After its open date, Georgia Tech will conclude its regular season with five games over the next five Saturdays, starting with its homecoming game against Duke this Saturday.
The Yellow Jackets stand at 4-3, two wins away from securing a bowl bid (after its streak of 18 consecutive bowl games ended last season) and five wins away from just the 10th 9-win season since Bobby Dodd retired after the 1966 season.
How might it shake out? Let’s take a look.
Duke (win probability, according to ESPN: 67.4 percent)
Why Tech will win: Duke has been hit hard by injuries, starting with the loss of its starting quarterback in August. The Blue Devils have made four bowl games in a row, but might have the weakest offense in the ACC. They’ve had trouble holding onto the ball – 18 turnovers, tied for fourth most in FBS – and are 117th yards in per play at 4.96.
Why Tech won’t: The Blue Devils have beaten Tech two years running and gave the Jackets’ option offense plenty of trouble the past two years (All-ACC safety Jeremy Cash, now in the NFL, helped a lot). Duke may be better prepared than it might otherwise be, coming off an open date and having played Army (coached by former Tech assistant Jeff Monken) earlier in October.
North Carolina (17.5 percent)
Why Tech will win: The Tar Heels have also been dinged by injuries, losing an All-ACC guard and an All-ACC wide receiver for the season in recent weeks. North Carolina’s offense, while known for its high scoring and fast-break pace, has by some metrics been no more efficient than Tech’s.
Why Tech won’t: North Carolina’s defense appears to be improving, and quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s accuracy (71.2 completion percentage) looks troublesome for the Jackets. For the fifth time in coach Paul Johnson’s nine seasons, North Carolina will play Tech coming off an open date while the Jackets will have played the previous week.
Virginia Tech (23.7 percent)
Why Georgia Tech will win: Not a lot of clear advantages for the Jackets. Virginia Tech’s offense is run-heavy (61/39 run-pass ratio), and the Jackets have often been effective against the run. Games in the series have typically been decided in the fourth quarter, which the Jackets would likely accept.
Why Tech won’t: The Hokies look like the best team that Georgia Tech will face the rest of the way, and maybe the second best overall behind Clemson. The Hokies are ranked No. 7 nationally in yards per play, and few coaches prepare their defenses better for the Jackets than defensive coordinator Bud Foster.
Virginia (79.1 percent)
Why Tech will win: The Cavaliers might be the weakest team remaining for the Jackets. Virginia are weak on both sides of the ball and now has a federal lawsuit filed by a former player alleging hazing looming over its head.
Why Tech won’t: Virginia has a promising quarterback in Kurt Benkert, who has two 300-yard passing games to his credit in seven starts. While at BYU (and while coaching All-American linebacker Kyle Van Noy), Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall was 2-0 against Tech, holding the Jackets without an offensive touchdown in the 2012 game.
Georgia (36.5 percent)
Why Tech will win: The Bulldogs are stronger in the run game, and that is Tech’s relative strength on defense. Further, this will be the first go-round for Georgia coach Kirby Smart against Tech coach Paul Johnson. Tech fans are banking on the comparative results against Vanderbilt proving prophetic.
Why Tech won’t win: No matter Georgia’s record by this point, the Bulldogs will have a talent advantage. While Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason has been up and down, he’ll have a year’s worth of experience by the time Nov. 26 rolls around.
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