Way-Too-Early Week Nine College Football Preview: Georgia Tech vs Virginia Tech

Can Georgia Tech go to Blacksburg and beat Virginia Tech in late October?
Nov 5, 2022; Blacksburg, Virginia, USA;   Virginia Tech Hokies wide receiver Jadan Blue (2) gets tackled by  tackled by Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defensive back KJ Wallace (16) in the second half at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 5, 2022; Blacksburg, Virginia, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies wide receiver Jadan Blue (2) gets tackled by tackled by Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defensive back KJ Wallace (16) in the second half at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports / Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech were rivals in the ACC Coastal, but did not play last season. This year, Georgia Tech is going to travel to Blacksburg on Oct. 26th to face a Hokies team that has hopes of being a darkhorse ACC title contender, much like the Yellow Jackets. Virginia Tech is bringing back a ton of returning production from last year's team and they have a favorable schedule working in their favor. When you take a glance at the Hokies schedule this season, it is reasonable to think they will be an underdog in only two games (at Miami, vs Clemson), giving them a possible path to the ACC Championship Game. You could argue that Georgia Tech is the third toughest game on the schedule for the Hokies.

Georgia Tech on the other hand has a much more difficult schedule, but they also bring back a lot of returning production on offense and hopes that an improved defense can help them reach big things this year. The Yellow Jackets will be coming off of a tough game vs Notre Dame the week before they head to Lane Stadium, while Virginia Tech will have the rest advantage.

The Yellow Jackets might trail 11-8 in the all-time series vs Virginia Tech, but they have won four of the last six matchups against the Hokies, including the last four games in Blacksburg. The last time Virginia Tech won a home game vs Georgia Tech was in 2012.

While this game is still four months away, let's dive into an early preview of how these two programs matchup.

Georgia Tech Offense vs Virginia Tech Defense

Yellow Jackets quarterback Haynes King was one of only two players in the nation with at least 2,700 passing yards, 600 rushing yards, 25 touchdown passes, and five touchdown runs this season (joining LSU’s Jayden Daniels), and one of only six ACC players to achieve those numbers in a regular season since 2000. He led the ACC in touchdown passes and was fourth in passing yards. He is back for another season on The Flats and might be the best quarterback in the conference this year. One reason to buy into the Yellow Jackets is that they might have the best quarterback on the field against many of their opponents. As good as King was though, he had a problem with turnovers and that won't cut it against some of the teams on Georgia Tech's schedule, including Virginia Tech

Jamal Haynes was such a great story last season. He made the change from wide receiver to running back during fall camp and that move paid dividends. Haynes earned all-ACC honors as a running back (third team) and was an honorable mention all-purpose performer. He led Georgia Tech with 1,059 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns, and six yards per carry ranked second on the team. Those numbers ranked fifth in the ACC in rushing yards and he was tied for sixth in the conference with seven rushing touchdowns and his 6.0 yards per carry ranked third in the league. Haynes had a strong bowl performance against UCF rushing for a game-high 128 yards on 18 carries. He also had a good outing against the Georgia Bulldogs rushing for 81 yards. Haynes was the second highest-rated player on the Yellow Jackets per Pro Football Focus with a 76.9 score and looks primed for another big season in 2024. I think he is in for a huge season and is not getting the recognition he has earned.

This is going to be one of the deepest wide receiver rooms in the ACC and there are some newcomers who could bolster the group.

Eric Singleton Jr was the highest-rated player in the Yellow Jackets 2023 recruiting class according to 247Sports and he looked like he might be a potential superstar last season.

Singleton Jr. ranked fourth among all freshmen nationally (true or redshirt) in 2023 with 59.5 receiving yards per game and was tied for fourth among true freshmen nationally with six touchdown receptions. His 714 receiving yards and six touchdown catches both ranked among the top 10 overall in the Atlantic Coast Conference, while his six TD receptions were the second-most by a freshman in Georgia Tech history. Could he have an even better season in 2024? I think it is certainly possible and the chemistry between him and King was noticeable last year.

Singleton is not the only dangerous receiver for the Yellow Jackets.

Malik Rutherford was the second-leading receiver on Georgia Tech. He caught 46 passes for 502 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 10. 5 yards per catch. His biggest performance came in Georgia Tech's big win over North Carolina. Rutherford caught six passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns. He was a reliable player and can stretch the field with his speed and is also a player who can get the ball in a variety of ways. 

Christian Leary was the fourth-leading receiver for Georgia Tech this season, catching 25 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns, while also returning kickoffs.

Chase Lane had a good start to the year, but injuries cost him some time. I think he could have a really good 2024 season if he stays healthy. Duquesne transfer Abdul Janneh had six catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns. He will once again provide depth for Georgia Tech next year. 

Leo Blackburn is one of the most physically impressive players on the Georgia Tech roster at 6'5 220 LBS and if he is able to stay healthy this season, he could add a whole new element to the Yellow Jackets offense.

The offensive line is going to be one of the best in the ACC as well.

In just one season, head coach Brent Key and first-year offensive line coach Geep Wade turned Georgia Tech's offensive line from its biggest weakness to perhaps the best unit on the entire team. Georgia Tech went from one of the worst rushing teams in the ACC to leading the league in rushing. It was a pretty stunning turnaround if you had watched the line in 2022 and the good news for the Yellow Jackets is that the offensive line returns four of the five starters and added an All-Conference transfer this offseason. 

With so much returning production, Virignia Tech did not need to add a lot via the transfer portal, but they made the defenisve line a focus this offseason. Khurtiss Perry (Alabama), Kelvin Gillam Jr (Oklahoma), and Aeneas Peebles (Duke) should all be heavily in the mix this fall and will be looking to bolster the No. 57 rush defense. Virginia Tech was one of the ACC's best teams when it came to rushing the passer and Antwaun Powell-Ryland (9.5 sacks in 2023) should be in the mix for All-Conference honors. Cole Nelson (4.5 sacks in 2023) is another name to watch as well. This could be a good defensive line if the interior transfers hit.

Linebacker Keli Lawson was the leading tackler for the Hokies in 2023 and he is back to be a key member of the defense. Jaden Keller and Jayden McDonald are experienced players and VT head coach Brent Pry brought in MTSU transfer Sam Brumfield and Miami transfer Kaleb Spencer is as transfers.

Virginia Tech had the nation's No. 4 pass defense last season and they should once again be formidable. You could argue this is the ACC's best secondary and the cornerback duo of Dorian Strong and Mansoor Delane is one of the best in the country. There is a bit of a question at safety though so keep an eye on that as the season develops.

Georgia Tech Defense vs Virginia Tech Offense

Virginia Tech's offense has a chance to hit another level if they can find more consistency in the passing game, but the rushing attack should be amongst the best in the ACC.

Quarterback Kyron Drones really came into his own down the stretch of the season for Virginia Tech, finishing with 2,084 yards passing, with 17 touchdowns and three interceptions. He was the second leading rusher for Virginia Tech as well, earning 818 yards and also scoring five touchdowns. If Drones develops more as a passer, this could take the Hokies offense to the next level.

The rushing attack is only going to be bolstered by the return of last year's leading rusher Bhayshul Tuten (863 yards and 10 touchdowns) and Malachi Thomas (381 yards and two touchdowns). Between Drones, Tuten, and Thomas, Virginia Tech should have one of the ACC's best rushing attacks again this season.

Da'Quan Felton and Jaylin Lane were the top two receivers for the Hokies last season and both are back for 2024. Ali Jennings (five catches for 72 yards in 2023) will likely need to take on a bigger role this season. Stephen Gosnell and Takye Heath are also names to watch for the Virginia Tech passing attack.

Virginia Tech is returning four starters from last year's offensive line and also adding Georgia State transfer Montavius Cunningham, who should slide into that right guard spot.

New defensive coordinator Tyler Santucci is hoping to have Georgia Tech's defense turned around this season in order to help them contend in the ACC. In one season at Duke (2023), Santucci directed the ACC’s top-ranked scoring defense, allowing just 19.0 points per game, which was good for 16thnationally. The Blue Devils also ranked among the nation’s top 50 in rushing defense, passing defense, total defense, tackles for loss, third-down defense, fourth-down defense and red-zone defense. Duke allowed a total of just 10 points in a pair of wins over teams that finished the season in the top 25 – No. 20 Clemson (28-7) and No. 21 NC State (24-3) – and finished 8-5 overall after a 17-10 win over Troy in the 2023 Birmingham Bowl.

Georgia Tech's defensive line might be their biggest question mark on the defense, especially at defensive end. On the inside, Zeek Biggers, Miami/Georgia State transfer Thomas Gore, Penn State transfer Jordan van den Berg, and Horace Lockett have potential, but will Georgia Tech have enough at the edge rusher spot? USC transfer Romello Height should help, but Georgia Tech will need production from this unit.

At linebacker, Kyle Efford is looking to lead a group that includes veteran starter Trenilyas Tatum, Georgia transfer E.J. Lightsey, Louisville transfer Jackson Hamilton and freshman Tah'j Butler.

Georgia Tech is returning a strong duo at safety with LaMiles Brooks and Clayton Powell-Lee, while Ahmari Harvey could be ready for a breakout season in 2024. The biggest question in the secondary will be who starts at corner opposite of Harvey. Tennessee transfer Warren Burrell might be the favorite on the outside while Rhode Island transfer Syeed Gibbs and Rodney Shelley might be the guys at nickel.


This should be an interesting matchup of two teams that love to run the football. Georgia Tech will be in the midst of a grueling schedule, while Virginia Tech will have played a much softer schedule up to this point, so that is another factor to consider. One thing I will note about Virginia Tech is that none of their wins (Old Dominion, Pitt, Wake, Syracuse, Boston College, Virginia) last season came against good teams and the jury is still out on how good Virginia Tech can be this season. They return a lot of starters and have potential, but they also might have more questions than some will admit. I expect a tight game this fall in Blacksburg.

Published |Modified
Jackson Caudell


Jackson Caudell covers Georgia Tech Athletics and the Atlanta Hawks for FanNation