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Game Preview: Virginia vs. Georgia Tech

Everything you need to know about the Cavaliers’ Saturday-night matchup against the Yellow Jackets

Game Details

Who: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-3, 2-2 ACC) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (5-2, 3-2 ACC)

When: Saturday, October 23rd, at 7:30pm

How to watch: ACC Network

SI Sportsbook Odds: Virginia -6.5

All-time series: Georgia Tech leads 21-20-1 and the teams have alternated winning each of the last six meetings.

Last meeting: Virginia defeated Georgia Tech 33-28 on November 9th, 2019 at Scott Stadium. In a surprisingly competitive matchup, the 2-6 Yellow Jackets nearly knocked off the 6-3 Cavaliers in Charlottesville. Georgia Tech had the lead on three separate occasions in the first half, but the Hoos responded each time. Trailing 21-17, UVA scored 16 straight points to take control of the game in the fourth quarter. Bryce Perkins threw for 258 yards and a touchdown and ran for 106 yards and another score. Wayne Taulapapa added two rushing touchdowns as the Cavaliers improved to 7-3 on the season. 

Georgia Tech this Season

Georgia Tech has had a very up-and-down season and it is very difficult to get a read on how the Yellow Jackets will perform against the Cavaliers on Saturday night at Scott Stadium. Georgia Tech brings in a 3-3 overall record, including a 2-2 record in the ACC, a 2-2 record at home, and a 1-1 record on the road. That record includes some puzzling wins and losses.

The Yellow Jackets opened their season as 19-point favorites at home against Northern Illinois, but the Huskies scored a last-minute touchdown to pull off the 22-21 upset. Georgia Tech defeated Kennesaw State 45-17 and then nearly pulled off the upset at Clemson in week three, but lost 14-8. The following week against North Carolina, the Yellow Jackets put together their best performance of the season, holding an explosive UNC offense in check and showing some impressive offensive efficiency in a convincing 45-22 win over the Tar Heels. It looked like Georgia Tech had figured things out until the next game when Pittsburgh came into Atlanta and demolished the Yellow Jackets 52-21. Georgia Tech bounced back with a big ACC win over Duke 31-27 and then had a bye week coming into the Virginia game this weekend.

Given the sum of wins and losses for Georgia Tech this season, it is difficult to predict what kind of performance we will see from the Yellow Jackets on Saturday night. The statistics do not really help us much either. Georgia Tech’s offense, which is more balanced than in the Paul Johnson era of the triple option, is 10th in the ACC in scoring at 28.5 points per game, 10th in total offense, 8th in rushing, and 9th in passing. Georgia Tech’s defense is 9th in the ACC at 25.7 points per game allowed, 8th in total defense, 7th in rushing defense, and 9th in passing defense. Both the offensive and defensive numbers reflect the average season Georgia Tech has had so far this year. However, in looking at specific games such as the dominant win over UNC or the horrific loss to Pittsburgh, we see that the Yellow Jackets are capable of anything. 

By the Numbers

Virginia Cavaliers vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

By the NumbersVirginiaGeorgia Tech

Scoring Offense

36.1 points per game

28.5 points per game

Rushing

120.3 yards per game

166.8 yards per game

Passing

405.9 yards per game

234.0 yards per game

Total Offense

526.1 yards per game

400.8 yards per game

Soring Defense

24.4 ppg allowed

25.7 ppg allowed

Total Defense

413.1 ypg allowed

382.3 ypg allowed

Turnover Differential

-2

+2

Scoring Differential

+81

+17

Georgia Tech Players to Watch

Quarterback Jeff Sims

Sims started at quarterback in the week one loss to Northern Illinois, but was injured during the game. Jordan Yates started the next three games and Sims did not return until week four against North Carolina. In just three quarters of action against UNC, Sims threw for 112 yards and a touchdown and ran for a career-high 128 yards to lead Georgia Tech to a statement victory over the Tar Heels. Sims has retaken the starting quarterback job since his return from injury and has played well. He threw for 297 yards and three touchdowns and added 55 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in the win over Duke in week six. Given Sims’ dual-threat playmaking abilities, Virginia’s defense will need to execute as they did against Malik Cunningham at Louisville in order to contain him.

Running back Jahmyr Gibbs

The freshman running back is as much a threat in the ground game as he is in the passing game. Gibbs has run for 279 yards and a touchdown on 77 carries this season, but he has also caught 18 passes for 301 yards and a touchdown, including a 77-yard touchdown reception in the win over Duke. Given the attention that Sims receives as a dual-threat quarterback, it is imperative that the UVA defense not lose sight of Gibbs in the backfield.

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Wide Receiver Kyric McGowan

McGowan is not Georgia Tech’s leading receiver. That honor goes to Malachi Carter, who is 12th in the ACC at 63 receiving yards per game. McGowan, however, has a nose for finding the end zone with a team-leading four receiving touchdowns on the season. McGowan has hauled in 19 receptions for 283 yards. Look for Sims to target McGowan when the Yellow Jackets get within range of the end zone. 

Three Keys to the Game for Virginia

Contain Jeff Sims

Sims is capable of beating you with both his arm and his legs. He threw for three touchdowns against Duke and ran for three touchdowns against North Carolina. UVA’s effort to stop Georgia Tech’s offense will begin with holding Sims in check. If the Virginia defense wants to put together another strong performance after shutting out Duke last week, the Hoos will have to keep Sims in the pocket and limit big plays.

Have a strong start and put points on the board early

The rushing attack is the strength of Georgia Tech’s offense. With Sims and Gibbs in the backfield, the Yellow Jackets have a lot of options in the running game to confuse opposing defenses. If the Virginia offense can put together a few scoring drives early in the game, it will force Georgia Tech to move away from its strong ground game and become more reliant on passing plays. UVA was able to execute that game plan extremely well against Mataeo Durant and the Duke Blue Devils last week, effectively taking Durant out of the game by making Duke pass the ball as the Blue Devils tried to play from behind.

Control time of possession

The Hoos have had the advantage in time of possession in six out of their seven games this season. It should be a priority for the Cavaliers to do that again versus Georgia Tech. Scoring is great, but scoring on long drives is even better. Doing so will give the Virginia defense time to rest and will also make the Yellow Jackets more desperate to score quickly once they get their offense back on the field, which again helps UVA neutralize Georgia Tech’s running game. 

What's at Stake

After an 0-2 start to ACC play, the Cavaliers have rattled off three straight conference wins and find themselves right back in the mix for the Coastal title. UVA is second in the Coastal standings behind Pittsburgh. Georgia Tech sits in fourth place, but can move up to second with a win over Virginia on Saturday. Both teams will want to win this one badly for their place in the standings. Additionally, a Virginia win will bring the all-time series between the Cavaliers and Yellow Jackets to an even record at 21 wins apiece. The Hoos can also clinch bowl eligibility with a victory on Saturday night.


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