Techies will be out in full force Monday night when ACC rivals Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech get their seasons underway in a nationally televised contest that some predict will decide the Coastal Division title of the ACC.
ESPN's broadcast from Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, VA begins at 8:00 p.m. (ET). Virginia Tech opened as a touchdown favorite with the spread now -7½ on the Hokies at most shops monitored by the Don Best Pro Odds. Monday's scoreboard hurdle is in the 48½-49 point range.
History is behind the notion that this game will determine the Coastal Division representative for the ACC Championship Game to be played in Charlotte on Dec. 1. Since splitting into two divisions for the 2005 season, the Hokies and Yellow Jackets have won every Coastal title, five times for Va Tech and twice by Georgia Tech, each time decided by the victor in this rivalry.
The Hokies have claimed the past two division crowns, beating Florida State in the 2010 ACC title tilt and losing last year to Clemson.
If Monday's winner does indeed go on to the conference championship, it will likely be resolved when Georgia Tech's potent option offense is on the field against a Virginia Tech defense that is picked to be among the best in the country.
Georgia Tech, a 12/1 pick to win the ACC title, has seven starters returning on an offense that finished in the top 20 last year averaging nearly 460 yards per game, more than 300 of that coming on the ground to rank second in that column. Senior QB Tevin Washington is among those seven returning starters, and four more are along the front wall that will be tested Monday night.
Washington paced the Ramblin' Wreck's ground attack with 987 yards rushing, also adding 1,652 yards through the air. However, he failed to complete 50 percent of his passes and had an 11:8 TD-to-interception rate. Washington will be breaking in new receivers with last year's top downfield threat, Stephen Hill, a second-round pick by the New York Jets this past April.
David Sims and Orwin Smith, who finished behind Washington with over 600 yards rushing each a year ago, are back in the fold to complement Paul Johnson's triple option. Both are listed as probable for Monday's contest as Sims works his way back from offseason surgery for a stress fracture in a shin and Smith from a late-season toe injury.
There are also seven defensive starters returning from a unit that surrendered over 160 yards per game on the ground and ranked a middling 60th in the country allowing over 26 points per contest. Virginia Tech, then No. 10 in the country, ran roughshod over the Yellow Jackets in a 37-26 win in Atlanta last November, amassing nearly 270 yards on the ground, all but about 100 of that from ACC Offensive Player of the Year David Wilson.
Georgia Tech won't have to worry about Wilson on Monday after the former Hokie was the 32nd-overall selection in the NFL Draft by the New York Giants. The Ramblin' Wreck will still have to worry about Va Tech junior QB Logan Thomas, however, who was part of all five TDs the Hokies scored in that win, three through the air and two more on the ground.
Michael Holmes, a redshirt freshman from Harrisonburg, VA, is listed at the top of the list to succeed Wilson as the feature back with true freshman JC Coleman waiting in the wings, though he could be red-shirted with junior Martin Scales beginning the season as Holmes' primary backup.
Head coach Frank Beamer may not need much offense considering the potential of his stop unit. Eight starters are back after the Hokies ranked seventh in the country in points allowed (17.6 ppg) and 10th in total defense (304.6 ypg). A very disruptive front wall returns intact, led by end James Gayle (7 sacks in 2011) and tackle Luther Maddy, and they will be complemented by both corners back in the mix, Kyle Fuller and Anton Exum.
Virginia Tech is not listing any significant injuries for the season opener.