Despite not having as much history with Georgia Tech as rivals such as Clemson or Auburn, the Battle of the Techs has become a tense rivalry game for Georgia Tech in the ACC Coastal. Many will likely remember the tense streak of games between 2012 and 2015 which often came down to a field goal (and most of which were played on a weekday for some reason). The past few years have been a little more open ended. The last two matchups between the teams in 2018 and 2019 were blowouts, with 2018 going in GTs favor and 2019 having VT vent their frustrations from the past few years on GT by crushing the yellow jackets like a bug. Last year’s game was cancelled due to bad weather, so this will be Georgia Tech’s first chance to strike back after 2019’s embarrassment. Georgia Tech will get Virginia Tech on Homecoming so regardless of record a lot will be riding on this game.
Justin Fuente and Virginia Tech fell on hard times last year. They finished tied for 6th in the ACC, finishing the season with a 5-6 record overall. This was the second time in 3 years that the Hokies finished the season with a record under .500. Virginia Tech did go 8-5 in 2019, which would be good had they not also lost the Commonwealth Cup to Virginia for the first time in 15 years which led to Virginia winning the Coastal. Overall, not the best results over the past 3 years for Fuente.
While Fuente did earn some favor in his first 2 years, when he got VT to a conference championship and won ACC coach of the year in his first year with the program, it’s fair to say most fans are starting to get testy about the prospect of Fuente continuing to lead the Hokies. With that in mind Fuente needs to put up a solid performance this year to get some pressure off his back. Virginia Tech will face a challenge there since they have lost many of there stars from last year, but they do have some transfers and returning talent that will have the opportunity to step up and prove themselves.
The first things that most people will hone on for Virginia Tech roster is their loss of star running back Khalil Herbert as well as left tackle Christian Darrisaw who have both been drafted into the NFL. The VT Quarterback last year, Hendon Hooker, has also transferred to Tennessee and guard Doug Nester has transferred to West Virginia. This will mean a new backfield for VT which looks rough on paper.
The good news for the VT offense is the return of key players in the passing game. The Hokies top 2 receivers in Tayvion Robinson and Tre Turner are returning, alongside TE James Mitchell who led the team in Touchdown Receptions. Braxton Burmeister, transfer from Oregon, will be the likely starter at QB. Braxton is not the runner that Hendon Hooker was, but Braxton is a great pocket passer who should fit well with the returning receivers.
Since the Hokies mostly focused on their run game last year, averaging 240 yards/game on the ground last year, they will be looking for backup Raheem Blackshear and junior Jalen Holston to fill the gap left by Khalil Herbert. Despite the loss of Darrisaw the O-line will have some talented returners, such as Luke Tenuta and Lecitus Smith. Given the new QB in Braxton, VT may trend more towards the passing game in 2021. That said, the Hokies will expect to have a decent running game in order to open up the secondary against talented defenses like North Carolina and Notre Dame.
Last year was just a bad situation overall for Virginia Tech’s defense. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster left the team, and first year defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton took the helm. Hamilton didn’t have a lot to work with since VT lost many of its starters in the secondary going into the 2020 season. Hamilton also had the misfortune of missing his first 2 games due to COVID. None of this was Hamilton’s fault of course, but it is a rough way to start your tenure as Defensive Coordinator. Also, not a good look when your offense averages 31 points per game, but you still lose 6 games on the season. Kind of makes it look like the defense’s fault you’re losing games. This is of course an oversimplification, but still not what the fans want to see from the VT defense. So Hamilton, just like Fuente, could really use a good year to improve his prospects.
This year the VT defense does have returning talent to work with. Jermaine Waller has recovered from injuries he sustained last year and will be starting at corner. Dorian Strong, a talented freshman last year, will be accompanying Waller as a corner back. Clemson transfer Jordan Williams will look to buoy the interior D-line, and will be looking for help from talented edge rusher Amare Barno. Safeties, Chamarri Conner, Tae Daler, and Keonta Jenkins leaves some options for mixing blitzes and coverages in the secondary.
While its hard to say exactly how the defense will come together, the returning names present an intimidating task to overcome. The mixture of blitzes that the defense is capable of will definitely get in a less experienced QB’s head and will likely lead to turnovers. Given that Jeff Sims threw 13 interceptions last year, I don’t think Georgia Tech fans will be looking forward to facing this defense.
Special Teams Preview
BEAMER BALL BABY!!!!
No. Not really. Virginia Tech has lost some of their longtime starters at punter and kicker in Oscar Bradburn and Brian Johnson respectively. It looks like John Parker Romo will be taking over as the field goal kicker. I don’t really have any stats on John Parker but I assume he is related to former Dallas Cowboy and current sports commentator Tony Romo (I’m like 30% sure about the Romo relation), so he has that going for him. Peter Moore will be the likely starter at punter, he averaged 33 yds per punt last year so he does have some experience.
The real issue for Virginia Tech is traditionally where they have been the strongest. Last year VT fumbled the ball 3 times during punt returns. This is rough, because as I stated above with the Beamer Ball comment, the Hokies are used to getting points and yards out of the punt and kick return game. I imagine VT will just focus on controlling the ball during returns this year given the number of turnovers last year, but hopefully they prove me wrong. VT special teams have traditionally been some of the most fun to watch in college football and I’d like to see that get back to being part of their game.
Virginia Tech v Georgia Tech
This battle will happen in the second half of the season, so its hard to give a prediction on what the focus for both teams will be going into the matchup. Plenty can change 8 games into the season after all. I feel like the main struggle will be to see if the GT defense can keep the Virginia Tech offense from scoring on long bomb plays. There is also the prospect of the Virginia Tech defense containing the GT run game, but I could pretty much say that about any defense playing Georgia Tech this year. At this point it’s just too early to say what the exact focus for both teams will be going into this matchup.
What can be said is that this will be an important game for both teams and both coaches this season. Geoff Collins and Justin Fuente didn’t have the seasons they wanted last year and will be looking to prove themselves. Since this game is a rivalry, is being played for Georgia Tech’s homecoming, and since the matchup was skipped last year the game will hold importance for both fanbases. A win will go a long way to boosting either coaches’ reputation. With that in mind, we can expect both teams to put their heart and soul into winning this game. I expect a great game between these two teams (which likely means it will be a blowout, but that’s sports baby).
Virginia Tech is looking for a bounce back year. They have many talented players, so it will definitely be possible for them to put on a show for their fans. While I don’t know if Virginia Tech will be challenging teams like North Carolina or Clemson to win the ACC; middle of the road teams like Georgia Tech, Pitt, and Boston College will need to take the Hokies seriously. I kind of wish Georgia Tech had scheduled an easier opponent for our homecoming game. Just why take a risk with your homecoming game in general? Just pick a team you know you can win against. A team like the Citadel... you know what, never mind.
All joking aside, I expect this rivalry matchup to be one heck of a game. I’m looking forward to it and hopefully both teams deliver out on the field. Maybe Georgia Tech will deliver slightly more and win the game. Here’s hoping.