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A Technical Change

By Matt Osborne
SouthernPigskin.com
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Due to the fierce nature of the annual clash, the game between the Yellow Jackets and Hokies has quietly developed into one of the most intense rivalries in the conference.

“I think that they are really starting to prove that there are really some major problems with this team, and it may not just be growing pains and working out the rust."
~Former Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon

Since the ACC introduced a conference championship game in football back in 2005, only two teams have represented the ACC Coastal Division in the quest to earn the league’s automatic BCS bowl invite: Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.

In fact, until last season, the winner of “The Battle of the Techs” had gone on to play in the ACC Championship Game every year. Last fall, Virginia Tech topped the Yellow Jackets 20-17 in overtime to open the season, but Georgia Tech battled back to take on Florida State in Charlotte for the conference title.

Due to the fierce nature of the annual clash, the game between the Yellow Jackets and Hokies has quietly developed into one of the most intense rivalries in the conference.   Each of the last five meetings between the schools has resulted in a single-digit margin of victory, with four being decided by a touchdown or less.

But while the Hokies have won seven of the nine “Battle of the Techs” since entering the conference, it appears that the Yellow Jackets have finally surpassed Virginia Tech as the dominant technical institute on the gridiron in the ACC.

After winning ten or more games in their first eight seasons in the league, the Hokies were a major disappointment in 2012, as the team had to win its last two games of the regular season simply to reach the six wins required for a bowl invitation.

Thus far, that disappointment has carried over into 2013, as, despite currently sitting with a 3-1 record, the Hokies have been extremely unimpressive in their two most recent wins against East Carolina (15-10) and Marshall (29-21, 3OT). After last season’s catastrophe, relatively speaking, such uninspiring performances can only be attributed to the current state of the program.

“[Virginia Tech] has been struggling to find its identity this season and really has not played a good game thus far,” former Hokies quarterback Sean Glennon commented on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. “I think that they are really starting to prove that there are really some major problems with this team, and it may not just be growing pains and working out the rust. It just may be that they don’t have what it takes to be an elite team this year.”

The struggles on the field have been very apparent this season, but Virginia Tech certainly cannot blame its defense for the subpar performances. The Hokies currently rank fifth in the FBS in total defense, conceding a mere 233 yards per game to the opposition.

The offense and special teams have been so bad for Frank Beamer’s squad, however, that the Hokies rank only sixth in the ACC in scoring defense.

Senior quarterback Logan Thomas has garnered much of the blame for Virginia Tech’s offensive woes, and for good reason. Considered to be an elite NFL prospect prior to the start of the season, Thomas is currently completing less than 50% of his passes, and has thrown six interceptions and just four touchdowns.

“As far as Logan goes, I am a bit surprised that he hasn’t hit his stride yet,” Glennon continued. “I thought with new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler putting in a new system that was more pro-style and that would probably open things up a little more, I thought, after a few starts, he would start being the guy that everyone wanted him to be and that he showed flashes of being early on in his career. For whatever reason, it just doesn’t seem he has the confidence out there.”

Conversely, after multiple seasons of defensive ineptitude in Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme, Georgia Tech has shown signs of significant defensive improvement under new coordinator Ted Roof.

While the offense has continued to produce at a high level, the defense has arguably been the more impressive unit, as the Yellow Jackets currently rank 11th in the country in total defense.

To this point, it appears that the new defensive coordinator and new scheme have resulted in a renewed vigor for the Yellow Jackets’ defensive players.

“I’ve seen a lot of energy out of the guys. You see a lot of younger guys that are playing and going in when guys go down, and guys are stepping up and trying to build a cohesive defense,” former Georgia Tech defensive end Jason Peters remarked on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. “There is going to be some adjusting on the fly, and there’s going to be some fixes here and there, but I think they are doing a great job. I love the energy they have. I love their pursuit to the football. I love what they are doing and I think it is going to end up well for them.”

Though the Yellow Jackets have gone through struggles against Virginia Tech in the past, this Thursday’s game is a tale of two programs trending in opposite directions.

Georgia Tech opens up as a touchdown favorite at home, and that figure may be a little low. With a shortened week to prepare for Georgia Tech’s spread option attack, even Bud Foster will likely find it challenging to formulate a game plan capable of stifling the Yellow Jackets.

And even if the Hokies do manage to slow down Vad Lee and the Georgia Tech offense, the Hokies have displayed a consistent inability to move the football in 2013. Facing a significantly improved defense on Thursday, there is absolutely no reason to believe that the Hokies will suddenly find their offensive groove this week either.

The tide is undoubtedly changing in the ACC Coastal Division, and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are just one of the programs that will benefit from Virginia Tech’s rapid decline.

Matt Osborne - Matt Osborne currently serves as the director of recruiting and lead editor for Southern Pigskin. His work has been published in a number of national publications, including USA Today. Although he loves all levels of football, Matt's number one joy in his life is his relationship with Jesus Christ. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborne200. For media requests, please email Matt at matt@southernpigskin.com.