Atlantic Coast Conference contenders collide when Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech open their 2012 seasons Monday night in Blacksburg, Va. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).
The Yellow Jackets sat as 7.5-point underdogs early Monday at most shops tracked by OddsShark.com but arrived in Virginia knowing they had covered the last three trips there.
In fact, road teams have been great bets in this ACC series: They are 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings, according to the college-football database at OddsShark.com. And with Virginia Tech struggling as favorites in recent years (3-9 ATS in 12 recent games), Georgia Tech backers could be feeling good about this matchup.
The Yellow Jackets, though, have slumped as an underdog in the past few years, going 1-8 in their past nine.
Georgia Tech gets 13 starters back from a team that went 8-5 last year (5-3 in the ACC) and lost a bowl game to Utah. Seven starters return on offense, including senior QB Tevin Washington (25 total touchdowns last year), RBs David Sims and Orwin Smith (a combined 18 TDs last season) and four along the offensive line.
Six starters come back on defense, but that unit needs some improving after allowing 30 or more points in the Wreck's last four games last season.
The Hokies, meanwhile, get back 12 starters from a team that went 11-3 last season and won the ACC's Coastal Division but lost the conference championship game to Clemson. Virginia Tech later lost to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl.
Nine starters, including the entire front seven, are back from a defense that ranked 10th in the country last year by allowing 305 YPG. But Virginia Tech only returns three starters on offense and will have to replace leading rusher David Wilson and four starters along the offensive line.
These teams combined to score 63 points in their matchup last year, sending that game "over" its total of 49. But the previous four games in this series all played "under" on the totals. The total was sitting at 48.5 at Top Bet this morning.
Free Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech Pick, Courtesy of PickShark.com
This looks like good matchup, pitting Virginia Tech's vaunted defense against Georgia Tech's triple option and the Hokies' young offense vs. the Jackets' questionable defense.
When in doubt, we go defense, so we'll take Virginia Tech minus the points Monday night, despite the underdog and road trends at play.