Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thursday Night Under the Lights

Virginia (1-2) @ Georgia Tech (2-1) -16.5, 39.5

Georgia Tech and Virginia will open their ACC schedules against each other tonight in Atlanta. This series over the last 10 years has produced some memorable games, but also derailed teams seasons.

Team Update - Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets will be playing their fourth home game in a row before heading on the road next weekend. Tech opened this season with a tough loss to Notre Dame, but has recovered nicely in dispatching a pair of teams from Alabama, Troy and Samford. With just a five day turnaround, Chan Gailey allocated three days of practice in the preseason solely for preparation of this game because Virginia runs a 3-4 defense. New offensive coordinator Patrick Nix hit a milestone of sorts by watching his new offense gain over 500 total yards of offense last week vs Troy. If Georgia Tech wants to compete for the ACC title, they need to pounce on a team like Virginia early and not them hang around for 3+ quarters.

Team Update - Virginia: There has not been much to be excited about in Wahoo land so far this season. The Cavs opened their 2006 campaign with a loss at Pittsburgh then needed overtime to beat Wyoming at home on September 9. Last week, Western Michigan came into Charlottesville and pulled a major upset by beating 10 point favored Virgina. Al Groh lost both of his coordinators from last year's staff and is also going through some woeful QB play. A win in Atlanta for the Cavs could save their season while a loss puts a bowl game as an unlikely end to the season.

When Georgia Tech has the ball: So far this season, the Yellow Jackets look like a different team from last season and rightfully so after a new spread offense was installed in spring practice. Last week, Nix used RB Reshaun Grant in a variety of slot positions where he ran for one TD and took another run down inside the five yard line. QB Reggie Ball set a Georgia Tech QB rushing record last week as well. WR Calvin Johnson was injured in the second quarter, but Gailey says he will be ready to go Thursday night; Johnson will likely be covered by Marcus Hamilton, who is third on the active interceptions list. I expect Georgia Tech to come out and try and establish the run to see how tired UVA is after short, traveling week. The Yellow Jackets will need to get the ball into Johnson's hands more often than we have seen the past two weeks.
Advantage: Georgia Tech

When Virginia has the ball: Redshirt freshman Jameel Sewell is expected to start for the Cavs after taking most of the snaps with the first team this week. Sewell completed 7-10 for 51 yards last week in his debut. Cavalier quarterbacks have thrown five interceptions and just one touchdown this season. This is not good news as Georgia Tech has picked off four balls this season and run two of them back for touchdowns. The rushing game has not faired any better for the Cavs who are averaging just 50 yards per game. Jon Tenuta's defense has not faired well against mobile Quarterbacks, but Virginia's QBs have not displayed great running so far this season. Advantage: Georgia Tech

Coaching: Chan Gailey has been subject to criticism during his tenure at Georgia Tech, but may have turned the corner in his fifth year. This game is a big measuring stick to see how good Georgia Tech because the Jackets are heavily favored, a title with which they have struggled with in the past. Groh is safe at Virginia, but more losses at home to teams like Western Michigan will have fans talking. The Cavs players should not feel as if they are playing for their coaches job. Advantage: Georgia Tech

Intangibles: Georgia Tech is at home, they are favored, and they are five points away from being undefeated. Yet, in Gailey's tenure, Tech has made a habit of losing one game they should not every year. Is it this game? Virginia's season may be on the line tonight if they want to continue their four year bowl streak. Advantage: Even

Points of Note:
GT is 6-1 SU in their last 7 games where they out rush their opponent
Home team is 7-1 ATS in last 8 meetings
Under is 22-8-2 in GT last 32 conference games
GT is 1-4 in last 5 as home favorite

Prediction: Georgia Tech 27 Virginia 10 (Georgia Tech Covers, Under)

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