The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: A key ACC Coastal Division battle is on tap in Blacksburg on Thursday night, when the 20th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies play host to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Frank Beamer's Hokies began the 2010 season in a deep hole, losing two straight games, including a setback to FCS foe James Madison. However, Virginia Tech has gotten out of that hole and is now soaring heading into November play, having won six straight games. The Hokies are a perfect 4-0 in ACC action, holding a two-game lead in the loss column atop the Coastal Division. VaTech was idle this past weekend due to this week's Thursday game.
Beamer believes his team is peaking at the right time.
"I do think we've got things to work on, but when you play well and you have success, it builds confidence. You can't talk your way into it. You've got to build it. The last couple of games, we've taken steps where we want to go."
Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets were also idle this past weekend and haven't played since an October 23rd loss at Clemson (27-13). The defending ACC champions have had their ups and downs in league play thus far at 3-2, but had captured three straight victories prior to the setback against the Tigers.
Johnson says the focus right now is not on repeating as Coastal Division champs.
"We still talk about it, until we are mathematically eliminated. It is not the major focus. Our focus is going to try and play better this week. We know that if we don't win this week there won't be much to talk about. Who knows, we can go over there and win this week, I have seen sicker children get well."
This is the eighth all-time meeting in a series that dates back to 1990, with Virginia Tech holding a narrow 4-3 advantage. One of these two teams has represented the Coastal Division in all of the ACC Championship games thus far.
A one-dimensional offense, there is no secret as to how Georgia Tech will try to move the football against the Hokies. The team is putting up just over 400 yards of total offense this year (402.1), with 317.4 coming on the ground. Of the team's 28 touchdowns scored on offense this year, 21 have come via the run. Tailback Anthony Allen (692 yards, 6.0 ypc, five TDs) and quarterback Joshua Nesbitt (651 yards, 4.1 ypc, eight TDs) handle the majority of the ground work.
Nesbitt isn't much of a passer, completing a miserable 38.2 percent of his limited pass attempts, for 674 yards and seven TDs. To further emphasize Tech's inability to throw the football, Stephen Hill represents the team's top receiver this year, with a mere 20 catches, for 165 yards and two scores.
The Georgia Tech defense has played to mixed reviews this season. The team is allowing 23.6 ppg, but has been victimized by the run at times (162.2 ypg).
Senior LB Brad Jefferson has provided a spark in the middle of the field, leading the team in tackles (49) and sacks (four). Junior LB Steven Sylvester (37 tackles) has made an impact behind the line of scrimmage, with a team-high 10.5 TFLs and three sacks. Seniors Dominique Reece (41 tackles, 7.0 TFLs, one sack) and Mario Butler (34 tackles) and junior Jerrard Tarrant (26 tackles, three INTs) highlight the play in the secondary.
The Hokies have evolved into an offensive juggernaut this season and are currently averaging 37.0 ppg. Although this is still a team that enjoys running the football, balance has been the key. Virginia Tech is averaging over 200 yards per game both rushing (214.8) and passing the football (209.9 ypg).
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor has taken a backseat to some of the nation's top dual threat signal-callers, but he has certainly been equally instrumental in his team's sucess thus far. Taylor leads the team in rushing with 527 yards, getting it done on 6.2 yards per carry. This is a deep backfield, with Darren Evans (447 yards, 5.9 ypc, nine TDs), David Wilson (440 yards, 6.3 ypc, three TDs) and the oft-injured Ryan Williams (four TDs) all having the ability to move the chains.
Taylor's efficiency when dropping back to pass has made Virginia Tech much more potent offensively, completing 63.9 percent of his passes, for 1,602 yards, with 15 TDs and just three INTs. There are a number of viable options down the field, led by WR Jarrett Boykin (31 receptions, for 517 yards, five TDs).
The Hokies have taken a step or two back in terms of defensive production this season and the unit has struggled with consistency. The team is yielding 20.0 ppg, despite allowing a mere 336.4 yards of total offense.
Linebacker Bruce Taylor is leading the team in tackles (55), as well as TFLs (11.5), with three sacks. Defensive end Steven Friday has made a living upfield as well. Of his 34 tackles, 9.5 have been behind the line of scrimmage, including a team-high four sacks. Cornerbacks Rashad Carmichael (27 tackles, three INTs) and Jayron Hosley (21 tackles, five INTs) are ballhawks in the secondary.