It's all for pride now, y'all.
After last week's shellacking in Coral Gables, the Virginia Tech football team can't win the ACC. They can't exact revenge against Clemson. They can't stake claim as a top-10 team.
If you've been lurking on the site for the last week or so, you would know that tensions are high. I can't really blame anyone, because losing to Miami can bring out the worst in anyone. Thankfully we're all heading into a nice, easy week against an opponent whose games against Tech are never close or stressful.
HAHAHAHA OH WAIT NEVERMIND, IT'S GEORGIA TECH WEEK. A SERIES LITTERED WITH HEART PALPITATIONS.
Here's a little history from the battle of the Techs.
2004: Hokies come back from an eight point deficit with five minutes left to win.
2008: Hokies win 20-17, despite Tyrod Taylor throwing for just 48 yards.
2009: Hokies come into Atlanta as the fourth ranked team in the country. They lose, effectively ending their hopes to win a third straight ACC title.
2010: Hokies underperform all game, and can't put the Yellow Jackets away (despite losing QB Joshua Nesbitt in the second quarter). Then David Wilson happened:
2012: Labor Day night. Hokies win in overtime.
2013: Hokies win 17-10 (we'll get to Kyle Fuller's high five later).
2014: Hokies lose 27-24. I'm still not over it. They'll never be able to take this from us, though:
Michael Brewer remains the people's champ.
2015: Hokies win 23-21, but more importantly gave us the most important image of Frank Beamer's career:
2016: Hokies lose 30-20.
In summary, I'm sure this'll be a totally normal, not-nerve-wracking-at-all performance from the team in maroon.
On to the lines.
Over/Under 8.5 times you scream "CHOP BLOCK!" at your television, despite having no clue whether or not it was an actual chop block.
Brian: If there could be an "over, infinity" option, I'd bet that. I like to call this the French effect. Due to years of film reviews, I feel like I know a ton about the X's and O's of the game.
Here's the thing, though. I really don't. I'm much better at knowing where to look when diagnosing a busted play. I'm much more informed when explaining a play to my drunk buddies at a bar. But when it comes to live analysis of a game, and knowing exactly what's a problem and what's not? I still have no clue.
Which means that any time Ricky Walker or Tim Settle hits the ground on Saturday, I'm screaming "OH F**K THAT, CHOP BLOCK, LET'S BURN ATLANTA TO THE GROUND."
(The only thing that's fictionalized about that exclamation is that it says people in Atlanta care about Georgia Tech.)
Pierson: Oh, way way over. I, like many of you, feel like one thousand times more informed about Paul Johnson's tomfoolery since discovering thekeyplay.com and French's film reviews. But I, like many of you, struggle to differentiate between legal and illegal blocks in real time when watching the Bees.
Virginia Tech's public disdain for CPJ's blocking schemes date back to 2009, when the Bees edged out the Hokies 28-23 behind some bush league chop blocks. Frank Beamer called out Georgia Tech for their misdeeds, calling specific attention to their low hits on Kam Chancellor (Tech even sent tape to the league office for review). Keep in mind, Kam may have talked some trash ahead of the game about how Tech had all the answers for the triple option. Anyways, CPJ called the allegations a "joke," and then proceeded to run his fat mouth by saying, "They got out-schemed, so it's illegal to out-scheme them, I guess." Too bad the man upstairs out-schemed your face. Oh, and cool khakis. My mom wears the same pair.
(By the way, an underrated part of that WaPo article above is the image of Billy Hite looking like he just hit Blackjack 19 drinks into his evening. Also, the caption thinks he's Frank Beamer.)
Which number is greater: number of punts for Oscar Bradburn, or number of passing attempts for TaQuon Marshall?
Brian: Are we sure that the Hokie offense isn't a little broken after what Miami did to it last week? There's been a lot of discussion about the break downs and the shortcomings on that side of the ball, and the Hurricanes seemed to exploit all of them. Justin Fuente doesn't have the type of athletes to create mismatches out wide. He doesn't have a running back who can routinely win one-on-ones with linebackers and safeties. He doesn't have a quarterback who can make up for those issues on the ground. Every single yard the Hokies gain is a testament to good scheme and guys who know what to do, but there are very few plays that raise your eyebrows.
That means there's a much smaller margin for error. Anything from a blown blocking assignment to poorly timed sweep could cause utter disaster. And while the Yellow Jackets' defense isn't amazing, it's good enough to cause some problems should some things go wrong (like they did a week ago). I know that Bradburn doesn't punt a ton, but if Josh Jackson doesn't turn it over I could foresee a lot of action for the freshman Aussie (aka, a lot of five-and-outs).
And remember, while this line seems a bit absurd, the Yellow Jackets won in Blacksburg last year despite backup quarterback Matthew Jordan going 2-7 for 34 yards through the air. If the Hokies can't get things going, and Paul Johnson doesn't feel the need to throw, he won't.
Pierson: Marshall attempts. The Big O is averaging a shade over 5 punts per game, and has only punted more than 6 times twice — the opener against WVU and at Boston College. Georgia Tech's defense is no slouch, ranking 28th in the nation in total defense. Plus, it can be difficult for offenses to get into rhythm against the Bees. So don't be surprised to see the Hokies struggle to move the football at times.
Marshall has thrown the ball 7 or more times in every game this season, averaging almost 11 tosses per game. Marshall isn't the passer, say, Justin Thomas was (take that for what it is), so we're more likely to see him throwing over 7 times if the Bees are trailing in the fourth quarter. This line could be sneaky close and a backdoor cover will absolutely be in play if the Hokies are defending a late lead.
Over/Under 150.5 rushing yards by Virginia Tech
Brian: Here's a game-by-game breakdown of team rushing yards this year:
vs WVU: 234
vs Delaware: gulp 81
@ ECU: 287
vs ODU: 271
vs Clemson: 90
@ BC: 109
vs UNC: 181
vs Duke: 187
@ Miami: 102
Those numbers are even less impressive when you consider garbage time yards against North and East Carolina, and Jackson's red herring 46-yard gainer against the Mountaineers. But those stats tell a pretty clear story. When the offense is being effective (if not dangerous), the Hokies break 150 rushing yards. When they don't, they wind up with performances that underwhelm, even in wins. Sure Clemson and Miami were bad, but Delaware and BC weren't great either.
I think the team will come out on a mission on Saturday. I think Brad Cornelsen will come out with the intent to run, like he did in Coral Gables, only this time they'll be marginally better. Good enough to break 150? I'll be a sucker and say yes. Give me the over (and a decent day for Travon McMillian).
Pierson: As I mentioned above, the Bees have been a strong defensive team this season. They enter Saturday's game sporting the 26th best rush defense in the nation, giving up 127 yards per game. Opposite them is a Virginia Tech rushing offense that has been...how do I say this politely...not good. Per ESPN scribe David Hale:
Not counting sacks, Virginia Tech is averaging 3.76 yards/rush in ACC play — worst in the league.— Crooked Halery (@DavidHaleESPN) November 7, 2017
A solid Fuente devotee would argue that three straight carries of 3.76 yards will get you first down after first down. But you need to break a long run or two to make things easier for your offense, especially when you aim to have a balanced attack. Though the Hokies ran for 181 and 187 against UNC and Duke, respectively, they've been held under 110 yards against the other three ACC defenses they've faced. Ted Roof's defense should be viewed through a similar (though not identical) lens as the latter group. Thus, I'll take the under.
Over/Under 2.5 total touchdowns for Josh Jackson
Brian: If the Hokies are scoring, it's probably going to be Jackson doing it. He's picked up a rushing score in each of the last two games, which gives him another avenue to hit the over here. I bet the redshirt freshman has a decent bounce-back game, and I'll say he throws for two scores and runs for another.
Pierson: The Bees D has given up 2 or more touchdowns only once this season, and it was last week against Kurt Benkert and the Hoos. Was it a sign of a worn down defense or a product of 48 passing attempts from an offense that couldn't get much going on the ground? I suspect the latter.
The more I think about this line, the more I hate it. I know that the Hokies will score points, and my memory is painted by an inability to run the ball in inside the red zone. Thus, I'm going to take the over here. It has far more to do with a complete breakdown in faith in the Tech rushing attack than supreme confidence in Jackson.
Yes/No: Does Mook Reynolds force a turnover?
Brian: Ah yes, the Kyle Fuller line.
Bud Foster has had some success against the option with smaller guys, particularly at nickel. Fuller tormented the Bees his final year in Blacksburg, and guys like Kyshoen Jarrett found some success during their careers against Georgia Tech as well.
Traditionally, the playmaking job against the option (I don't care what they call it, I call it the option) happens on the line. Woody Baron had a big game last year, Corey Marshall, and J.R. Collins have all come up big in recent matchups. But a playmaker on the edge can do a lot of things. And that guy in 2017 is Mook Reynolds.
GIVE ME ALL THE TURNOVERS.
Pierson: Mook has his moments where he inexplicably misses a tackle in the open field, but otherwise he's pretty swell. Bud Foster's regular deployment of Mook is modeled after Foster's use of Kyle Fuller against the Bees in 2013. Fuller wreaked havoc off the edge, ManBearPig and Luther Maddy stuffed the middle all night long, and the Hokies defense had one of their best ever performances against Georgia Tech's triple option.
In case you needed a refresher on how dangerous he and the rest of the VPI defense was, I present to you Billdozer's memorialization of the performance.
This matchup is well suited for Mook to replicate Fuller's pesky performance, so I'll say yes. Bring on the disruption!
First half spread: Virginia Tech (-0.5)
Brian: Let's look at three quick things:
1. Georgia Tech has four wins with three games to go. After the Hokies come to town, they play at Duke and then host Georgia. Considering that UGA is the top-ranked team in the country, you'd have to figure Johnson and the rest of his staff see the most likely path to a bowl game in the next two weeks.
2. Virginia Tech is officially out of the running for the ACC Coastal. Though they're 7-2 and still have a chance (in theory) to go to a New Year's bowl (I don't buy it), the chance of a letdown game is very high.
3. Jackson and company average 11 first half points per game against ACC teams (that number doesn't include the non-offensive barrage against UNC).
Now, add up those three points. Doesn't it scream Georgia Tech up 13-10 at halftime?
Pierson: The Hokies offense has struggled out of the gates all season long, with a few exceptions (thanks UNC!). What would lead me to believe that they would be any better on the road in their first nooner of the year? Possessions often are at a premium against Georgia Tech. Road nooners often lead to sleepy starts. Add in the fact that the defense has only had one week to prepare for the triple option and it could make for a turbulent first half before everyone gets their sea legs.
Now I know that the Hokies enter Saturday's tilt with a veteran defense that shouldn't be too surprised by CPJ's high school offense. It doesn't change the fact that the system is antithetical to the spread offenses Tech's been defending all season long. The scout team can attempt to simulate the GT offense as best they want — and I'm sure Khalil Pimpleton has been a shifty little bugger all week long — but the speed can put you on your heels. I'll take Georgia Tech to cover.
Matchup Over/Under: 50
Brian: These teams have only hit this over three times since 2007. In 2011, David Wilson ran for 175 yards and Logan Thomas put up five scores in a 37-26 win in Atlanta. The other two times this game hit over 50 points? 2014 (27-24), and 2009 (28-23).
Both of those games had 51 points.
History says take the under, which is exactly what I'm going to do.
Pierson: Georgia Tech has steadily racked up 33 or more points in all but two games. Those two games? They were against top-notch defenses in Clemson and Miami. The Hokies have a similar scoring pattern this season, and managed less combined points against the Tigers and Canes (27 to 34), for whatever that's worth.
What can we take away from this? Welp, the Tech defense is in the same league as the Coastal and Atlantic Division leaders. The Georgia Tech defense, on the other hand, is very good but not great. Since Paul Johnson took over in Hotlanta, the final score has not bested this line in consecutive years. Last year's total was 50, making this even more confusing. Given the trends and the defensive matchup, I'll take the under.
Spread: Virginia Tech (-3)
Brian: I have an awful feeling about this game, despite not seeing much from the Jackets to give me concern. They kept it close in Miami, in part because of a weird onside kick returned for a touchdown to start the second half.
They never scared Clemson. They gave up 42 points to a Tennessee team that didn't score an offensive touchdown for 34 days. They blew a two-touchdown lead to Virginia for God's sake.
But still, I hate it. I have very little confidence in the Hokie offense right now. I'm concerned about the defense after their self-proclaimed "worst half of the season." And, to top it all off, how will this young squad respond now that one of their biggest goals (an ACC title) is unattainable?
This feels like a cop-out, but give me Virginia Tech to win and not cover. 24-23 Hokies.
Pierson: Like many of you, the loss to Miami really shook my confidence. We knew that the Canes defense was fast and physical. We knew that the Canes offense could break a few chunk plays. What I didn't expect to see were the mental lapses and the physical pounding that Josh Jackson took. Jackson, to his credit, hung in there until the very last play. The breakdowns, however, terrified me. After the last few seasons, they're not entirely unexpected. But this particular team had been playing with such effectiveness that I admittedly got caught up in the hype. I mean, they were blowing the doors off of teams. Not elite teams, but Power 5 teams nonetheless.
I don't have a good gauge on this game. I always throw out GT's record — it doesn't mean anything when you're playing such a unique offense. Lest we forget a 5-4 GT team strolled into Lane last fall with their backup quarterback and pummeled the Hokies all afternoon. I'm going to take the Hokies (-3) because I think that they're the better team, but I don't feel good about it.
Disclaimer: Some of these are real betting lines, but many of them are fake and none of this is real advice that should be taken seriously.