#21 Boston College (2-0) vs. #15 Georgia Tech (2-0) (ESPN2, 8:00PM EST)
Fast Facts: Boston College is coming off an impressive 37-17 win against their former coach and conference foe NC State. The Eagles face yet another ACC opponent this weekend as they travel to Atlanta to take on the 2-0 Yellow Jackets from Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech has looked strong thus far beating Notre Dame and I-AA Samford by a combined score of 102-17. While one can question the level of difficulty of the aforementioned teams, an eye-opening stat to consider is that Tech has rushed for 654 yards on 98 carries. The Yellow Jackets are led by senior running back Tashard Choice, who has run for 306 yards over the past two games (good for the 8th ranking in the country). However, Tech has yet to throw for an offensive touchdown, as all 12 of their TD's have come from the ground. BC is 3-5 in ACC away games. The experts in Vegas have BC as a 7.5 point underdog.
Players to Watch:
GT: Tashard Choice. The darkhorse Heisman candidate has looked quite impressive in his first two games - compiling 345 total yards and 4 touchdowns. The senior is on a streak of 11 consecutive 100-yard games. Last year, he lead the ACC in total yards with 1,473. Tech returns 4 starters from their offensive line which looked in mid-season form in both games this season. Taylor Bennett. The junior quarterback has thrown for just 206 yards this season, and while some of this can be attributed to large leads the ground attack has given him, it still calls into question just how effective Tech will be if forced to put the ball in the air. Jonathan Dwyer. No, Calvin Johnson did not return for his senior season, but yes, a true freshman did take his number 21 jersey. The four-star running back with offers from Michigan, Auburn, and Florida St. (to name a few) has fit in quite nicely in Tech's offense. On just 14 carries, he has put up 165 yards and 4 touchdowns. He has 4.4 speed and offers a very nice compliment to Choice.
BC: The Front Seven . This group has played extraordinary the last two games and needs to show up on Saturday night in a big way. They will have to do it without Nick Larkin who's out 3 to 4 weeks with a knee sprain. Ron Brace may just play himself into the NFL if he can keep this production up. This group needs to contain Georgia Tech's running game and make them beat BC through the air. Matt Ryan. The Heisman campaign was derailed a bit last week as the team elected to expose NC State's clear weakness in stopping the run. Ryan will face an elite defense on Saturday night - one that is built on speed and excellent coaching. Georgia Tech's defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta is one of the best in the game and he will expose Ryan to many different looks throughout the course of the night. One intersecting subplot will be the Logan vs. Tenuta chess match. The BC Receivers. Blame it on the heat if you'd like, but the BC receivers had a tough day against NC State. There were too many dropped passes and Coach Jagodzinski was noticeably upset about the lack of concentration. There's little room for error in a game this big and these guys need to be focused.
Did you know?: That Jon Tenuta was a graduate assistant under Frank Spaziani at UVA? While their coaching styles differ markedly, there are sure to be some similarities. Will the disciple one-up the ole boss, or will Spaz show his apprentice that he's still the master?
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
What has to happen for the Yellow Jackets to win: Harass Matt Ryan. I know I sound like a recording device, but as important as it was for NC State to generate pressure on Matt Ryan, it is far more important for Georgia Tech to do it this week. Generating pressure through blitzes and creating havoc up front is the calling card for the Rambling Wreck. Death, Taxes, and Jon Tenuta bringing 7. If they get to Matt Ryan early and often, the BC signal caller may get jittery in the pocket and force more of the "ohh no he didn't" passes that marred a few of his attempts the last two weeks. Conversely, if BC's precocious offensive line manages to pick up the pressure, the Tech secondary is ripe for the picking. The defensive backfield is nowhere near the talent that the Eagles' offense faced last week in NC State; so if Ryan is given time to make his reads, expect BC to exploit the massive gaps in coverage due to the added rushers.
What cannot happen for the Yellow Jackets to win: Taylor Bennett carry team. If this has to happen for the Yellow Jackets to win, it means their running game has been shutdown and they've played right into BC's hands. While Bennett performed well in last year's Gator Bowl against West Virginia, he does not have a certain #2 Draft Pick at wideout anymore, and he's yet to be truly tested by an elite secondary. If the last two weeks are any indication, there will be myriad opportunities for the Yellow Jackets to move the ball through the air; however, there will also plenty of pitfalls if Bennett attempts to take more than what the defense gives him. BC's aggressive, veteran secondary appears to lull a quarterback into thinking that he can make any throw at any time, and that's when they attack. If Frank Spaziani can find a way to slow down the Yellow Jackets running game and Steve Logan can give BC a decent lead, then Bennett is going to be on the hot seat. It will interesting to see how he reacts. Georgia Tech would much prefer to keep the game in the hands of Choice and Dwyer.
The Yellow Jackets' Secret Key to Success: Jonathan Dwyer. While it's almost a certainty that Choice will get his 100 yards Saturday night, the real difference maker will be true freshman running back Jonathan Dwyer. Dwyer has been electric over the last two games and the Georgia Tech coaching staff has been creative in how they have used him. Need proof? Check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXhX43UprXk . .
So, while the better known back will certainly cause troubles, Dwyer has the ability ala CJ Spiller to turn the game in one play.
What Yellow Jackets fans are saying about the game: Confident-far more so than even last year with Calvin Johnson leading the Wreck. ACC CG Preview? Concerned about Matt Ryan, but think Tenuta will find a way to exploit the young BC offensive line.
What has to happen for the Eagles to win: Protect Matt Ryan. The Tech defense will generate pressure. Matt Ryan's going to get knocked to the ground this week. While we know he will get back up, BC cannot afford to spend an evening with Matt Ryan picking himself up more frequently than the SuperFans' end zone tosses after scoring 75 points in the last two weeks. If the BC offensive line can give "Matty Ice" time, look for BC to exploit the suspect Tech defensive backfield. Many points by the BC offense may also force Coach Gailey to abandon the running game. Look for BC to take advantage of Tech's aggressiveness by throwing a litany of screens to combat the over-penetration. Screens were a staple of Coach Jags' offenses in Atlanta and Green Bay and have been used with moderate success thus far this season. Hot routes and the intermediate passing game will also be paramount, but expect BC to take their chances deep.
What cannot happen for the Eagles to win: Choice runs roughshod. While BC sports the #4 rush defense in the country, I don't think many expect them to shutdown the Tech rushing attack, like the Eagles did to NC State and Wake Forest. So, while Tech will get their yards, BC cannot afford to let them dictate the game. If the Tech offensive line controls the line of scrimmage, and the Choice-Dwyer combo can get to and beyond the second level, Tech will control the clock and the scoreboard. If BC can contain the running game much like they did with the Wake passing attack, and turn red zone possessions into field goals attempts, they should be in good shape.
The Eagle's Secret Key to Success: Tackling. The Eagles have done a phenomenal job in this department the last two weeks in stark contrast to the last two years. But this is their first real test by an elite running back and run-dominated offense. With Tashard Choice as the strong, heady runner and Jonathan Dwyer as more of the big play option, the Georgia Tech offense will cause any good run defense headaches. BC will not be able to arm tackle either of these two backs, Choice in particular; so they will have to swarm to the ball and gang tackle like never before. If the BC front 7 can continue their impenetrable play, BC's chances increase exponentially.
What Eagles fans are saying about the game: This game was typically lost in years past. We're on the precipice of entering the small community of schools that are regarded as elite in 2007. A 3-0 start portends a 6-0 trip to South Bend
get this game and visions of BCS bowls move from mirage to reality.
This game may be the precursor to the ACC Championship. Georgia Tech lucks out in having this game, as well as those against the vast majority of their more difficult opponents, in the cozy confines of Dodd Stadium (?). BC does not have that luxury, with conference road games against Virginia Tech, Maryland and Clemson slated for October and November. While a win here would give the BC team a little margin for error down the road, it would most importantly complete a brutal early season 3 game stretch of undefeated football (potentially setting themselves up for a 6-0 record heading into South Bend).
The key to this game will be twofold: Matt Ryan against the Georgia Tech blitz and Tashard Choice against the BC front 7. Despite missing 3 defensive starters out of their front seven, BC has a more than capable run defense. They're physical, won't be pushed around, and offer more than enough athleticism to contain Tashard Choice. Don't expect BC to shut the running game down, but they should be successful enough that Tech will be forced to use their passing game to consistently move the football. I like BC's chances there. Georgia Tech has yet to play against an offense as explosive as Steve Logan's, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see BC put up more points than many are predicting. Matt Ryan's more than accustomed to defensive pressure and has demonstrated time and again that he thrives in big games, under big pressure conditions. His experience, mobility, and toughness will keep him in the pocket long enough to exploit the Tech secondary. Saturday night, he's going to prove to the country against a dominant defense, that he is in fact on par with the Brian Brohms of the world.
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