2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Georgia

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Saturday, December 30th, 2006, 8:00 pm


Forecast (from WeatherUnderground.com):

Click the “Atlanta Weather” link to the right.
Game time forecast, as of 4:00 pm Wednesday: Cloudy with a 60 percent
chance of rain. Temperature 58.

Click here for TechSideline.com’s VT/Georgia roster card

Game Preview:
#14 VT (10-2, 6-2 ACC) vs. Georgia (8-4, 4-4 SEC)

by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com

(Editor’s Notes: The Hokies are the home team for the bowl and will wear
their all-maroon uniforms. For those listening to the game in the Georgia Dome,
the VT radio broadcast frequency will be 102.9 FM.)

Virginia Tech will be looking to win a bowl game for two straight years for
the first time in school history when they take on the Georgia Bulldogs in the
Chick-fil-A Bowl on Saturday night. This is a huge game for the Hokies for two
reasons. First of all, it’s a chance to beat one of the top programs in the SEC.
And secondly, it provides an opportunity to get some momentum heading in 2007,
which could be one of the most entertaining seasons in Tech history.

Georgia opened the 2006 season by running off five straight wins over easy
competition. The Bulldogs defeated Western Kentucky, South Carolina, UAB,
Colorado and Ole Miss, and were ranked in the top 10. But chinks in the armor
began to show in the close victories over Colorado (14-13) and Ole Miss (14-9).
Those teams aren’t very good, yet the Bulldogs struggled to beat them.

It showed the next week, when Tennessee traveled to Athens and crushed
Georgia 51-33. The Bulldogs followed that up with a 24-22 homecoming loss to
Vanderbilt. They barely beat a bad Mississippi State team 27-24 at home the next
week. Georgia then lost two in a row, to Florida 21-14 and Kentucky 24-20.

The next week, things began to turn around for the Bulldogs. They went on the
road and blew out then-#5 Auburn 37-15, and knocked off rival Georgia Tech 15-12
on the last week of the season.

So which Bulldog team will show up on December 30 in the Georgia Dome? It’s
hard to say.

The Georgia Offense

Georgia struggled offensively for most of the season, and that is why they
found themselves losing a lot of games in the middle of the season. There was a
major quarterback controversy in Athens this year, with senior Joe Tereshinski,
r-Fr. Joe Cox and true freshman Matthew Stafford battling it out.

Georgia eventually decided to start Stafford, who was a highly-rated
quarterback coming out of high school. It was a struggle for the true freshman
for much of the season. Stafford completed 126-of-235 passes (53.6%) for 1,620
yards, with six touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

With those numbers from their starting quarterback, it’s not surprising that
Georgia’s offense struggled this season. Take a look at how they stack up

Category Stat National

Rushing Offense
132.1 ypg 61

Passing Offense
189.0 ypg 70

Total Offense
321.1 ypg 77

Scoring Offense
24.7 ppg 55

Stafford improved as the season progressed. In the big win at Auburn, he was
14-of-20 for 219 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions. Against Georgia
Tech, he was 16-of-29 for 171 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions.
Stafford threw for four touchdowns and 12 interceptions in the early part of the
season, but two touchdowns and no interceptions in the last two games.

Stafford wasn’t the only reason Georgia struggled offensively for much of the
season. Like Virginia Tech, the Bulldogs aren’t very deep along the offensive
line. They aren’t exactly young — they start three seniors and two juniors —
but the pool of players to choose from was very thin.

It’s getting thinner. The Bulldogs will take just six scholarship offensive
linemen to the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Backup center Ian Smith is suspended for the
bowl game because of alcohol related offenses, while backup guard Seth Watts is
suspended for violating a team rule.

The only backup scholarship lineman Georgia has is senior Michael Turner, who
started two games at tackle and two at guard this year. Turner has missed bowl
practices in Athens because of an illness, although he is expected to play on

In short, if you think Virginia Tech has had a problem up front this year,
then you would not want to be a fan of the Georgia Bulldogs. The Dogs are big up
front, however. Their starting tackles check in at 6-7, 316 and 6-5, 325, while
their starting guards measure 6-4, 320 and 6-4, 327. Center Nick Jones is 6-3,

Despite their depth problems, Georgia has done a good job protecting the
passer this season. They have allowed just 15 sacks, a very good number when you
consider the Bulldogs have used three different quarterbacks.

Georgia has a number of talented running backs, and coincidentally, they are
coached by former Virginia Tech wide receivers coach Tony Ball. Kregg Lumpkin
(6-1, 224) is the team’s leading rushing on the season. He finished with 150
carries for 759 yards, an average of 5.1 yards per carry. He scored five rushing
touchdowns on the season.

Backups Danny Ware and Thomas Brown are also capable. Ware rushed for 302
yards on the year, while Brown added 256, and they combined for four touchdowns
on the ground. Quarterback Matthew Stafford can also move around the pocket, as
well as downfield. He rushed for 188 yards and a 4.7 yards per carry average.

Stafford has two favorite targets in wide receiver Mohomed Massaquoi and
tight end Martrez Milner. Massquoi caught 28 passes for 348 yards and two
touchdowns on the year. Milner had 27 receptions for 376 yards and two
touchdowns. There is dropoff in the Georgia receiving corps after those two, as
the third leading receiver is the tailback Lumpkin, with 17 catches.

Georgia made a change in play-calling responsibilities two days before the
Georgia Tech game. Quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo called offensive plays in
Georgia’s victory over the Yellow Jackets. Head Coach Mark Richt had been
calling offensive plays in his entire tenure at Georgia. He will assume
offensive coordinator responsibilities as soon as current offensive coordinator
Neil Calloway, who is taking over the head coaching job at UAB after the Chick-fil-A
Bowl, departs.

Bobo’s promotion could potentially make Tech defensive coordinator Bud
Foster’s job more challenging. The Tech coaches have just one game film to
evaluate Bobo’s tendencies as an offensive coordinator.

The Georgia Defense

Similar to Virginia Tech, the Georgia defense has carried the Bulldogs to the
Chick-fil-A Bowl. The Bulldog defense is one of the best stop-units in the SEC,
as well as the nation. Take a look at their rankings in four important

Georgia Defense
Category Stat National Rank
Rushing Defense 113.8 ypg 31
Pass Defense 150.3 ypg 5
Total Defense 264.0 ypg 9
Scoring Defense 17.1 ppg 22

Up front, Georgia features a pair of playmaking defensive ends in Charles
Johnson and Quentin Moses. Moses, a senior, got most of the hype heading into
the season, but Johnson has put up the better numbers. Johnson has 16 tackles
for loss and 7.5 sacks on the year. He has also broken up nine passes, tops on
the team, which is amazing for a defensive end. He has 23 quarterback hurries
and two forced fumbles.

Moses hasn’t had the senior season that many expected, but he is still a load
at defensive end. He finished the year with 10.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
He led the team with 24 quarterback hurries.

Georgia has a big corps of linebackers that can run to the ball. They are led
by weak side linebacker Tony Taylor (6-1, 237). Taylor led the team with 87
tackles on the year. He also had 6.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and five
interceptions. He had 10 quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and two fumble
recoveries, and is one of the top defensive playmakers for the Bulldogs.

Strong side linebacker Brandon Miller (6-4, 254) is one of the bigger
linebackers you’ll see at the college level. He has the size of a defensive end.
Middle linebacker Jarvis Jackson is the smallest of the bunch at 6-2, 226. He is
second on the team in tackles with 69. Danny Verdun Wheeler (6-2, 248) will also
see time at linebacker for Georgia. He had 34 tackles on the season.

The Georgia secondary is not physically imposing, but they are good, as they
rank fifth nationally against the pass, allowing just 150.25 yards per game.
Senior rover Tra Battle (5-11, 176) is the best player in the secondary. Battle
finished the season fourth on the team in tackles with 57. He also had six
interceptions and broke up seven passes. He seems small to play the rover/strong
safety position, but he does his job very well.

One cornerback position will be manned by two players. Bryan Evans (5-11,
181) was a top 100 player coming out of high school. He has started four games
this season. He splits playing time with r-sophomore Ramarcus Brown (5-11, 173),
who started eight games during the season. Neither player had an interception,
and they combined for just seven passes defended.

The other cornerback position is manned by Paul Oliver (6-0, 208), who had 48
tackles, five tackles for loss and three interceptions on the year. The final
member of the secondary is free safety Kelin Johnson (6-1, 194). Johnson had 60
tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and one interception on the year.

This Georgia defense is a solid all-around group, but they are beatable. They
can be run against by a determined offense, and I like the Virginia Tech wide
receivers matchup against cornerbacks Bryan Evans and Ramarcus Brown. But don’t
expect a lot of big numbers from the Hokie offense.

The Georgia Special Teams

You shouldn’t automatically assume that Virginia Tech will have the special
teams advantage each and every game. Some teams do match them, despite the
Hokies’ reputation on ESPN. Georgia is one such team.

Kicker Brandon Coutu, who has been out of action since October with a torn
hamstring, is back for the Chick-fil-A Bowl. He is 7-of-8 for the season, with a
long of 55. His one miss is from beyond 50 yards. He gives Georgia an immediate
scoring threat if the Bulldogs cross Tech’s 40 yard line.

Punter Gordon Ely-Kelso has average numbers. He is averaging 39.6 yards per
punt, with a long of 65. Georgia is only 74th nationally in net punting, while
the Hokies are 49th.

Where the Bulldogs really excel is in the return game. They are 42nd in the
nation in kickoff returns, averaging 21.27 yards per return. Backup tailback
Thomas Brown returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown during the season. The
Hokies are a little better, ranking 33rd nationally with an average of 21.88
yards per return.

Georgia is even better on punt returns, where they rank 5th in the nation,
averaging 15.52 yards per returns. Minute backup flanker Mikey Henderson (5-10,
163) is a major playmaker. He has 22 returns for 343 yards on the season. He
averages 15.6 yards per return, and has two returns for touchdowns with a long
of 86 yards. He is capable of tilting the game in Georgia’s direction with a big

Georgia has also blocked two punts this season, although they have had one
blocked by the opposition as well.


Both teams have below average offenses, very good defenses and good special
teams. That’s going to make for a great game on Saturday night in Atlanta, and
Chick-fil-A Bowl officials probably could not be more pleased with such a great

But who’s going to win? I think this one could go either way. One thing we
have to remember is that while Georgia is only 8-4, they went 8-4 while
playing against SEC competition. True, they lost to Vanderbilt and Kentucky. But
Kentucky is in a bowl game this year. The Bulldogs still blew out Auburn and
only lost to eventual SEC Champion and National Championship contender Florida
by a touchdown. They also beat Georgia Tech, a team the Hokies lost to earlier
in the season (though the Hokies would smack the Jackets now, I believe).

Let’s think back to Virginia Tech’s losses the past few years: How do they
always lose? They lose when the opponent is able to outplay them on defense and
special teams.

Georgia Tech blocked a VT punt and scored a defensive touchdown. Georgia Tech
won. Boston College sacked Sean Glennon all night long, and then VT’s special
teams gave up a safety at the end. BC won. Florida State returned a punt for a
touchdown against Tech last year, and they won. NC State scored off a VT special
teams miscue in 2004, sacked Bryan Randall 10 times, and won.

See a trend there? The only teams that have a chance to beat the Hokies are
the ones with a lot of talent on defense, and a few playmakers on special teams.
Georgia has both of these prerequisites.

I think Tech has played great down the stretch, but they are going to run
into a team with the right formula to beat them in Atlanta. I’ve gone back and
forth with this pick for a couple of weeks, and I’ll probably change my mind
several more times between now and kickoff. But as of this writing, I’m about
51% sure Georgia will win, and I think a big play on special teams or defense,
or both, will be the difference.

Prediction: Georgia 16, Virginia Tech 13

Will Stewart’s Take: Chris makes some good points, and I’ll add these to
them: during Virginia Tech’s 13-year bowl run (about to be 14), the Hokies have
never won two bowl games in a row. Mark Richt, formerly of the Florida State
staff, where he served as Bobby Bowden’s offensive coordinator, has that Bobby
Bowden kryptonite thing going on Frank Beamer. (Who can forget Richt’s gutty
fourth and one call in the 1999 Sugar Bowl that broke Tech’s back? Not me.)

This is a tough matchup for the Hokies, but I’ve got a tougher matchup for
you: Bud Foster versus Matthew Stafford. All else being equal — and it pretty
much is, because these two teams are spitting images of each other — it’s going
to be hard for Stafford to overcome the wily veteran Foster. Not that I think
VT’s going to tear it up on offense, mind you. I just think that in a game like
this, which will come down to field position and turnovers, Tech’s offense
stands a better chance at not blowing the game than Georgia’s offense.

However, a special teams play or two by Georgia could shift that balance.
Back and forth I go.

The biggest risk in picking VT to win is that you’re predicting the Hokies to
do something, as we’ve mentioned several times, they’ve never done before: win
two bowl games in a row. You can interpret that stat two ways, though: it’s
either an ironclad truth, or it’s a string waiting to be broken.

Like I said, I like Virginia Tech’s defense against Stafford. That’s where
I’m going to hang my hat. If the Hokie offense and special teams don’t screw it
up, this is Tech’s game to win.

Will’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 13, Georgia 10

2006 TSL Football Game Predictions
(Regular Season; Closest Prediction Highlighted)


(3 wins)
(5 wins)
(5 wins)


N’Eastern 65-0 63-7 49-3 38-0
UNC 23-10 27-10 24-9 35-10
Duke 34-0 30-3 37-0 36-0
Cincinnati 34-6 31-3 38-3 29-13
GT 13-16 10-17 24-9 27-38
BC 30-17 27-20 20-17 3-22
S. Miss 24-6 23-10 27-6 36-6
Clemson 16-24 10-30 22-21 24-7
Miami 17-13 16-14 20-17 17-10
Kent State 38-0 31-3 44-7 23-0
Wake Forest 13-9 17-10 19-13 27-6
Virginia 20-6 23-0 24-6 17-0

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