After a well-deserved rest following an overtime road victory against Miami in their most recent game, Tech football will suit up for their homecoming game against the Pittsburgh Panthers this Saturday. The Jackets look fired up coming off their first ACC win of the season, while the Panthers are reeling after a 16-12 loss to the Hurricanes in which they failed to score a touchdown. Here are the story lines to keep an eye on entering Saturday.
Mason gets top marks
It is time to show appreciation for Jordan Mason. The sophomore running back received only a small portion of Tech’s ample carries last season under the triple option, but now that Mason is not competing with his quarterback for the bulk of Tech’s run yardage, he has emerged as the Jackets’ prime offensive weapon. Following his 141-yard performance against Miami, including the game winning touchdown run in overtime, Mason was named the top-graded college RB in the nation by Pro Football Focus, an analytics site that grades college and professional football players. Mason is averaging an impressive 6.0 yards per carry across 95 attempts and has 609 yards from scrimmage on the season, nearly double that of the next-best Tech player (Tobias Oliver, 309 yards). Mason scorched an impressively stout Miami run defense during Tech’s last game, and he will be challenged again by a Pittsburgh unit averaging just 2.6 yards per carry allowed. If Mason can keep busting open rush defenses the way he did against the Hurricanes, the sky is the limit for the Jacket’s best running back.
Both Tech and Pitt are coming off of games against Miami — whereas the Jackets stunned the Hurricanes in overtime, it was Pitt who was shocked, losing 16-12 to Miami at home. Despite out-gaining Miami 309-208, the Panthers were held to just four field goals, never once finding the end-zone, and Pittsburgh’s three turnovers helped the Panthers little. Pitt was 5-2 and 2-1 in ACC play entering the game, but Miami found their footing defensively after an impressively awful showing against the Jackets the week prior.
Although both teams are currently stuck in the bottom half of the ACC Coastal, the crowded field for the divisional title means that an ACC Championship berth is in play for both Pitt and the Jackets. For Tech to capture the spot, the Jackets must win out, Duke must lose an additional ACC game, and UNC must lose two additional ACC games in order for the Jackets to clinch the Coastal — an unlikely path, but still technically feasible. Pitt’s path to Charlotte has the Panthers winning out with UVA picking up an additional loss along the way — should UVA win out, they will have the same number of wins as a Pitt team that wins out, but will hold the head-to-head tiebreaker by virtue of their season-opening 30-14 Panthers victory. A loss for either team will effectively end the already slim ACC Championship hopes for either team, as all of the teams ahead of them have just two losses.
While Tech will mostly be celebrating homecoming for Saturday’s game, they will also be getting in the Halloween spirit. Collins handed out candy to reporters before his weekly press-conference and James Graham is even getting in the spirit on the stat sheet — the QB had recorded exactly 666 passing yards on the season entering Saturday’s game. Spooky!