The opening round of college football games rarely features an intense in-conference matchup, but this is exactly what Georgia Tech and Virginia Teach will deliver on Monday.
Kickoff will be at 8 p.m. ET at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va. The Hokies currently sit at No. 16 in the AP Top 25 poll, and the Yellow Jackets are looking to break into the rankings with a win to start ACC play.
Virginia Tech started the year by going 11-1, but ended its 2011 campaign with a loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship and a heartbreaking overtime defeat to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl. Georgia Tech finished the regular season with an 8-4 overall record and also lost its bowl game in overtime.
Here are the top storylines surrounding this matchup.
Can the Hokies Stop the Georgia Tech Rushing Attack?
Virginia Tech is returning nine starters on defense and was a top-10 defense in terms of the yardage and points allowed last season, according to STATS’ Alan Ferguson, via Yahoo Sports.
Ferguson also notes that the Hokies were able to keep the Yellow Jackets under 300 yards rushing last year for the first time in three tries. Virginia Tech won 37-26; the teams split the previous two matchups with those games decided by seven points or fewer.
If the Hokies can stuff Georgia Tech’s option-oriented offense at the line of scrimmage, they will likely start the season with a comfortable victory.
However, Georgia Tech had the second-best running game in the country last season, averaging 316.4 yards per game. If quarterback Tevin Washington and running backs David Sims and Orwin Smith get in rhythm early, the Yellow Jackets can dictate the pace and win this game.
Will There Be A Cut-Blocking Incident?
Georgia Tech has become synonymous with the term “cut-block” due to the controversial tactic the team’s offensive line uses frequently.
A cut or chop block involves blockers going low and taking out a defender’s legs. It is legal at the line of scrimmage, but can be a penalty in some cases.
The Yellow Jackets are often accused of playing dirty due to the frequency with which they use cut blocks, but Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer refuses to make this claim. Beamer said, via Norm Wood of the Daily Press, “That’s just a part of their offense, a big part of their offense. There’s nothing wrong with chop-blocking. There’s times when we chop with wide receivers and running backs and so forth. That’s just part of the game.”
Despite Beamer’s comments, Georgia Tech’s chop blocks always come with the risk of causing an injury or angering an opposing player. There is certainly the possibility that tempers will fly in this matchup.
Can Vigrinia Tech’s Streak of 10-win Seasons Remain Intact?
Virginia Tech has won at least 10 games for the past eight seasons, as noted by ESPN’s Heather Dinich. If Georgia Tech upsets the Hokies in Blacksburg, this streak may be in jeopardy.
Starting off the season with a loss will leave 11 regular season games. One of those will be against No. 14 Clemson who beat Virginia Tech handily in last year’s ACC Championship game, and another will be against an extremely talented Florida State team.
A loss to the Yellow Jackets could put a question mark on the Hokies’ return to the ACC Championship game, and the team has been defeated in consecutive bowl games in the last two years.
Losing to Georgia Tech does not mean that Virginia Tech’s streak is doomed, but it does leave little room for error going forward.