Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech
Published on Sept. 1 at 6:44 p.m. Eastern.
Updated on Sept. 3 at 1:21 p.m. Eastern
By Brian Edwards
For the most part, season openers for BCS schools are at home come against teams from the MAC, WAC and Sun Belt conferences. Of course, there are the high-profile matchups at the Ga. Dome and Cowboys Stadium, but you rarely see a crucial conference game to start the year.
That will certainly be the case Monday night in Blacksburg, where Virginia Tech will take on Georgia Tech in an ACC Coastal showdown
As of Monday afternoon, most books were listing Virginia Tech as a seven-point favorite with a total of 47 ½. Gamblers can take the Yellow Jackets to win outright for a plus-250 return (risk $100 to win $250).
Frank Beamer’s team went 11-3 last season after losing 23-20 to Michigan in overtime at the Sugar Bowl. The Hokies won the Coastal division, only to get pounded 38-10 by Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.
Va. Tech returns just three starters on offense, but one of those is junior quarterback Logan Thomas, who is a beast. Thomas, a tight end coming out of high school, rushed for 627 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011. He also connected on 59.8 percent of his passes for 3,013 yards with a 19/10 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
The Hokies must replace running back David Wilson, who garnered ACC Player of the Year honors by rushing for 1,709 yards and nine TDs last year. Redshirt freshman RB Michael Holmes is expected to get the starting nod and he’ll run behind an offensive line with four new starters.
Va. Tech is inexperienced on offense, but the defense is a veteran-laden unit with nine returning starters. The Hokies gave up 17.6 points per game last year. They are led by Antone Exum, who is moving from safety to cornerback. In 2011, Exum had a team-high 89 tackles, 10 passes broken up, 3.5 tackles for losses, 1.5 sacks, one interception and two QB hurries.
Va. Tech tied for first in the ACC with 41 sacks last season. James Gayle and JR Collins combined for 13 of those sacks.
Bud Foster’s defense will face Ga. Tech’s unique flexbone attack commanded by senior QB Tevin Washington, who had 1,125 rushing yards and 14 TDs in his first full year as the starter. Washington posted an 11/8 TD-INT ratio.
Paul Johnson’s team returns seven starters on offense and six on defense. David Sims and Orwin Smith provide experience in the backfield. Sims had 698 rushing yards and seven TDs last year, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Smith rushed for 615 yards and 11 scores, averaging 10.1 YPC. He also had 13 receptions for 306 yards and one TD.
Ga. Tech finished the 2011 campaign with an 8-5 record, losing 30-27 to Utah at the Sun Bowl. The Yellow Jackets lost 24-7 at Miami in their lone road underdog situation.
During Johnson’s four-year tenure (he’s going into fifth year), Ga. Tech owns an 8-4 spread record in 12 games as a road ‘dog. Meanwhile, Va. Tech limped to an atrocious 1-5 ATS mark in six games as a home ‘chalk’ last season.
When these teams met on The Flats in Midtown Atlanta last year, Va. Tech captured a 37-26 win as a one-point road ‘chalk.’ The 63 combined points sailed ‘over’ the 49 ½-point total.
Thomas completed 7-of-13 throws for 209 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. He also ran for 70 yards and a pair of scores on 18 carries.
Washington had 77 rushing yards and three TDs, including a one-yard plunge to give the Yellow Jackets a 26-21 lead late in the third quarter. However, the Hokies responded with 16 unanswered points.
According to the weather forecast, there’s a 60-percent chance of rain.
Kick-off is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
–The Va. Tech-Ga Tech winner has won the ACC Coastal seven consecutive years.
–Ga. Tech starting LB Daniel Drummond will not play due to a one-game suspension. Drummond finished last season with 44 tackles.
–Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray looked dynamite in Friday’s 35-21 win over North Carolina St. as a three-point favorite at the Ga. Dome in Atlanta. Bray completed 27-of-41 throws for 332 yards and two TDs without being intercepted.
–Sick stat line from West Virginia QB Geno Smith in his team’s 69-34 win over Marshall: 33-of-37 for 340 yards, four TDs and zero interceptions, eight carries for 65 rushing yards and one TD. Not bad.
–That Alabama pimpslap of Michigan on Saturday night was ruthless, downright gangster. Reminded me of how Florida jumped on Tennessee 35-0 in the first quarter at Neyland in 1996. Hence, the Tide overtake LSU in this week’s power rankings.