Three-List Preview: Virginia Faces Georgia Tech To Start Season-Ending Homestand

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Virginia is bowl eligible for the third straight season.
Charles Snowden and the Hoos are looking for more reasons to celebrate as a season-ending homestand begins with Georgia Tech. ~ Photo courtesy Matt Riley/Virginia Athletics Media Relations

The Virginia football team plays host to Georgia Tech in another crucial ACC matchup for the Cavaliers. While the Hoos come into the game sitting atop the ACC Coastal with their 4-2 conference record, the division race is still a logjam. Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech both have two conference losses as well but have played less games, and there are three other teams in the division just one loss behind with three.

In other words, the Hoos are in good shape with two ACC home games remaining but a loss could knock them out the driver’s seat.

Last week, the Cavaliers came out victorious on the road against UNC in what was a must-win game. Both teams held 3-2 conference records before clashing. The Hoos won in a 38-31 shootout where the teams combined for 35 points in the third quarter and over 1,000 total yards in the game. Even with this offensive explosion from both teams, it was the Cavalier defense that stood tall and sealed the game for the Hoos as they pitched a fourth quarter shutout to keep that seven-point lead safe.

Georgia Tech has had a disappointing season in Geoff Collins’s first campaign as the Yellow Jackets head coach. They come in with a 2-6 record overall and a 1-4 ACC record. While the Jackets have not had the season that they had hoped for, they were able to accomplish something Virginia could not. Two games ago, Georgia Tech defeated Miami 28-21 on the road where the Hoos fell 17-9 earlier. The Yellow Jackets were unable to build off of this momentum, though, as they lost last week at Pittsburgh 20-10.

The two paths these teams took to get to this place will be thrown aside come kickoff Saturday afternoon. They have split their last four games against each other with Georgia Tech defeating Virginia 30-27 in overtime in Atlanta last season. The Hoos look to avenge last year’s heartbreaking loss and keep their Coastal Division dreams alive, while the Yellow Jackets look for a season-defining victory.

Essentials

Three Questions

1. Will the Hoos still play motivated football?

The Cavaliers are coming off of an emotional road win where they were viewed as the underdogs heading into the game. This week provides a drastically different narrative as Virginia is heavily favored over and expected to cruise to a victory against the Yellow Jackets. An early 12:30 p.m. kickoff time will not do the Cavaliers any favors either as this could potentially lead to a late-arriving crowd that may need some time to get energized.

When the Hoos took on ODU earlier this season at Scott Stadium in a game they were expected to easily win, the Hoos fell behind 17-0. While they rallied to win that game, Virginia cannot rely on another comeback like that against a more talented team in Georgia Tech. UVA needs to come out focused and try to get this Yellow Jacket team to crumble and fold early.

2. Who will win the matchup between the Georgia Tech secondary and the Virginia passing game?

Georgia Tech’s secondary and pass defense has been one of the few bright spots for the team this season. The Jackets are ranked second in the ACC and 20th nationally by only giving up 187.9 passing yards per game. On the other hand, the Hoos bring a passing offense that seems to be clicking on all cylinders. The Cavaliers totaled 383 passing yards last week and now have three of the top eight reception leaders in the ACC this year in Joe Reed, Hasise Dubois, and Terrell Jana. Winning this matchup could play a large role in winning the game.

3. Can the Hoos avoid turnovers again?

The number of turnovers by the Virginia offense has been a solid indication of its success in games this season. In UVA’s three losses this season, it has averaged nearly three turnovers per game, while only averaging just over one turnover in their six wins. Last week against UNC, the Hoos were turnover free on offense. Turning the ball over against an underdog gives them confidence and keeps them in the game. A way to quickly spark Georgia Tech’s upset chances and hopes is turning the ball over multiple times.

Three Opponents to Watch

1. Jordan Mason, Running Back, #27

The 6’1”, 219-pound redshirt sophomore has been a rock for this Yellow Jacket offense. Receiving the majority of the carries for Georgia Tech, Mason leads the team in rushing with 622 yards and six touchdowns. He also averages nearly six yards per carry. Getting Mason involved early on in the game could open the field up and buy some time for the Yellow Jacket passing game.

2. Ahmarean Brown, Wide Receiver, #10

The 5’10”, 155-pound true freshman leads the team in all major receiving categories with 16 catches for 302 yards and four touchdowns. His four touchdown receptions are the most by any Georgia Tech freshman since Demaryius Thomas had four as a redshirt freshman back in 2007. No other player on the team has more than one receiving touchdown this season so it is clear that Brown is the go-to target in the red zone. Watch for the Yellow Jackets to try to take advantage of his matchup with Virginia’s injury-hit secondary, which gave up some big plays last week against UNC.

3. David Curry, Linebacker, #6

The 6’2”, 230-pound redshirt junior has established himself as the leader of this Georgia Tech defense. Curry impacts the game in a multitude of ways as his 65 tackles are the most on the team, and he has an interception, a fumble forced, and a fumble recovery too. The Yellow Jackets will lean on him to try to stop this red-hot Cavalier offense.

Three Positives from Last Week

1. Road Victory

Virginia’s road nightmares finally came to an end last Saturday night in Chapel Hill as it snapped a three-game losing streak in games played outside of Charlottesville. The Cavaliers desperately needed to end this trend if they wanted to keep their ACC Coastal dreams alive, and they did so in a sold-out Kenan Memorial Stadium. With Saturday’s win at UNC and a week one win at Pittsburgh, this marks the first time since 2011 that the Hoos have won two road ACC games in the same season.

2. Bryce Perkins

Perkins was the unquestioned MVP of last week’s game for the Cavaliers. On a night where he shattered school records and lit up the scoreboard, Perkins tore apart the Tar Heel defense through the air and on the ground. He completed 30 of 39 passes for 378 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, while totaling 112 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. His 490 yards of total offense are the most in school history in a single game and he became the first Virginia player with 300+ passing yards and 100+ rushing yards in the same game. If Perkins can get even remotely close to replicating this performance Saturday against the Yellow Jackets, the Hoos should feel good about their chances.

3. Penalties

Last week’s preview asked if the Cavaliers could play clean football against the Tar Heels. The answer was an astounding yes. After being penalized eight times for 70 yards the previous week against Louisville, the Hoos completely flipped the switch against UNC. Virginia was penalized only one time for five yards the entire game. This impressive feat played an integral role in being victorious on the road for the first time since week one of the season. The Hoos will need more clean games like that one as they try to secure that ACC Coastal crown.

Remember When …

The Cavaliers stormed back to defeat the Yellow Jackets in a rainy shootout 40-36 in 2017 to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2011.

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