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September 26, 2013

Staff Picks: Tech Battle

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Since the inception of the Atlantic and Coastal divisions in the ACC, the Coastal Division has been represented in the league's championship game by either Virginia Tech or Georgia Tech. But who will grab the early advantage in what's a short week for both teams?

We take our shots at calling what will happen at tonight's 7 ET kickoff.

Jason Stamm, publisher

I have no reservation in saying that Virginia Tech's defense is one of the country's top 10. When the Hokies' defense gets going, it's tough for anyone to move the ball. Alabama found that out in the season-opener.

Alas, that defense hasn't been a top 10 unit for the entirety of each game this season. Against East Carolina, Virginia Tech allowed an easy, opening-drive touchdown that took just over a minute and a half. Against Marshall on Saturday, the Herd put up 21 first-half points and were scoreless over a half and three overtimes thereafter.

How long will it take the Hokies to settle in on defense tonight? That might be the difference. Will Virginia Tech be in gear from the start, or will it again take time?

And through four games the offense continues to do just enough. Of course, that was for non-conference play. That can't continue.

If there's a time for senior quarterback Logan Thomas to find himself, it's now. The defense won't be able to carry the slack all year. Thomas' play will decide how far the Hokies go.

Of course, it also helps if Virginia Tech can make a kick. That hasn't happened for the past two games. Senior Cody Journell missed three field goals and an extra point at East Carolina, then while Journell was suspended (for undisclosed team vioaltions), Ethan Keyserling promptly missed three field goals himself against Marshall. In his defense, the weather was terrible and there was at least one bad snap, but that's a lot of points left on the board.

My guess is the defense again buckles down, after allowing another early score. But the key is if the offense can do more than just enough. I'm not sure that happens, but the Hokies will finally make a field goal for the first time in three games, as this one comes down to the wire as usual. The difference though is Virginia Tech's stout defense.

PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 27-20

Doug Bowman, senior writer

Virginia Tech has more talent than these guys on the defensive side of the ball. Last year, that talent allowed the Hokies to hold these guys to 17 points. That will be much tougher this year on the road in a loud environment at Bobby Dowd Stadium. Georgia Tech's offense requires you to be incredibly tough and persistent to defend it for four quarters and also nearly perfect on every play. Make a key mistake and the Yellow Jackets pick up an easy 12 yards.

On a short week after a long and stressful game, I don't expect Virginia Tech to be as crisp as it needs to be to win a Thursday nighter on the road. The Hokies relied heavily on both Thomas and running back Trey Edmunds on the ground to win last week, but the Yellow Jackets are a quality ACC opponent who can key on that.

Until Thomas proves he is again capable of putting together a consistent passing performance through four quarters, I don't think the Hokies can pull off a road victory like this.

Although, this is exactly the type of game you could see coach Frank Beamer and the Hokies pulling out of nowhere. Backs up against the wall on the road after a long game just a few days before and they just grind it out with far superior defense and one or two key offensive drives. However, Georgia Tech impressed me a lot against North Carolina last week and I think they take this one pretty easily.

PREDICTION: Georgia Tech 27-13

Mike Stancik, staff writer

Virginia Tech's first ACC matchup isn't exactly the easiest among its remaining opponents. Georgia Tech's 3-0 squad will be a stiff test, especially in Atlanta. Even more daunting will be facing the No. 12 scoring defense (11.3 PPG) in the country with a scoring offense (24.8 PPG) ranked No. 85 that has struggled against Conference USA competition.

If the Yellow Jackets play like they have on defense, especially in the second half where they've allowed just seven points all season, it will be awfully tough to win in Georgia. But a healthy J.C. Coleman adds a nice sprinkle into the offense and he should prove to be a valuable outside-runner and pass-catcher when Georgia Tech stacks the box. I expect him to get into the end zone on at least one occasion on Thursday night.

While the Yellow Jackets own the No. 4 rushing attack in the nation at 345.3 yards per game, they've struggled to find similar success against the Hokies in the recent past. (192 and 243 yards in the last two meetings) For a front-seven that was able to stifle one of the country's strongest run games in Alabama, it's hard for me to believe Georgia Tech will be able to dominate the matchup up front.

Although I expect the Yellow Jackets to gain their yards, I think the Hokie defense will hold in the red zone and force three field goals. I just don't see Georgia Tech putting up a ton of points. The question becomes, will the special teams make another big play and will Thomas and the offense be able to sustain drives to keep the GT offense off the field? I think so. The Hokies win in a game that comes down to the wire, including a fourth quarter drive that proves victorious, and the Virginia Tech defense holds to secure the win.

PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 24-23


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