Keys to the Game, Matchups to Watch, and Game Projection: The ACC Championship Game

Ever since Matt Ryan performed the much-publicized miracle comeback on a
rainy, dreary Thursday night in late October, Virginia Tech fans and players
have been looking for revenge. The Hokies get their second chance this Saturday
against BC in the third annual ACC Championship Game. Many changes have occurred
for both teams since that game, so what should we expect this time?

The
Hokies are playing in their second ACC Championship Game in three years, and
Tech has the opportunity to win their second outright ACC championship in four
years. Boston College is appearing in their first ACC Championship Game, and the
Eagles will be playing in the most important football game for BC in a long
time, if not ever. The edge the Hokies have in experience in playing in big
games cannot be emphasized enough. Boston College has very, very little
experience in playing in big games, and that factor alone may give Tech a big
edge.

However, the clutch play of Matt Ryan (#12, 6-5 220, r-Sr., 4.89) cannot be
emphasized enough, either. Under new coach Jeff Jagodzinski and offensive
coordinator Steve Logan, BC now has a wide-open offense that can score from any
place on the field. The Hokie defense played very well in the first contest,
stifling the passing game of Ryan until the ill-fated final four minutes. Many
BC fans insist that the weather played a huge role in shutting down the Eagle
offense, but I believe that the Hokies can make just as strong a case.

Bud Foster’s defensive game plan was conservative with a variety of zone
defenses used. Certainly, that was the plan going into the game, but the weather
also prevented Tech from pressing BC’s receivers or playing more aggressively in
the secondary for fear of allowing a big play. The rain certainly impacts the
passing and receiving with the wet ball, but the limitations of defenders
slipping in coverage is important, too. Needless to say, the weather had a great
impact on the Thursday night game, and fans should expect a different game this
time.

The depth charts have changed quite a bit since mid-season as well. Virginia
Tech has regained the services of omnipresent middle linebacker Vince Hall,
dynamic freshman quarterback Tyrod Taylor, as well as rugged center Ryan Shuman.
In addition, Brandon Ore is healthy and running the ball like he did in 2006.

Boston College has lost their best pass rusher in Alex Albright (#98, 6-4.5
235, So., 4.77) and their best cover corner in DeJuan Tribble (#27, 5-9 190,
r-Sr., 4.45). In addition, fifth-year senior linebackers Jo-Lonn Dunbar (#40,
6-0.5 238, 4.83) and Tyrone Pruitt (#48, 5-11 226, 4.67) were injured in the
Florida State game and are not yet at full speed.

In short, Virginia Tech is much healthier at this time than in October, while
Boston College has some injuries that will impact their defensive game plan.

So, how will this game play out?

Keys to the Game

When Virginia Tech has the Ball:

For the first Boston College game, I had the offensive keys as:

  • Be Aggressive on First Down
  • Open Up the Middle of the Field
  • Win the Special Teams Battle

In the first meeting, the Hokies were able to establish a decent running game
against the #1 ranked rush defense in the country, but the weather conditions
limited the passing attack. However, Sean Glennon was reasonably effective
throwing the ball against BC, and Tech did attack the middle of the field with
the tight ends. Greg Boone had a good day with three catches for 30 yards
replacing Sam Wheeler, who was injured in the game. Boston College had an edge
on special teams, as punter Johnny Ayers had one of the best days of his career.

For the most part, the keys are similar, but I see some adjustments with the
advancements of the Virginia Tech offense and the injuries on the BC defense.

1. Keep the Defense Off Balance

Just
like the UVA game plan, Bryan Stinespring will be looking to keep the Boston
College defense off balance via a mixture of running and passing. With Tech’s
two-headed quarterback position

...