GA Tech-Virginia Preview
Charlottesville, VA - Georgia Tech's impressive running game may have it on the brink of its first top 10 appearance in over eight years, but Virginia's stunning turnaround has it atop the ACC Coastal Division.
A road win over the Cavaliers for the first time in nearly 19 years would give the 11th-ranked Yellow Jackets the Coastal lead Saturday when they visit Virginia.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SPORTSBETTING.com have made Georgia Tech -4 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 90% of bets for this game have been placed on Georgia Tech (View College Football bet percentages).
The Yellow Jackets (6-1, 4-1) lead the nation with 1,917 rushing yards and rank second with 22 touchdowns, while their passing game's 949 yards and five TDs are last in the ACC.
That disparity is due to a run-oriented spread offense under second-year coach Paul Johnson, and it was clearly evident in last Saturday's 28-23 win over then-No. 4 Virginia Tech. Georgia Tech ran for 309 yards and four touchdowns, while its lone completion in seven attempts went for 51 yards.
The Yellow Jackets have attempted a conference-low 82 pass attempts, but the win over the Hokies moved the Yellow Jackets up eight spots in the AP poll. They haven't cracked the top 10 since being ninth on Sept. 23, 2001.
"As long as we're ahead at the end of the game, it doesn't matter how many passes we complete," said quarterback Josh Nesbitt, who rushed for three TDs for a second consecutive game while totaling 122 yards on 23 carries.
Nesbitt is third in the ACC with 625 rushing yards and nine scores.
Georgia Tech's running game has been halted once, getting held to a season-low 95 yards in a 33-12 loss at then-No. 20 Miami on Sept. 17. Since then, the Yellow Jackets are averaging 310.0 rushing yards during a four-game winning streak, but they're second in the division standings to Virginia (3-3, 2-0).
Georgia Tech has lost eight straight at Charlottesville since Nov. 3, 1990, the year it claimed a share of the national title. Overall, it's 14-16-1 all-time against the Cavaliers, dropping five of the last six after falling 24-17 on Oct. 25, 2008.
"We already have a loss and I don't think you can win our side with two," Johnson said. "One loss is going to win it.
"We have to make sure we're dialed in (against Virginia) and ready to play. Whatever was ailing them earlier, they found and figured out. They might be playing as well as anybody in the league."
The Cavaliers started the season with three consecutive losses and the pressure was mounting on coach Al Groh. However, after beating Maryland 20-9 last week, they've outscored opponents 83-19 while winning three straight.
"Teams here and the players that have made up the teams, I think, are pretty strong believers that this is about one week at a time," Groh said.
"And if you do the right things during the course of the week to really prepare yourself for a peak performance, you've got your best chance to get the result you want," he said.
One way the Cavaliers have improved is by stopping the run. The defense has allowed an average of 82.3 rushing yards during its win streak after surrendering 180.7 during the season-opening slide.
Virginia, though, is hoping to overcome several key injuries, including a right ankle sprain to quarterback Jameel Sewell. The senior left last week's game during the third quarter, and is questionable.
Sewell has been efficient during the winning streak, completing 46 of 77 passes for 581 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. If he can't play, Groh will likely turn to Marc Verica, who started most of last season before losing the spot to Sewell.
Running back Mikell Simpson (shoulder) and defensive end Matt Conrath (ankle) are also uncertain to play.
Simpson leads Virginia with 247 rushing yards and five touchdowns, but the senior has not played since a 47-7 win against Indiana on Oct. 10.
Posted: 10/20/09 4:05PM ET