against FBS opponents. Good offensive teams have been able to run wild against the Yellow Jackets, so there are clearly some shortcomings on that side of the ball.
Of course, whether Virginia Tech qualifies as a good offensive team is up for debate. In the three games since backup quarterback Ryan Willis took over for the injured Josh Jackson, the Hokies are averaging a modest 25 points per game. Willis has been solid overall and proven to be a more capable runner than first thought. However, the Virginia Tech offense has been far from explosive the last few weeks.
All things considered, I think Virginia Tech will play one of their better games of the season on Thursday. They’ve had extra time to prepare for Georgia Tech’s triple-option, which should help them defensively. Also, this will actually be their first home conference game of the season, so the crowd should offer the Hokies plenty of support. Given Georgia Tech’s struggles early in games this season, I think Virginia Tech will start fast and do enough to cover the 3-point spread.