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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, September 3, 2012 at 11:23 AM

We’ve reached Day Five of this dramatic opening weekend of college football action. Labor Day brings an annual prime time game on ESPN as Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech open up ACC Coastal Division play. Given that the Hokies are the favorites in their league sixpack, while Georgia Tech is a legitimate darkhorse, this is possibly the single most important game of the first weekend in terms of shaping the postseason.

And, it’s also a game that gives us a relatively quick turnaround from a meeting in the final month of action last year! You probably watched that one on prime time TV too. Let’s crunch some numbers to review what happened last year…and to see how offseason personnel changes may impact what’s going to happen Monday Night.

 

GEORGIA TECH AT VIRGINIA TECH (8 p.m. ET on ESPN)

Las Vegas Spread: Virginia Tech by 7, total of 49

Tech is seen as the better team, 3-4 points better on a neutral field depending on how much you allot for home field advantage here (and the Hokies are known to get more than the standard three points at this site). A total below 50 tells you that the defenses are respected, but not necessarily overpowering.

 

LAST YEAR’S MEETING

Virginia Tech 37, Georgia Tech 26

This turned into quite a shootout last November, with Virginia Tech gaining 476 yards of total offense (267 rushing, 209 passing) on the way to a stellar road victory. Generally, the Hokies beat you with defense and special teams play. So, this was either a great effort from the offense, or a miserable one from the Georgia Tech defense! We have the same starting quarterbacks this year as last, so it’s important to use last year’s boxscore in your evaluation. The road dog Monday will surely have revenge on its mind. How much does revenge matter for a team that allowed almost 500 yards while forcing only one turnover? Georgia Tech needs to be much more aggressive this time around.

 

2012 AP POLL RANKINGS

Georgia Tech: 31st (listed among “others receiving votes”)

Virginia Tech: 16th

Virginia Tech has offered a bit of a conundrum to pollsters this summer. We’re talking about a team that largely impressed last year…but who laid two very big eggs against Clemson (one in the regular season and one in the ACC Championship game). Then, Clemson got obliterated by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. So…is Virginia Tech a pretender who can bully soft defenses but doesn’t have much else going for it? Or, do we throw that Clemson stuff out of the window and consider the Hokies as a force to be reckoned with? Voters stuck them in a safe spot that won’t embarrass them much however it turns out. Georgia Tech got some votes, but not enough to crack the top 25.

 

2012 ATHLON MAGAZINE RANKINGS

Georgia Tech: 35th

Virginia Tech: 16th

Very similar numbers here. Since poll voters read the summer magazines, they often defer to the summer magazines if they aren’t sure what to make of a situation. This kind of groupthink puts them in the neighborhood more often than not…but it also creates winning opportunities for handicappers who can think outside of the box. You’ve already seen that this weekend in other games. That’s usually a big part of September handicapping…smart analysts exposing the errors in summer groupthink.

 

HEAD COACHES

Georgia Tech: Paul Johnson

Virginia Tech: Frank Beamer

These are obviously known quantities. Johnson runs the option attack that he brought over from Navy. He surprised us with the success he’s had in ACC play with it. It’s starting to look like that’s an indictment of the ACC rather than a tribute to how well the option would perform in the big time. Beamer teaches fundamentals, and exploits the lack of fundamentals from opponents.

 

QUARTERBACKS

Georgia Tech: Tevin Washington

Virginia Tech: Logan Thomas

Washington is your typical option quarterback. He’ll make great plays himself. He’ll make great reads that help his running backs bust long runs. But, he’ll also make some mistakes at bad times. And, if you NEED him to pass the ball downfield in a come-from-behind effort…you’ll have to shield your eyes. Thomas was 7 of 13 for 209 yards and three TD passes vs. Georgia Tech last year. That’s a lot of yardage for so few completions and attempts. The best way to say it is that he’s inconsistent, and Coach Beamer tries to put him in positions where his weaknesses are hidden. He can make plays…but those are more random than you’d like.

 

OFFENSES

Georgia Tech: Returns 7 starters from the 18th ranked offense

Virginia Tech: Returns 3 starters from the 35th ranked offense

This is why there’s skepticism about Virginia Tech being a top 10 caliber team…and this is why Monday’s Vegas pointspread is only seven points when the Hokies won by 11 on the road last year. They return only three starters on offense. You just can’t assume everything is going to be fine until the new starters show you they can play. Georgia Tech’s system has been in place for years now, and they have a decent amount of experience that should help them in a tough road opener. Seriously, how many major conference teams have an opener that tough this week?

 

DEFENSES

Georgia Tech: Returns 6 starters from the 44th ranked defense

Virginia Tech: Returns 8 starters from the 10th ranked defense

That’s a great outlook for the hosts. Coach Beamer has shown in the past he can win with defense and special teams in down years for his offense. This defense will certainly give him a chance to do that if the inexperienced offense struggles out of the gate.

 

BEST EXPECTATION

Well, this is a Virginia Tech home game. They’ve been STUNNED as home favorites in September in the past (remember James Madison?), and they’ve also won laughers because of big plays on special teams and defensive points. Should the Hokies offense struggle…and those cheap points NOT come…then the road dog can certainly score an upset victory. That being said, we respect how Virginia Tech dominated Georgia Tech in the stats last year. That suggests an edge in physicality that’s going to matter. Virginia Tech’s defense also has a chance to control the game if GT’s option is rusty in a season opener. That makes the Vegas spread smaller than it seems. It’s easier to cover a number around a TD if the dog is punting all night.

JIM HURLEY knows how important Mondays are to your bankroll. He has something special planned for you in this game. And, he’s also checked out the pennant race schedule to find you the best in Monday bases. Remember that there are a lot of AFTERNOON games because it’s Labor Day! Take care of business early so you get full value.

If you have any questions about our baseball or football programs, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. This is a great time to lock in for full season packages. The NFL starts Wednesday with Dallas at the NY Giants. The September baseball pennant races are going to lead to a very exciting playoffs and World Series. You should be winning SEVEN DAYS A WEEK starting NOW!

And, you should be with us here in the NOTEBOOK every day of the week as well. We’ll talk football once again on Tuesday. Look for stat previews the rest of the week for:

Wednesday: Cowboys at Giants

Thursday: Pittsburgh at Cincinnati in the colleges

Weekend colleges: Georgia/Missouri and Florida/Texas A&M are currently on the agenda

Sunday Night NFL: Steelers at Broncos (hello Peyton Manning!)

Monday Night NFL: an ESPN doubleheader matching Bengals/Ravens and Chargers/Raiders a week from tonight.

Great stuff ahead. But, for now, celebrate Labor Day with a labor of love…finding winners on the Las Vegas board with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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