A lot on the line on the Flats
By David England
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Duke and Georgia Tech meet at 3:30 to determine which team will remain alive in the Coastal Division race.
If I told you before the season to pick the game that would have the most importance for Georgia Tech's season, I doubt Duke would have been in your top five. Well, as we draw closer to the 11th game of the season for the Jackets, the more it becomes apparent that the game with Duke will prove to be the biggest of the season. Georgia Tech has not had its ideal path to a Coastal Division crown, but the saying "by any means necessary" has never been more true. The team from the Flats has shown incredible fight and resiliency, and the heart has paid off.
Georgia Tech comes into the game against the Blue Devils with a .500 record, at 5-5 overall and 4-3 in conference play. Duke comes in with one more win overall, but one less in ACC play. The battle at 3:30 holds the key to an ACC Championship trip, and Georgia Tech knows it.
"It's our last chance, senior day, and there's a lot at stake for both teams, so it should be a great afternoon out here on Saturday." said head coach Paul Johnson.
If Georgia Tech does win and does get the help it needs, it will be the first trip to the ACC Championship Game since 2009 for the Jackets. It really has been an odd year in the Coastal Division, as Virginia Tech has had its worst season since 1992. The Jackets realize that they must capitalize on this rare opportunity.
The game on Saturday will be the 80th meeting between the Jackets and Blue Devils, with Georgia Tech holding a 48-30-1 lead. In Bobby Dodd Stadium, the Jackets hold a 27-12-1 lead, and have won the last eight meetings at home. Duke's last win in Atlanta was in 1994. The game more recently has been an offensive battle with the winner of each of the last three meetings having scored at least 30 points. The last meeting was on the road for Georgia Tech, and the Yellow Jackets won 38-31.
As for the game on the field, it is quite simple: a potent rushing attack vs a talented passing attack. The Blue Devils come into the game ranked 39th in passing offense with over 250 yards per game through the air, led by a dynamic QB-WR duo in Sean Renfree and Conner Vernon. The duo has over 800 yards through the air and has shred every defense they have faced this season. But you cannot sleep on the receiver opposite of Vernon, as Jamison Crowder has shown the ability to get open on every play and comes in with over 800 yards receiving and six touchdown receptions.
The passing attack for Duke will challenge the talented secondary for the Jackets, with Vernon going head-to-head with safety Isaiah Johnson. The Blue Devils need to come out playing well early, as Georgia Tech is not a come-from-behind team.
For Georgia Tech, establishing a run game early will be the key to a victory. With Vad Lee having his best performance of the season in the game against North Carolina, expect to see more of Lee under center against Duke. Lee poses a major problem for opposing defenses with speed and excellent vision. And with two passing touchdowns through the air in the North Carolina game, he can beat you with his arm as well. The Blue Devils must account for Robert Godhigh as well, who continues to play at a high level. The third quarter has been Godhigh's stomping ground, as he has scored five of his six touchdowns in the first 15 minutes after the half.
The game will come down to which team plays better on the defensive side of the ball.
Score Prediction: Georgia Tech 33, Duke 17