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Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech have the football spotlight to themselves on Labor Day night and this game likely will be crucial in deciding which team wins the ACC Coastal Division. The winner of this game has gone on to play in the ACC championship game in each of the past seven seasons. The Hokies, the two-time defending division champs, are 7-point favorites on WagerWeb.com.
Last year, Virginia Tech won for the second straight year in this series, 37-26 in Atlanta. Hokies QB Logan Thomas, who is back this season, passed for three touchdowns and rushed for two more. Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington ran for three touchdowns, but the Hokies took the lead for good on Thomas’ 12-yard run in the final minute of the third quarter.
In his fifth season at the helm, Jackets head coach Paul Johnson returns 13 starters and both kicking specialists from a 2011 team that exceeded all expectations. Last year’s team, predicted by most to hover at .500, won eight games, beat eventual ACC champion Clemson and advanced to a bowl game for the 15th consecutive season.
Over the last four years combined, Georgia Tech has averaged more than 300 yards rushing per game, best among all FBS teams. Last year’s squad ranked second nationally in rushing despite not having a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time in Johnson’s tenure.
With returning senior Washington at quarterback, the Yellow Jackets will rely on the experience of A-back Orwin Smith and B-back David Sims, who has been limited with a stress fracture in his shin. Chances are that Georgia Tech will use a lot of different backs in an effort to find the right combination. Washington led the team in rushing (987 yards, 14 TDs), but his passing was never viewed as a threat, completing just under 50 percent of his throws, for 1,652 yards and 11 TDs.
Virginia Tech is likely to be without starting linebacker Tariq Edwards because of a stress fracture in his leg, but the Hokies’ defense seems primed to give Georgia Tech a tough matchup. Three starters who were lost to season-ending injuries last year — defensive tackle Antoine Hopkins and linebackers Jeron Gouveia-Winslow and Bruce Taylor — are healthy. Defensive end James Gayle, who had 12.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks despite ankle injuries, is back, too. : All four starters and all four backups return from a defensive line that helped the Hokies total 41 quarterback sacks and 92 tackles for lost yardage in 2011.
Offensively, Virginia Tech’s Thomas amassed a school- record 3,482 yards of offense last year. He rushed for 469 yards and a team-best 11 TDs. Thomas will have to be sharp once again, as he is joined by only two other returning starters.
The game marks the 120th season opener for the Yellow Jackets, who are 83-32-4 all-time in season lid-lifters. Tech has won five straight, seven of its last eight and 11 of its last 13 openers. In ACC openers, the Jackets are 15-14 all-time, and have won four in row and seven of their last eight. The Yellow Jackets’ last win in Blacksburg was a 38-27 decision over 11th-ranked VT in 2006. The Jackets are looking to beat a ranked team on the road for the first time since Nov. 29, 2008.
The under is 4-1 in the last 5 meetings. Underdog is 5-1 ATS in their last 6 meetings. Road team is 5-1 ATS in their last 6 meetings.