Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2011. Whether they didn’t bring their A-game, or the other guys just got lucky, every school would love another shot at an opponent, for the ability to prove it won’t happen again. Luckily, because of conference play and parity in the ACC, many will get a chance at redemption immediately, with rematches already on the books for 2012.
As part of our 2012 college football season preview, we’ll be running through the biggest “payback” games for each school. As no team finished with just one loss, there are likely multiple choices for each — none more “right’ than another, necessarily. Still, every selection should help provide some extra motivation for fans as they gear up for this season’s slate of games.
Last Year: Loss, 24-21 at Virginia
This Year: September 15, vs. Virginia
Coming off a bye week of preparation, Virginia was the first team of 2011 to slow down Georgia Tech’s triple-option en route to a shocking 24-21 victory. To that point, the ‘Wreck had been a horrifying offensive juggernaut, running the ball down teams’ throats and scoring nearly 47 points per game. This would be the end of all that, however. By shutting down the run, and daring Tech to pass, the Cavaliers gave every other team on GT’s schedule the blueprint for success. Georgia Tech never recovered, and would wind up stumbling to a 2-5 finish after an impressive start that had them right outside the AP top 10.
As our own Glynn McGehee has been quick to point out, the triple-option works best when employing a quarterback who can also throw the ball effectively. Unfortunately, Georgia Tech QB Tevin Washington couldn’t adjust last season, and was most exploited against Virginia. On offense, UVa pit ball-control versus ball-control, with 372 yards on the ground and a one-second edge in time of possession. Again, taken out of their comfort zone on both sides of the ball, the Yellow Jackets were slow to respond, and struggled to really regain that tenacity from the year’s initial weeks.
In comparison to last year, the 2012 slate for Georgia Tech is much more difficult, with a more evenly spread collection of difficult opponents. Instead of last year’s run of six manageable opponents to start the year, they’ll play four of their first six against tough ACC teams — including the rematch with Virginia. The key, once again, will be to avoid the Hoos’ gameplan, and seek to control the game clock with a safety-net passing attack if need be. Washington can throw the ball down field, sure, but if they want to protect the clock (and possession), they can shift their strategy to hitting backs out in the flat for quick, short receptions that function just as well as the run. The big issue Virginia identified immediately in 2011 was the Tech offense’s predictability. For this team, what’s more unpredictable than a barrage of short-yardage passing plays? No, it’s not perfect but they’ll need a second gameplan for this game, and every other, should they fail in rushing the ball.