ATLANTA – Virginia Tech started October with an 0-2 ACC record and little hope of contending in the Coastal Division, but the Hokies head into Saturday’s game at Georgia Tech squarely in the race. The Hokies are 3-0 in league play and 4-1 overall since a loss to Duke in late September, and with victories over the Yellow Jackets on Saturday, Pittsburgh next week and rival Virginia on Nov. 29, they would earn a berth in the conference championship game.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, RSN. LINE: Virginia Tech -5.5
Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente told reporters Monday the season turned shortly after that 45-10 home defeat to Duke, when he told his players that he took responsibility for them not being tough enough and vowed to turn things around as October began. “I said, ‘It’s changing right now,’” Fuente told reporters in recalling the meeting. “'I’ve let you down, and that’s on me.’” The Yellow Jackets continue their rebuilding season under first-year coach Geoff Collins, coming off a 33-28 defeat at Virginia in which they led three different times but could not erase a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter. “Put the previous game behind us, learn from the bad and move on,” Collins told reporters Tuesday. “We’ve done that.”
ABOUT VIRGINIA TECH (6-3, 3-2 ACC)
The Hokies defense held Wake Forest to season lows in total offense (301) and points in a 36-17 victory, and have surrendered just one rushing touchdown in the past four games. Junior defensive back Divine Deablo recorded nine tackles last week, while junior linebacker Rayshard Ashby is third in the ACC in tackles per game (9.7) and tackles for loss (13). Sophomore quarterback Hendon Hooker improved to 4-0 as a starter last week, completing 15-of-23 passes for 242 yards, and junior running back Deshawn McClease rushed for two scores.
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH (2-7, 1-5)
Redshirt freshman quarterback James Graham played his best game of the season as the Yellow Jackets continue adjusting to a traditional offense (after running the triple-option for a decade), completing 15-of-22 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore running back Jordan Mason rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, as the Yellow Jackets finished with 372 yards of total offense (second-highest total of the season). Junior linebacker David Curry recorded nine tackles and a sack last week, and leads the Yellow Jackets with 74 stops.
1. Yellow Jackets freshman WR Ahmarean Brown has caught a touchdown pass from Graham in three consecutive games and owns five receiving scores this season.
2. Virginia Tech is one victory shy of becoming bowl eligible for the 27th consecutive season.
3. Five of the past seven meetings in the series have been decided by seven points or fewer.
PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 27, Georgia Tech 17