There is tremendous hype surrounding the two technical schools of the ACC, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. The two schools play in the same division of the ACC (Coastal) and will play each other on Oct. 17 in Atlanta.
The question is, have the Yellow Jackets arrived? Since joining the ACC, the Hokies have dominated the Yellow Jackets winning four out of five, including a 20-17 victory in Blacksburg last season.
The Hokies victory last season against the Jackets is important for the argument I'm about to bring up. A lot of people are saying Georgia Tech isn't far off from catching Virginia Tech.
I beg to differ.
The two teams played on Sept. 13 last season, making it the third game of the season for each team. Virginia Tech had already lost to East Carolina, had a quarterback controversy for the second straight season, and no identity on offense.
The Hokies, a team that doesn't rely solely on the run, like the triple-option Yellow Jackets, had only 48 yards passing on 14 attempts against Georgia Tech.
Georgia Tech, who was considered to have one of, if not the best, defensive lines in the conference, was dominated by an inconsistent offensive line. The Hokies ran for 199 yards against the Yellow Jackets defensive front that consisted of Michael Johnson, Vance Walker, Daryl Richard, and Derrick Morgan.
Morgan is the only returning starter for the 2009 season, and although there's a lot of hype surrounding redshirt freshman T.J. Barnes he's an unproven commodity as for as ACC football is concerned.
By the way, Johnson, Walker and Richard were all selected in the 2009 NFL Draft.
So with only one returning starter on the defensive line, the Hokies will have an advantage with their offensive line, which is tied with Notre Dame for the most starts combined in the NCAA (100).
Then, of course, there's Jonathan Dwyer. Dwyer is a great running back, and the triple-option offense with Dwyer, quarterback Josh Nesbitt, and other running backs Lucas Cox and Roddy Jones has proven lethal against many teams.
Dwyer averaged 7.0 yards per carry last season, and ran for a total of 1,395 yards. Only 28 of those yards came against the Hokies. Georgia Tech ran for 278 yards against the Hokies, 153 coming for Nesbitt.
Nesbitt also threw for 109 yards and a touchdown, but it still wasn't enough to beat the Hokies. Although the Yellow Jackets had more passing yards and rushing yards than Virginia Tech they still lost.
So how did the Hokies win? Virginia Tech had zero turnovers and committed only three penalties for 15 yards. Georgia Tech lost two fumbles, had an interception and committed eight penalties for a total of 61 yards.
Even though the Virginia Tech defense didn't have a great day, they didn't let penalties get the best of them. Virginia Tech is replacing a few defensive players on defense as well, but every player that will be starting for the Hokies on defense this season has had playing experience at the college level.
Offensively both teams are very athletic, and both have added weapons. Georgia Tech really likes what sophomore wide receiver Tyler Melton has done in the spring, but Melton had only five catches for 53 yards last season.
The Hokies are high on redshirt freshman Ryan Williams, who also dominated the spring, but has yet to play in a college football game.
Many people were skeptical if the triple-option offense would work in the ACC, and Paul Johnson and company proved it can. However, year two may be tougher for the Yellow Jackets.
Will it be a sophomore jinx for Georgia Tech? Probably not completely. But you have to believe the Yellow Jackets will look to throw the ball a little bit more this season. A team like Virginia Tech will be able to build off of last seasons defensive performance, and it will be up to the Yellow Jackets to make the necessary offensive adjustments.
The meeting on October 17 could likely be the deciding factor for who represents the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship. Both teams are expected to have very good seasons, and likely won't have many losses.
The Hokies finished last season on a high note, winning the ACC for the second straight year and then defeating Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl. Georgia Tech was embarrassed in their last game against LSU losing 38-3.
Both teams will have different looks in 2009, and one thing is for certain. The Hokies will be the team to beat all season long in the ACC.
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