Georgia Tech hasn’t confirmed that it will move its game against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg to Labor Day evening, but an announcement should be forthcoming. (The holdup is because the Jackets are shuffling some other games.) So if Tech-Tech, which has become a midseason ACC marquee game, becomes a high-profile opener instead, who benefits?
Tech, I say. (Heh, heh.)
Virginia Tech benefits in that it gets the only other team to win the ACC Coastal since the league moved to divisional play at its place so early. As we know, Paul Johnson’s offense is unlike most others, and teams that have extra time to prepare tend to fare a bit better than those that don’t. (Johnson argues that this bit of conventional wisdom is overblown, but here we note that, of Georgia Tech’s five losses in 2011, three — against Virginia, Virginia Tech and Utah — came against opponents who had more than one week to ready themselves.) That said …
Georgia Tech benefits in that Virginia Tech is a famously slow starter. The Hokies lost their opener in 2008 (to East Carolina in Charlotte), in 2009 (to Alabama in the Georgia Dome) and in 2010 (to Boise State in Washington, D.C.). They also lost their second game of the 2010 season to James Madison, and last season they were tied with East Carolina in Week 2 with 7 1/2 minutes remaining.
The Jackets could return as many as 15 starters on offense and defense. The Hokies are scheduled to retain eight starters on D, but they lose four offensive linemen, two wide receivers and tailback David Wilson. And Virginia Tech, at least in the post-Vick days, has never been all that impressive on offense. If Georgia Tech can score three touchdowns on Labor Day night, it can win.
When last these teams met, Georgia Tech’s third touchdown gave it a 26-21 lead late in the third quarter, and the surging Jackets were poised to take the ball again when Jeremiah Attaochu sacked Logan Thomas on third down. But officials were slow to blow the play dead and the massive Thomas refused to go down and an agitated Attaochu took a swing at him and was flagged for the personal foul that changed the game. The Hokies kept the ball and scored, stopped the Jackets on fourth-and-1 and scored again and won 37-26.
We think of the 2011 Georgia Tech season as having unraveled at its end, but the Virginia Tech game was there to be won. Had Georgia Tech prevailed that Thursday night, it would have played Clemson for the ACC title, and the Jackets had already beaten Clemson once.
Most years, I’d say Georgia Tech wouldn’t profit from playing its chief division rival so soon on the road, but I’m thinking 2012 might be the one time it does. I’m thinking Georgia Tech will arrive in Blacksburg on Sept. 3 with a point to prove. I’m thinking the Hokies might find themselves behind 14-0 before they realize they’re in a game.
So: Am I picking Georgia Tech? As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend.” On Aug. 27, 2000, Georgia Tech was scheduled to play Virginia Tech in Blacksburg in prime time. Corso picked the Jackets to win, whereupon his rental car — he wasn’t in it — was struck by lightning. The game was washed out and never rescheduled. We all know the Bradley Jinx is mighty, and I’d hate it if I conjured up a storm of my own.
By Mark Bradley