It’s another All-ACC matchup on ESPN’s Thursday night NCAA football game this week, and it’s a good one from Atlanta.
No. 20 Georgia Tech hosts No. 10 Virginia Tech with the winner likely to represent the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship Game against Clemson (the Tigers haven’t clinched yet but can with a home win over Wake Forest on Saturday).
I’m sure that ACC officials don’t openly root for teams in conference games, but it might behoove Virginia Tech to win for the good of the conference. The only shot the ACC finally has of getting two teams in BCS bowls is likely if both the Hokies and Tigers win out and then play a competitive game for the conference title.
It was Clemson that handed Virginia Tech its only loss this season, 23-3, in Blacksburg back on Oct. 1. Of course, it was then Georgia Tech that handed the Tigers their only loss, coming last time out on Oct. 29, 31-17, in Atlanta.
The Jackets, the nation’s No. 2 rushing team, put up 383 yards on the ground against Clemson, including 176 from QB Tevin Washington, the most by a QB in school history.
Both Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech were off on Saturday.
Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech Betting Storylines
The Hokies have won four straight since that Clemson loss ended their 12-game ACC winning streak. But, in its 14-10 ugly win at Duke on Oct. 29, Virginia Tech won its conference-record 11th straight ACC road game.
Don’t read too much into that score, as Tech was pretty obviously looking past Duke and had two turnovers and nine penalties. The only guy that truly showed up was ACC-leading rusher David Wilson with 148 yards, his sixth straight game with at least 123 yards on the ground.
On the injury front, Georgia Tech should get back two starting offensive linemen. Center Jay Finch and guard Will Jackson have practiced this week after not doing so last week with lower-leg and neck injuries, respectively. Finch missed the Clemson game while Jackson was hurt during it.
Meanwhile, the Hokies are expecting back kicker Cody Journell after he missed the Duke game with a quad injury. Senior Tyler Weiss took his place and missed his only field goal attempt, from 29 yards out.
The Hokies are also making some defensive adjustments to deal with that vaunted Georgia Tech option attack.
J.R. Collins, who has started every game this season at defensive end, will start inside at the defensive tackle spot that was shared by freshmen Luther Maddy and Corey Marshall. Tyrel Wilson will move into Collins' starting end spot. And Jack Tyler will start at inside linebacker instead of senior Barquell Rivers.
These moves were intended to make the defense faster.
That unit had been pretty good already, ranking No. 5 in the country in rushing (86.3 yards per game) and No. 6 in scoring at 15.4 points allowed per game.
Tech obviously won’t change its offense, but the deep ball from Washington could be key to keeping defenses honest against the run.
The Jackets have completed at least one pass for at least 30 yards in seven of nine games. The exceptions are against Virginia (long of 21 yards) and Miami (long of 17), both Tech losses.
Stephen Hill is usually Washington’s big-play target—he averages a whopping 30.4 yards per catch—and at 6'5", will have a huge size advantage over any Virginia Tech defensive back.
Each season since 2005, the winner of this contest has gone on to represent the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship Game. Virginia Tech has won four of those last six meetings, including 28-21 at home in 2010, although the Hokies lost 28-23 in their last game at Georgia Tech in 2009.
Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech Betting Odds and Trends
Virginia Tech has opened as a one-point favorite with the total at 49 on college football odds. The Hokies are 2-7 ATS this year and 1-3 on road. Georgia Tech is 5-3-1 ATS and 4-1 at home.
Over/under records: VT 3-5-1, GT 5-4.
The Hokies are 1-7 ATS in their past eight as a favorite. They are 1-5 ATS in their past six after a bye week.
The Jackets are 6-1 ATS in their past seven as a home dog of a field goal or less.
The "under" is 6-1 in Virginia Tech’s past seven on road. It is 4-0 in its past four in this series.
College Football Picks: Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech Betting Preview
The Jackets are 8-4 against ranked teams under coach Paul Johnson and 6-0 at home. They are 5-0 at home this year and haven’t gone unbeaten there since 1999.
The Hokies are 7-2 in road Thursday night ESPN games and 22-2 in ACC November games since 2004.
If this was on a short week, I would love Georgia Tech with its hard-to-prepare-for offense.
But, giving Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster that much time will benefit the Hokies, and I think they win by a TD.
Also, take the "under."
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc’s Sports football picks Web site.
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