(Is there a creature in the world that could match wits with Paul Johnson? Fans of Beamer Ball surely think so.)
Here at Bleacher Report, we like to do things differently from time to time. Like any good college football team (OK, we're not really a team, but we're a coverage team...just roll with it!), we like to have our own special little traditions, and this is one.
It's called creature vs. creature, and it's essentially a public debate of three or four keys to an upcoming game. We swap keys, gives rebuttals or agreements, and then post it for you to digest and dissect.
I am one creature (it's not as bad as it sounds, I've been called worse), and my counterpart is Justin Cocchiola, whose profile you can find here . Essentially, we did just what I said above; I've posted my keys and Justin's responses, and you should soon be able to find his corresponding keys and my thoughts here.
So let the games begin...
(My keys first, his responses in italics below)
This is a huge game, probably the biggest Bobby Dodd Stadium has seen in the last 10 years. Downtown Atlanta's prettiest outdoor stadium is gonna be rocking from kickoff on through, and there's going to be a lot of emotion and energy on the home sideline.
But Virginia Tech is used to games like this—it plays in them every year. The Hokies won't get swept up in the emotion, and Georgia Tech can't either. The Jackets need to establish their offense early, get a rhythm going. Stopping this offense once it's going full bore is like trying to stop a train by standing on the tracks.
You're right about Virginia Tech being in huge games year in and year out, but the main difference this year is that the Hokies actually show up for the big games. In years past they've been blown away or put up a poor effort. When the Hokies were in Atlanta earlier this year they didn't have the offense rolling like they do now.
That being said, it's going to be tough for the Yellow Jackets to go up by more than one score on the Hokies early in this one. I would be surprised if the Hokies get down by double digits, and less surprised if they make a ramblin' wreck out of the Georgia Tech defense.
Things have gone from bad to ugly to great to bad to just plain awful for the Jackets defensively this season. Against Florida State, they could barely catch their breath most of the game. Injuries have taken their toll, yes, but so has a glaring lack of experience after losing several key seniors after last season.
That said, it was Georgia Tech's defense that bowed its back in Tallahassee in crunch time, not the other way around. The defense has been just good enough at times, part of the reason Tech is 5-1. A small part of the reason.
Dave Wommack and Paul Johnson need to find ways to at least delay a Virginia Tech offense that's clicking on eight cylinders right now and not let things get out of hand if the offense struggles early. The one and only real positive I can offer is that Paul Johnson teams rarely have back-to-back bad performances, but then, the defense just proved that rule wrong too, didn't it?
For the first time in at least four years the Hokies have an offense that can hurt you. Defensively they're not as good, but they're still respectable. Since the Hokies have really challenged themselves so far this year with their out-of-conference scheduling they've been able to play top notch defenses.
Georgia Tech will not be able to have a defensive performance like it did against Florida State last week, because the Yellow Jackets won't be able to score 40-plus points on the Hokies defense.
Frankly, right now, there's not a better offensive player in the ACC than Josh Nesbitt. His passing numbers are up in almost every conceivable way, he's a close second to Jonathan Dwyer for the team lead in rushing yards, and he's the clear and established leader of this Yellow Jacket offense.
Since the Miami game, Nesbitt has been in absolute control—throwing well, running well, making all the right decisions at the line, and even covering his own mistakes by literally stealing momentum away from the opposing team.
Final word: Honestly, I see this game going one of two ways. Either a) Georgia Tech comes out flat—or the Hokies flatten the Jackets' spirits early—and it's a blowout loss on national television that effectively sends Tech to the Music City bowl. Or b) Georgia Tech plays great, the defense steps up, and the Jackets win a classic by a touchdown or so.
I'm going to disagree. Yes, Nesbitt is very important to his team, don't get me wrong. Virginia Tech's Williams, however, is the best player in the ACC, the nation's fifth leading rusher, and tied for fourth in the nation with the most rushing touchdowns.
Take Williams away and the offense would be left with Josh Oglesby and David Wilson to carry the load, which would put more pressure on Taylor to throw the ball through the air, allowing defenses to use different packages against the Hokies.
With Nesbitt, a quarterback whose primary purpose is to run the ball, you could put a backup in there and not look too much different. One thing's for sure: Both teams need both of these players on the field.