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Georgia Tech Football: Virginia Q&A

Paul Wiley from Streaking The Lawn joins us to talk about the Virginia Cavaliers and the upcoming game against the Yellow Jackets on Saturday in Charlottesville.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

You can find my answers to Paul's questions here.

FTRS: With Virginia now sitting at 2-5 with some tough conference games ahead, how thin is the patience wearing for Cavalier fans with this program and with Mike London as the head coach? Does the tough schedule give you any lenience, or are there no more excuses for the production to not be coming at this point?

STL: Quite thin. While the scheduling makes things better--not as if UVa was 1-3 out of conference against North Texas, Eastern Michigan, and ODU--it doesn't entirely make up for the losing. But the losing isn't the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that this team has not seemed to get any better from year to year or fix the mistakes it made. The plays still don't get in on time; the timeouts don't get managed correctly throughout a game; screen plays are the go-to on any substantive distance. We fans aren't just sick of losing: we're sick of losing because of the same damn problems.

FTRS: How have you judge Matt Johns' performance for the team so far? With that being said, Tech fans would probably like to hear you compare that with how you feel about Greyson Lambert.

STL: I was admittedly #TeamLambert for all of last year and through the offseason. I was not happy when Johns was named the starter in a competition London said "wasn't even close." When Lambert was named the starter for UGa, I was even more upset. But Johns has been at least as consistent as Lambert was for us and has been for Georgia. Matty Football may not have had a Greyson-vs-South-Carolina performance but he's been solid. And while there have been a few games that looked like Greyson-vs-Vanderbilt (the Boise State game comes to mind), the Syracuse win was thanks to Johns keeping plays alive long enough to find late-breaking receivers. For a team that has ... issues with its offensive play-calling, Johns' improvisational skills make him the better fit than Lambert would have been, although Lambert is more traditionally talented.

FTRS: The 2014 defense seemed to be pretty solid for Virginia. Has there been a lot of turnover there that has caused the 2015 struggles, or is the unit just not living up to expectations?

STL: There wasn't a ton of turnover, but the players that left were key to defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta's system (with which Tech fans are well acquainted). Eli Harold and Max Valles were pass rushers that made each and every offense sit up and pay attention. When those two were rushing together, the Hoos didn't need to rush more than 4 or 5 to get pressure. With both of them gone, there just isn't the same pressure-making presence this year. But Tenuta hasn't stopped blitzing, even when the blitzes don't get there. As a result, the back end of the defense is hung out to dry and opposing offenses have been able to convert big plays.

FTRS: This was probably looked at before the season as one of Virginia's toughest games against a potentially highly ranked opponent. How much has that feeling changed with Tech's struggles, and is this now a game that a lot of fans think the Cavaliers can win?

STL: I think almost every Virginia fan chalked this one up as a loss when we looked at the schedule before the season. Even with Tech gimping through ACC play, though, I doubt many Hoos have changed their mind. Paul Johnson has owned Mike London. Aside from one big win with QB David Watford having a career day for the Hoos, these matchups haven't been particularly close. The talent level of the two teams is probably pretty close, with any edge probably going to Tech. But Tech knows what it wants to do with its talent and has coached it up accordingly. Virginia, suffice to say, hasn't.

FTRS: Give me two offensive players for Tech fans to look out for on Saturday.

STL: Smoke Mizzell is the difference maker. He had his best day rushing the football against Carolina, but he's actually most dangerous as a backfield receiving threat. With a spotty offensive line, there haven't been huge holes for Smoke to run through. But that spotty line also means Johns has to get rid of the ball quickly, and Mizzell has been a sure-handed pressure release valve for his QB. The other one has been Canaan Severin, a WR who is Johns' roommate. Their chemistry has been apparent, as Severin has bailed Johns out on some throws that should never have been made. Their 36-yard TD connection against Syracuse helped swing momentum to the UVa sideline in overtime.

FTRS: Give me two defensive players for Tech fans to look out for on Saturday.

STL: All-ACC and freshman All-American safety Quin Blanding has had a distressingly quiet season thus far. Against the Jackets' option looks, his run support--one of the strengths of his game--will be key to holding the edge and stopping big plays. He'll need help from the front seven, and is likely to get it from LB Micah Kiser. Kiser and Blanding are the co-quarterbacks of the defense. If they can keep the Hoos in position, they may be able to slow down a young GT offense. If they can't, then the orange-and-blue are in for a looooong Saturday.

FTRS: Finally, how do you see it all playing out on Saturday when the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets travel up to Charlottesville to take on the Virginia Cavaliers?

STL: I'd love to have the confidence that this Virginia team will come out with its hair on fire, playing for its season and potentially for its coaches' careers. And they very well may. But I am absolutely certain that either the players, the coaches, or both will make some enormous mental errors. Against the mad scientist Paul Johnson, those mental errors will prove costly. I expect a little bit of a hangover for Georgia Tech after the FSU win, and Virginia keeps it close in the first half. But Johnson will make adjustments, London won't, and the Jackets will be off to the races in the second. End of the day, GT 38, VA 17