The key to this game is going to be the interior run game of both teams.
Tech has a history of getting gashed (although, the past 2 games they have done a remarkable job against 2 teams that run the ball quite well), and David WIlson is one of the top backs in the ACC, if not the country. If the Jackets can keep the Hokies less than 4.0 ypp on the ground, that means GT is in good shape. This means that not only must Tech contain Wilson and force predictable 3rd down situations, they must also keep QB Logan Thomas in the pocket and not allow him to pick up yards on the ground. He’s a big, physical guy who can move the chains if things break down and it’ll be up to the linemen to keep him in the pocket and make him throw the ball.
Offensively for Tech, a few bread and butter plays should help them exploit the (alleged) changes being made by VT for this game of putting in smaller, athletic linemen to counter Tech’s option game. This is a rare game where the Jackets will have a size advantage up front and they should try to exploit it by running multiple variants of the inverted veer, midline option, and the QB draw.
This play has been used increasingly by Tech as the season has gone on, and I love the simplicity of it. It does a few things well – it gives GT flexibility in passing situations to run or pass, it forces linebackers to respect the possibility of a run/pass as the A-backs streak towards them, and it tends to get the Jackets a fairly easy 5+ yards per play. When run correctly, both A-backs run break up field on the snap as if it were a pass play, and the B-back stays in the block the backside. Once the QB has dropped back to a 3 step drop to throw the ball, a Tackle peels off and blocks either the middle or outside linebacker (depends on if the defense is in an over or under look, assuming we’re talking a base 4-3). The A-backs cut the other 2 linebackers and the QB runs upfield into the void created. In the past month, this play has been used more and more by the Jackets and going against an aggressive and undersized VT defense will be a good opportunity to exploit this again in potential pass situations.
The other benefit is the tendency to have linebackers always thinking about the draw out of pass looks; this should allow an A-back to sneak behind one of the Hokie LBs for a big gain. When used properly, it sets up Run & Shoot concepts like the switch and the go.
I certainly feel more confident about this game than I did 2 weeks ago, but I’m still not sure that the Jackets can do enough on offense to win this game. It’s going to take another near flawless effort like they had against Clemson to pull this one out. The numbers certainly appear to be one of those “something has to give” contests:
GT offensive ypp: 7.0, 5.89 on the ground
VT defense: 4.8ypp, 2.9 on the ground
Splitting the difference, that’s still in the 4ypp average for GT, which is enough to win. If the Jackets can stay above that number and keep the Hokies below that number on the ground, I think it’ll be enough to win another huge contest. A small note, since Attaochu returned, the run defense has been much better, averaging 3.4 ypp instead of roughly 5.6 ypp. It’ll be interesting to see if Tech can do enough to mix it up on offense and control the clock.
I think the Jackets win the battle of the Techs, 31-24.