Today marks the start of the blog’s look at Virginia Tech’s opponents in 2012. I’ll take a two-day look at each team, doing an overview first before asking a beat writer for the other team five questions on the second day.
Up first, naturally, is the Hokies’ Labor Day opponent, Georgia Tech.
Coach: Paul Johnson (33-19, 21-11 ACC, entering fifth season; 140-58 in 15 years at Georgia Southern, Navy and Georgia Tech)
2011 record: 8-5 (5-3 ACC, t-2nd Coastal), lost 30-27 to Utah in Sun Bowl
Looking back: The Yellow Jackets started fast and finished slow, racing to a 6-0 start before losing five of their last seven. Georgia Tech hammered early-season patsies like Western Carolina, Middle Tennessee and Kansas before putting together league wins against North Carolina, N.C. State and Maryland to get as high as 12th in the national polls. Virginia ended Georgia Tech’s run in Charlottesville with a 24-21 win. Miami beat the Jackets the following week before they pulled off their signature win, building a 24-3 first-half lead and holding on late to beat No. 5 Clemson in Atlanta. They couldn’t sustain the success, though. Virginia Tech won a Thursday night game at Bobby Dodd Stadium 37-26, dashing the Jackets’ ACC title game hopes. The Jackets beat Duke but lost their final two games to rival Georgia and in the Sun Bowl against Utah, Georgia Tech’s fourth straight loss in a bowl game under Johnson.
- Rushing offense: 316.46 ypg (2nd nationally, 1st ACC)
- Passing offense: 142.31 ypg (112th nationally, 12th ACC)
- Total offense: 458.77 ypg (18th nationally, 1st ACC)
- Scoring offense: 34.31 ppg (21st nationally, 1st ACC)
- Rushing defense: 161.46 ypg (66th nationally, 7th ACC)
- Passing defense: 197.85 ypg (28th nationally, 2nd ACC)
- Total defense: 359.31 ypg (44th nationally, 5th ACC)
- Scoring defense: 26.08 ypg (60th nationally, 8th ACC)
- Turnover margin: .15 (44th nationally, 6th ACC)
Offensive starters returning/lost: 7/4
Defensive starters returning/lost: 6/5
Losses: RB Embry Peeples (491 yards, 2 TD), RB Roddy Jones (458 yards, 3 TD), WR Stephen Hill (28 catches, 820 yards, 5 TD), WR Tyler Melton (17 catches, 263 yards), OT Phil Smith, DT Logan Walls (39 tackles, 2 sacks), DE Jason Peters (41 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2 sacks), LB Julian Burnett (2nd All-ACC, 120 tackles, 9.5 TFL), OLB Steven Sylvester (43 tackles, 5 TFL), S Rashaad Reid (51 tackles)
Returnees: QB Tevin Washington (986 rushing, 14 TD, 1,652 passing, 11 TD), RB Orwin Smith (615 rushing, 11TD, 306 receiving, TD), RB David Sims (698 yards, 7 TD), G Omoregie Uzzi (1st All-ACC, 2nd All-American SI), C Jay Finch, G Will Jackson, OT Ray Beno, DE Izaan Cross (32 tackles), DT T.J. Barnes (1.5 TFL), OLB Jeremiah Attaochu (11.5 TFL, 6 sacks), ILB Daniel Drummond (44 tackles), ILB Quayshawn Nealy (52 tackles, 2 INT), CB Rod Sweeting (HM All-ACC, 56 tackles, 3 INT), CB Louis Young (52 tackles, INT), S Isaiah Johnson (78 tackles, 3 INT), S Jemea Thomas (50 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 INT), K Justin Moore (11-17 FG), P Sean Poole (39.7 avg.).
- Sept. 3: at Virginia Tech
- Sept. 8: vs. Presbyterian
- Sept. 15: vs. Virginia
- Sept. 22: vs. Miami
- Sept. 29: vs. Middle Tennessee
- Oct. 6: at Clemson
- Oct. 20: vs. Boston College
- Oct. 27: vs. Brigham Young
- Nov. 3: at Maryland
- Nov. 10: at North Carolina
- Nov. 17: vs. Duke
- Nov. 24: at Georgia
Strengths: The heart of Georgia Tech’s spread option returns, with Washington directing things at quarterback for a second season and Smith and Sims running behind a solid offensive line, led by All-ACC pick Uzzi. The Jackets’ spread option offense is always a bear to prepare for, and with this many returning parts in the running game, it should again be something that gives opposing teams fits. The secondary should be the strength of the defense, led by returning starters Sweeting, Young and Johnson and a play-maker in Thomas. Attaochu, an outside linebacker, is the kind who can thrive in Al Groh‘s 3-4 defense. That group struggled some last year, but this is the third year in the scheme, which should help.
Weaknesses: Georgia Tech doesn’t have much of a passing game, but whatever it had is gone from last season. Hill, who wowed scouts in the NFL Combine and was taken in the second round by the New York Jets, is gone, as is No. 2 receiver Melton. The fear for Georgia Tech fans is that their offense can become too one-dimensional at times. With those two out of the equation, teams will be able to load up against the run even more. Defensively, the Jackets lost five starters in the front seven, including Burnett, who suffered a career-ending neck injury in the Sun Bowl. He was the heart and soul of the defense, in addition to being the leading tackler. Replacing him won’t be easy.
Fun fact: (Via Wikipedia) ”The University of Georgia’s literary magazine proclaimed UGA’s colors to be ‘old gold, black, and crimson.’ Dr. Charles H. Herty, the first UGA football coach, felt that old gold was too similar to yellow and that it ‘symbolized cowardice.’ After the 1893 football game against Tech, Herty removed old gold as an official color. Tech would first use old gold for their uniforms, as a proverbial slap in the face to UGA, in their first unofficial football game against Auburn in 1891. Georgia Tech’s school colors would henceforth be old gold and white.”
Series with VT: Virginia Tech leads 6-3
In the last 10 years:
- 2011: No. 10 Virginia Tech 37, No. 20 Georgia Tech 26, in Atlanta
- 2010: No. 20 Virginia Tech 28, Georgia Tech 21, in Blacksburg
- 2009: No. 19 Georgia Tech 28, No. 4 Virginia Tech 23, in Atlanta
- 2008: Virginia Tech 20, Georgia Tech 17, in Blacksburg
- 2007: No. 11 Virginia Tech 27, Georgia Tech 3, in Atlanta
- 2006: No. 24 Georgia Tech 38, No. 11 Virginia Tech 27, in Blacksburg
- 2005: No. 4 Virginia Tech 51, No. 15 Georgia Tech 7, in Blacksburg
- 2004: No. 22 Virginia Tech 34, Georgia Tech 20, in Atlanta