The BYU Cougars showed they could play with just about any team in the country last Saturday, as they pushed No. 5 Notre Dame to the brink in South Bend. Now, Bronco Mendenhall's bunch will stay on the road in Week 9 to face the powerful triple-option attack of Georgia Tech.
After finally snapping a three-game slide with a win over Boston College, the 3-4 Yellow Jackets will continue to fight for their bowl lives.
With a 4-4 record of its own, BYU could really use a win to grab some momentum, since four of the Cougars' final five regular season games are away from home.
Here is more information and predictions for this key Saturday afternoon matchup between two teams scrapping for bowl bids.
When: Saturday, October 27 at 3:00 p.m. ET
Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta
TV: ROOT SPORTS (Utah)
Listen: Georgia Tech IMG Radio Network
Live Stream: ESPN 3
Betting Line (via OddsShark.com): Georgia Tech -2
The oddsmakers must love the fact that the Yellow Jackets are at home. This seems like a very generous line in light of the Cougars' recent performance against a physical, run-based team.
Although Notre Dame managed 270 yards on the ground, the Irish also only scored 17 points. That bend-but-don't-break mentality could serve the team well against the Yellow Jackets, but this Georgia Tech running game also may be even more devastating. The current line projects the game to be as close as it should be.
BYU Injury Report
Zac Stout, LB (Achilles) QUESTIONABLE; Ian Dulan, DL (back) QUESTIONABLE.
Georgia Tech Injury Report
Fred Holton, S (foot) QUESTIONABLE; Broderick Snoddy, RB (undisclosed) QUESTIONABLE.
(Note: all injury information courtesy of USA TODAY)
BCS/Top-25 Poll Implications
After failing to capitalize on two chances to pull massive upsets, there isn't much hope for the Cougars to get into the Top 25 or the BCS picture at all. There never was a chance for the Yellow Jackets, either.
As mentioned, the most that both of these teams can hope for from here on out is to win the rest of their games and a bowl game to possibly sneak into the Top 25 at season's end. However, even that seems extremely far-fetched.
Georgia Tech still has an outside shot at winning the Coastal division in the ACC. From there, the Yellow Jackets could win the conference championship game and still make a BCS bowl. That's about all they have to go on, though, and it would require running the table in the remaining three conference games.
What They're Saying
Ken Sugiura of the Atlanta Journal Constitution points out the success that the Yellow Jackets have had against top-ranked rush defenses. Despite the relative explosion by Notre Dame on the Cougars, BYU still ranks eighth in the nation against the run, giving up just 2.9 yards per carry.
Against top-25-caliber rush defenses in the past four seasons, Georgia Tech has just a 3-6 record but tends to double the yards per game that opponents give up in most cases.
This valuable data provided by Sugiura highlights the key matchup of the game: the BYU rush defense against the No. 2-ranked rushing attack in the nation.
BYU Player to Watch: QB Riley Nelson
After being outplayed by freshman Taysom Hill—who is now out for the season—Nelson has looked shaky in his past two outings, albeit against difficult defenses. Nelson must be more judicious with the football, as he has thrown two and three interceptions, respectively, in his last two starts.
A steady diet of handoffs to Jamaal Williams should help the cause. Williams had seven catches against Notre Dame and also averaged 4.6 yards per carry. That should help alleviate some of the pressure on Nelson.
The Yellow Jackets have a pretty leaky defense, allowing just over 28 points per game. There should be plenty of yardage to come by for Nelson and Co., but he must first stop turning it over so much. Any miscue could lead to an 11-minute drive by the Georgia Tech offense, condense the game and force Nelson to win the game with his arm.
Headier play will lead to a hard-earned road victory for BYU. That is, if Nelson can live up to that ideal.
Georgia Tech Player to Watch: QB Tevin Washington
A massive improvement in accuracy from a season ago has the senior signal-caller playing at an extremely high level. His enhanced passing has also allowed for more production in the running game, as he has already eclipsed last year's total of 14 rushing touchdowns by one.
Washington needed the bye week as much as anyone. He was being asked to throw too much when his team fell behind Clemson and Middle Tennessee. Once the Yellow Jackets got back to the ground game this past weekend, they put a drubbing on BC.
The dual-threat capabilities of Washington are especially dangerous when he is looking to run first—hence the 10-plus yards per pass attempt.
The Cougars are sure to have their hands full with the Georgia Tech quarterback and must hold him in check, especially in the red zone, where he has a nose for pay dirt.
BGB: Bowl Game Bid. It sounds like a catchy acronym, and it will be the focal point of the narrative in this game. Making matters more interesting are the ramifications for Georgia Tech in the ACC race and the desperation for both teams to salvage respectable seasons as they edge toward possible sub-.500 records.
Nelson's lack of discretion throwing the football and the clock-chewing Yellow Jacket offense will be enough for the home team to squeak by. BYU will remain winless on the road and hope that a home game against Idaho can get the team back on track.
Final score: Georgia Tech 20, BYU 17