ACC Football 2013 Payback Games: Georgia Tech

The Hokies Defense Nullified Georgia Tech's Late Heroics Last Year; Can the Wreck Return the Favor?

The Hokies Defense Nullified Georgia Tech’s Late Heroics Last Year; Can the Wreck Return the Favor?

Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2012. 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 2013.

As part of our 2013 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.

Team: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Opponent: Virginia Tech Hokies

Last Year: Loss, 20-17 (OT) at Virginia Tech

This Year: September 26, vs. Virginia Tech

“The winner of the Virginia Tech/Georgia Tech game has won the Coastal Division every year since 2005,” said the popular refrain that pointed out an interesting quirk in the ACC following the initial round of expansion. While the quote forgot to mention how down the other four teams in the division were for most of those seven years (Miami was the only other team to really come close), the adage had held true until last year. Despite losing to Virginia Tech in a Labor Day showcase game, the Yellow Jackets (thanks to North Carolina and Miami being ineligible for the postseason) found themselves in the ACC Championship Game. Though there’s no need to rehash “what if” — Georgia Tech still made the league title game, despite the loss — it’s also very hard to avoid discussing how close the Wreck was to winning this early contest.

Jackets’ QB Tevin Washington had seemingly become an overnight hero, throwing a touchdown pass to give his team a 17-14 lead with just 44 seconds to play. All the defense had to do was keep VPI out of field goal range, yet they couldn’t and the game headed to overtime. With Georgia Tech receiving the ball first, Washington was given a second chance to be a hero, but instead, took on the role of goat — throwing an ill-advised third down interception that confirmed every weakness ever pointed out about him. Needing just a field goal to win, Virginia Tech put it through the uprights just three plays later for the victory.

One year later, some of the key players are different (sub in Vad Lee for Washington), but otherwise, things are very much the same. Both teams could contend for a Coastal title in an uncertain division. They match the same head coaches, with largely the same defenses and many of the same offensive contributors. This time around, if Georgia Tech wants to win, it simply must cut down on mistakes. If not for Washington’s interception (the only turnover in the game), maybe GT wins last year. I’d argue that if Washington had been a better passer, perhaps the Yellow Jackets would’ve been better suited for that third-down situation. By most accounts, Lee is a better passer, but this is still Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense. What needs to happen versus Virginia Tech — and probably every game, to be honest — is they must instill the fear of the pass. The Hokies have one of the conference’s (and country’s) stronger defenses, so they’re not easily fooled by a gimmicky run-heavy offense. Insert some variety in the play-calling, force the defense to play away from the line, and watch how much smoother the offense runs.

Though I’m not sold this year’s Tech v. Tech game will decide the Coastal, it’s still one of the bigger intra-divisional games on the ACC calendar, and could be the difference between the Sun Bowl and the Military Bowl for the loser. Georgia Tech was so close last year, but just needed to finish the job. Now they have a chance to do so.

Previously: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State

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