Priorities, Picks, & Power Players – GT

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For each game this season, The Sabre will present a final peek at the week’s match-up with a new feature called Priorities, Picks, and Power Players. In the “Priorities” section, we take a look at the keys to a Virginia victory. In the “Picks” section, Sabre Editor Kris Wright and another Sabre representative make a case for who will win and give you a final score. In the “Power Players” section, The Sabre predicts who some of the key players could be for that Saturday’s showdown.

Take a look at Georgia Tech!

Priorities

1. Slow Down The Run. Georgia Tech runs the football and runs it well. If Virginia wants to win, it needs to slow down the run and get the defense off the field. Better yet, if the Hoos can get enough of a lead to force GT to pass more than it wants, the scales tip heavily to the hosts. UVa’s pass defense is much better than the Jackets’ sub-50% completion rate through the air can handle.

2. Control The Clock. One of the major keys to Georgia Tech’s success is time of possession. The Yellow Jackets score points and chew up clock, which limits opponents’ chances to score. Virginia won the TOP in Atlanta last season 34:18 to 25:42 and won the game.

3. Safety Support. GT rips off big plays by both running and passing. Virginia’s safeties have played well during this three-game winning streak. UVa should leave the deep ball threat to the corners and, at most, one deep safety. Use the other more like a rover or fifth linebacker to help contain everything else.

4. Red Zone Touchdowns. Virginia has scored 100% of the time in the red zone this season, but only 58% of those trips have produced touchdowns. In what could be an offensive shootout, the Cavaliers need TDs not field goals in this one.

Picks

KRIS ON THE YELLOW JACKETS

Virginia is riding a three-game winning streak while 11th-ranked Georgia Tech has won four in a row. There’s a slight tinge of excitement in the air for Saturday’s game when two of the Coastal Division’s front-runners clash at Scott Stadium. Can the Cavaliers pull off the upset and keep GT’s Charlottesville losing streak (0 wins since 1990) alive?

Unfortunately, I don’t think the Hoos will shock the Yellow Jackets this weekend. As I say week after week, it all comes down to match-ups and I don’t like the key match-up for Virginia in this one. It is rushing offense vs. rushing defense and Georgia Tech’s strength is one of UVa’s biggest concerns. GT enters this game ranked No. 2 in the nation in rushing offense with an average of 286.1 yards per game. Virginia ranks 59th in rushing defense by allowing 131.5 rushing yards per game.

But the Hoos have done better the past three weeks! Yes, they have. Just not against very good rushing teams (Indiana, UNC, and Maryland all rank below No. 85 in the nation in rushing offense) that could take advantage of one of the Cavaliers’ potential downfalls. Teams that could – TCU (No. 11 nationally) and Southern Miss (No. 28 nationally) – destroyed Virginia on the ground as they combined for 417 yards rushing in those two losses.

Long story short: I don’t think UVa can stop Georgia Tech and I don’t think the offense can score enough to make up the difference.

GT 45, UVa 35 – Kris Wright, Sabre Editor

GREG ON THE YELLOW JACKETS

Virginia could be in for a shootout Saturday and it’s good news that Jameel Sewell and Mikell Simpson are not listed on the out, doubtful or questionable lines on the most recent Cavalier injury report.

The Jackets are 78th in total defense, 68th against the run and 87th against the pass – and the latter is how you want to attack the Yellow Jackets. The Tech secondary has been exploitable this season, especially in press coverage. Florida State had a field day between the seams; GT is vulnerable there and against screens and flairs in the flats.

If the Wreck can get pressure from the front four, the middle may not be so inviting. The key is slowing down DE Derrick Morgan. If he’s getting pressure, Georgia Tech can drop its backers in coverage and the middle of the field becomes more difficult to attack. If the Cavalier line shuts down Morgan and forces GT to bring the backers, look for Vic Hall, the running backs and tight ends to have big afternoon. Tech has also had issues with mobile QBs.

Defending the Jacket offense is fairly simple to scheme, but not necessarily execute. The key to defending this offense, however, is to dictate play. Option teams want to force defenders to think; in fact, they want them to overthink and anticipate. When that happens, big plays happen.

The defense must take away the runs in the interior gaps. If Jonathan Dwyer and the backs have success inside, it will be a long day because the rest of the offense feeds off the inside runs. So dominate the interior then have the ends either take a static position, not commit and delay the option decision to give the defense time to react and pursue. Or, have the ends crash down on the QB, triggering one of the primary reads while hoping to force the action where the defense has some degree of control. Either way, the play of the defense must dictate the QB read.

Groh has always had success against non-traditional offenses and I think he’ll have success Saturday. The question is can Virginia score enough to win a shootout?

UVa 33, GT 28 – Greg Waters, Sabre contributor

Power Players

Rodney McLeod /Corey Mosley /Brandon Woods . Two things can help you beat Georgia Tech – slowing down the run and preventing big plays. That means the Cavalier safeties need to be on top of their game this weekend.

Zane Parr /Will Hill . With Matt Conrath out with an injury, UVa’s back-up defensive ends must step in to fill the void. Considering that the Yellow Jackets like to run option plays to the outside, the defensive ends have to win the battle on the edge and provide at least some penetration to help string out those outside runs.

Vic Hall. “Do it all” Vic Hall needs to help Virginia come up with some offensive magic in the passing game because the Hoos likely will need a lot of points to win this one.

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