The ACC Kickoff (aka media days) is fast approaching. I’ll be using the blog to count down to what we media members consider the unofficial start of the football season. This isn’t a list of the 25 best players on Virginia Tech’s roster. It’s a list of 25 things/people that will determine whether the Hokies’ 2012 season is a success or not. That includes players and coaches from both Virginia Tech and, occasionally, a few of its opponents.
No. 21: Georgia Tech’s option offense
It’s easy to forget now, but Georgia Tech had Virginia Tech on the ropes for a moment last year. The Yellow Jackets went 74 and 84 yards on their first two drives of the second half in Atlanta, capping each with a touchdown run by quarterback Tevin Washington to take a 26-21 lead.
On the ensuing drive, Logan Thomas was about to be sacked on third-and-long deep in Virginia Tech territory. But he wouldn’t go down, frustrating linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu into taking a slug at the quarterback, a 15-yard personal foul penalty that moved the chains. The Hokies would score, then stop the Yellow Jackets on fourth-and-one, then score again, taking a big enough lead that Georgia Tech had to go to the air, not its strong suit.
So despite the 37-26 final score, there was a fine line in the game, much like every year with Georgia Tech, whose methodical, a-few-yards-at-a-time, spread option offense is a nuisance to play against.
The Hokies have historically fared OK defensively against Paul Johnson‘s spread option offense. In Johnson’s four years, Virginia Tech is 3-1 against Georgia Tech, having held the Yellow Jackets to less than their season average in total yards on two of those occasions.
Last season, the Yellow Jackets finished with 340 yards, a total stunted by a fourth quarter in which the Hokies held Georgia Tech to negative 16 yards. (Read that again.)
But Georgia Tech has the principal players in its running game returning. Washington is back for his second year as a starter. He accounted for 2,638 yards and 25 touchdowns last year, 14 on the ground. Running backs Orwin Smith (615 yards, 11 TD) and David Sims (698 yards, 7 TD) return, in addition to an experienced offensive line that returns players at all five spots who have started.
The only big knock on Georgia Tech’s offense is that its top receivers, notably Stephen Hill, are gone. That could minimize the passing threat that helps the Yellow Jackets keep defenses honest.
Regardless, they’re going to pound the run, over and over and over. They know it. The defense knows it. The people in the stadium know it. Ultimately, it boils down to execution. And whichever side does that better, will probably come out on top.
There will be no lack of time for Bud Foster to get his defense ready. With the game on Labor Day night, the Hokies could devote a good chunk of August to scouting the Yellow Jackets. Given Virginia Tech’s propensity for starting the season slow, that preparation becomes paramount.
And if you think this is overstating the importance of a season opener, remember: the winner of Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech has represented the Coastal Division in every one of the league’s title games.
Coming Monday: They don’t shake hands.