It’s not too often when ACC Football features a game that will potentially decide the fate of the winner of the Coastal Division. Especially when it is the game that puts a wrap on week one of the 2012 college football season.
That is what the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and the Virginia Tech Hokies face on Monday, September 3 at 8 pm in Blacksburg, Virginia.
This is the match up the Atlanta Coast Conference has dreamed about to highlight two of its 2012 powers on national television on Labor Day night.
And this is why the battle between the Jackets and the Hokies is the No. 3 contest in the Top 12 Must See ACC Football Games of 2012.
Georgia Tech enters the game with more secrecy around the program than President Obama‘s sealed college transcripts. The way Head Coach Paul Johnson has kept the media at bay around Atlanta, Georgia, you would think he is developing some classified weapons for Batman or scraping the Wing-T in favor of a Pro-Style vertical passing attack.
Unless Johnson is up to something shady, look for the Yellow Jackets to open up doing what they do best… run, run and run some more.
Leading the charge will be senior QB Tevin Washington who rushed for 987 yards and 14 TDs in 2011, senior A-Back Orwin Smith who pushed for 615 yards and 11 TDs and junior David Sims who ran for 698 yards and 7 scores. In all, Georgia Tech rushed for the second most yards in the college football averaging 317 yards a game last season. Tech should be able to improve on this average thanks to a senior laden and experienced offensive line led by senior G Omorgeie Uzzi who is an All-ACC talent who will collect All-American honors this season.
“Could possibly be the best group we’ve had,” Johnson said of his offensive line and backfield. “Now, you’ve still got to do it on the field, but we’ve got a lot of guys who have played a lot. I think that they can play a lot better and I think they will this year.”
Even with the Jackets experience and powerful depth, they still have to find a way to spread the field. Johnson said he is not worried about the WR position, but he has yet to list the starters or even favorites. Senior Chris Jackson, junior Jeremy Moore, sophomores Jeff Greene and Darren Waller, freshmen Anthony Autry, Travin Henry and Micheal Summers are the candidates. All will play a major part of the game versus the Hokies.
Defensively, the Jackets are anchored by an huge front anchored in the middle is 6-7, 347 pound NT T.J. Barnes and senior DE Izaan Cross. Overall there is a lot of inexperience in the linebacking corp and a lot will be expected of junior Jeremiah Attaochu and sophomore Quayshawn Nealy.
The strength and experience defensively will be in the hands of the secondary in senior Rod Sweeting, junior Louis Young and junior Isaiah Johnson. All three return and were huge players in one of the best pass defenses in the country allowing on 197 yards in the air per game in 2011.
On the flip side of the ball, Hokies Head Coach Frank Beamer has been quiet as well. Beamer, who is entering his 26th season in Blacksburg, never really has that much to say nor does he ever play into the hype. But the one quote that Beamer did dish out tells volumes about his team in 2012.
“I’m going to coach as long as my health is good and as long as I have a good quarterback,” Beamer chimed at the ACC Media Days.
And boy does Beamer Ball ever have itself one good quarterback.
The Hokies head into this critical opener looking to ride the capable shoulders of junior QB Logan Thomas. Thomas passed for over 3000 yards, ran for 469 and scored 30 total touchdowns in 2011.
But beyond Thomas, Head Coach Frank Bemer has a lot of shoes to fill and a lot of questions entering this pivotal game. Senior WR Marcus Davis is the top option on the outside and it will be high drama to see who steps up to help. Same is true for the tailbacks as redshirt freshman Michael Holmes seems to be the one who will start the opener. Beyond him no knows as seven of the nine running backs battling for playing time are either freshmen or sophomores.
Defense has always been the strength of Virginia Tech and 2012 will be much of the same as the Hokies return 9 of the 11 starters from the seventh ranked defense in the nation.
The strength up front will come from junior DE James Gayle and fellow bookend junior DE J.R. Collins. Senior Bruce Taylor and junior Tariq Edwards are two of the best linebackers in the nation, while All-ACC Second-Team junior CB Kyle Fuller and All-ACC Honorable Mention junior S Antone Exum shore up the secondary.
So here we head into the big match up.
The winner with a inside track to the Coastal Division…
The loser with a tough uphill test to keep itself on the national scene…
Beamer has been silent on the match-up for the most part and Johnson has only said, “Certainly, it’s going to be a huge game; it has been for our division, but there’s a ton of football left after that game, so it’s not do-or-die.”
But everyone knows it has been circled on the calendar for both teams and the true importance of a victory.
The match up with the Tech Wing-T versus this Hokies experienced defense will be amazing.
The potential crash that could be Thomas head on with Barnes of Tech might be the greatest collision in college football in 2012.
And you know the Hokies will score or make a big play on special teams.
Its hard to go against Virginia Tech at home, but with so many questions to be answered on the offensive weapons around Thomas, Georgia Tech will prevail in this huge ACC match up to begin the 2012 season.
Look for a big play from redshirt sophomore A-Back Tony Zenon and a Yellow Jacket victory, 27-20.
Next in the Top 12 Must See ACC Football Games of 2012: Clemson Tigers versus Florida State Seminoles.
M. Shannon Smallwood has over 10 years experience in sports broadcasting and journalism and cover ACC Football for Rant Sports.
Follow him @woodysmalls