After returning home victorious in The South's Oldest Rivalry, the Wahoos are hosting Homecomings this weekend. The annual tradition marks the beginning of a three-game homestand to end the 2019 regular season.
Virginia (6-3, 4-2) brings a 4-0 home record to the table in this contest against Georgia Tech (2-6, 1-4). The Yellow Jackets are 1-3 on the road this season. Last week, they fell to Pitt 20-10 at home in Atlanta.
Regional Sports Networks will broadcast the game beginning at 12:30 on Saturday. You can find your local affiliate here.
The Hoos will hit the field in the George Welsh era inspired white-orange-white uniform set.
You would be hard pressed to find a closer rivalry among UVA's ACC foes than this one.
The home team has won the last five matchups between Georgia Tech and UVA. The last time Georgia Tech won in Charlottesville was in 2013.#TogetherWeSwarm #GoHoos #GTvsUVAhttps://t.co/jRa5PNX5q2 pic.twitter.com/yiYUBRUYdX— Winsipedia (@Winsipedia) November 5, 2019
The Hoos aim to remove the bitter taste of an overtime loss last season from their mouths.
This rivalry has had its share of consequential games and wild plays.
The video quality is suspect, at best, but who says no to watching a field level view of the hook and lateral game winner from the 2001 matchup?
Keys To Victory
Paul Johnson and his triple option may be gone, but Georgia Tech's offense is still based on their ability to run the ball.
New coach Geoff Collins knew that the removal of Johnson's triple option and subsequent overhaul of the offense would be a multi-season endeavor. He's not asking the Yellow Jackets to do anything difficult this year, especially in the passing game. Instead, it's a ground and pound approach. And sophomore running back Jordan Mason is excelling in that offense.
Mason was a low 3 star recruit out of Tennessee. Now, the 6-1 219 pound sophomore is the sixth leading rusher in the ACC at 622 yards on 110 carries (5.7 yards per carry). That's good for 77.8 yards per game. He has 6 rushing touchdowns as well.
A RB sleeper to keep an eye on is Georgia Tech RB Jordan Mason. He lit up Miami last week and has been solid all year long. Powerful back with great contract balance. pic.twitter.com/oZbjhsvgIT— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 23, 2019
Overall, Georgia Tech's rushing attack ranks 75th in FBS at 158.5 yards per game.
Limit Wide Receiver Ahmarean Brown
Given the starting point for this offense, it should come as no surprise that the pass offense is struggling. It's 124th in FBS at 141.0 yards per game.
Georgia Tech's top QB is redshirt freshman James Graham. He's completed 43.4 percent of his passes on the season for 723 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. Graham also has 59 rushing attempts on the season for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Despite the struggles in the passing game, the Jackets do have a dangerous weapon in freshman wide receiver Ahmarean Brown from Tampa, Florida.
Brown leads Georgia Tech with 16 catches for 302 yards and 4 touchdowns. He has a long reception of 51 yards.
Brown is small, 5-10 155 pounds, but has the speed to take the top off of a defense.
Given UVA's issues in the secondary, Brown could be a problem if the front seven doesn't pressure the GT quarterbacks consistently. The good news is that unlike the North Carolina receivers, Brown isn't particularly physically imposing. Despite his speed, he may be a good matchup for the Wahoo secondary.
No Steps Back
Consistency on offense has been an issue all season long for UVA. Against UNC last week, the offense exploded for 38 points behind a UVA record 490 yards of total offense from Bryce Perkins. It was the best the offense had looked all season.
Previous games where the offense seemed to be gaining some traction, Florida State, Notre Dame first half, and Duke, were followed by duds. The offense struggled most of the game against Old Dominion. It was dominated in the second half by Notre Dame and was a dud at Miami. And two weeks ago against Louisville, it struggled to string together scoring drives despite some good individual efforts from Wayne Taulapapa and the wide receivers. The nemesis of every offense, turnovers and sacks, were a particular issue against the Cardinals.
How the offense responds to the excellent play at UNC will likely determine how difficult this game is to win. Struggle and it could be a slog. Maintaining, or even improving on, the effort against the Tarheels probably results in an easy Wahoo victory.
Georgia Tech will bring to town the 74th ranked defense in FBS. They give up 405.5 yards per game.
Their scoring defense is ranked 81st in FBS surrendering 29.1 points per game.
The Yellow Jacket rush defense ranks 121st in FBS allowing 217.6 yards per game. Don't expect the Hoos to take advantage of that besides with Bryce Perkins.
Their pass defense ranks 20th in FBS allowing just 187.9 yards per game.
A game plan heavy on passing probably plays into Georgia Tech's hands. But a more balanced attack is probably the correct recipe.
ESPN's Football Power Index currently gives UVA a 91.3% chance to win this game.
Given the state of the rebuild underway in Atlanta, it's really hard to disagree with that. Yes, Georgia Tech upset Miami this year. But that game likely says much more about The U than it does about Georgia Tech. These Yellow Jackets did lose at home to The Citadel earlier this year.
They're slowly getting better, however. Last week, they gave Pitt all that the Panthers wanted. The Jackets' offense was still putrid, but they only lost 20 to 10.
Bryce Perkins was a revelation last week against the Tarheels. He looked healthy and explosive. It was, by far, the best he's looked all year.
Look for Perkins to be a difference maker on the ground. And GT's offense will not be able to take advantage of UVA's secondary woes.
27 to 13, UVA wins!