Virginia Tech Hokies
5-1 overall, 3-0 ACC
No. 4 Virginia Tech makes its second trip to Atlanta this season on Saturday night. The Hokies met Alabama in the Georgia Dome on September 5 in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game. The Crimson Tide won 34-17 in the season opener for both teams, but the Hokies have not lost a game since then. They picked up two wins over ranked opponents Nebraska and Miami to close out September, and they are coming off their best statistical performance of the season in their 48-14 win over Boston College last week.
Virginia Tech was the favorite to win the ACC coming into the season, but they suffered a big loss when running back Darren Evans went down with a torn ACL. The sophomore Evans led the Hokies in rushing last season and finished second in ACC Player of the Year voting. However, his backup, redshirt freshman Ryan Williams, has proven more than capable of handling the starting job. Williams leads the ACC in rushing this season with 734 yards, and he has scored nine touchdowns. Josh Oglesby and David Wilson have been solid as Williams’ backups and have provided plenty of depth at running back. The key player for the Hokies on offense, though, is quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The junior Taylor’s passing ability was a question mark heading into this season, but Taylor has silenced his critics so far. He has thrown for 995 yards and eight touchdowns this season and has not thrown an interception in his last four games.
The Hokies’ defense completely held Boston College’s offense in check during their Saturday meeting, holding the visiting Eagles to just three total yards in the first half. The unit has held four of its last five opponents to 15 or fewer points, including both Miami and Nebraska. Of note, though, is that this week’s game will be the Hokies’ first real exposure to the Jackets’ option attack; in last year’s meeting, a 20-17 Virginia Tech win, the Jackets employed option plays only sparingly.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
5-1 overall, 3-1 ACC
Ranked No. 19 in the nation, the Jackets hope their offense continues to roll as they look to take control of the ACC Coastal Division against the Hokies. Last week, the Jackets earned their first-ever win in Tallahassee when they beat Florida State 49-44. The offense did not have to punt once in the game, notching several big plays in the first half and controlling the ball for most of the second half as the team racked up 401 yards on the ground. The defense struggled in the first half but rebounded to make some early stops in the second.
Tech’s option attack has been successful this season, as the team has 1,662 rushing yards so far. The individual leaders on the ground are junior B-back Jonathan Dwyer, who has 511 yards on 79 carries, and junior quarterback Josh Nesbitt, who has 503 yards on 128 carries. Nesbitt will look to build on a strong performance against Florida State, against whom he ran 27 times for 140 yards and three touchdowns and threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. Tech continued to get solid play from the A-backs, including a 60-yard run by Allen to set up Tech’s second touchdown.
While the offense has been strong, the defense has raised questions as to its effectiveness. The unit has been hurt by injuries and has generally performed below expectations, and recent changes to the defensive scheme have not helped, as the Jackets have allowed 75 points in their last two games after holding North Carolina to seven points. Last week the Jackets struggled to generate a pass rush, and Ponder and his receivers had no trouble attacking the Tech secondary through the air. Tech’s defense will face a challenge this week in dual-threat Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and the Hokies’ offense features speed and talent throughout the unit. Even if the Jackets’ offense plays well, the team will need the defense to make some stops in order to stay in the game.