Georgia Tech Football: Jackets and Hokies enter week in similar styles

BLACKSBURG, VA - OCTOBER 25: A member of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets cheerleading squad celebrates a touchdown against the Virginia Tech Hokies in the second half at Lane Stadium on October 25, 2018 in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images)
BLACKSBURG, VA - OCTOBER 25: A member of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets cheerleading squad celebrates a touchdown against the Virginia Tech Hokies in the second half at Lane Stadium on October 25, 2018 in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images) /

Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech enter this weekends’ game in similar fashion, playing some of their best football. However, their paths of getting there have been widely different.

Since Virginia Tech joined the Atlantic Coastal Conference in 2004, the “TechMo Bowl” or “Battle of the Techs” as it’s known has been one of the best rivalries the ACC has had to offer. All-time, it’s a pretty even rivalry with the Hokies having a narrow 9-7 lead over the Jackets. That being said, it’s had its’ moments of one program dominating.

From 2010 to 2013, Virginia Tech won four-straight over the Yellow Jackets but all were close matchups with an average margin of victory of 6.5. Since then, however, the Yellow Jackets have had the upper hand in the rivalry, winning four of five matchups including each of the last three. On Saturday, the Jackets will look to make it fourth straight wins to tie the series’s longest winning streak at four.

With that, Saturday’s matchup between the Jackets and Hokies also offers striking similarity to the 2015 matchup between the two programs. Notably, that 2015 match-up was the only game the Jackets lost over the last five years.

On Saturday, the battle between the two ACC Coastal rivals pits two programs that are playing some of their best football of the season but are also in two very different situations.

Georgia Tech:

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In 2015, the Jackets entered their matchup against Virginia Tech with at 3-6 on the season, a similar record to their current 2-7. That year was a struggle for the Jackets to say the least and was only one of two losing seasons for the Jackets in the Paul Johnson era of Georgia Tech football.

This season, the Jackets have struggled and are 2-7 as noted but also have made quite the strides over the last few weeks. This past weekend, the Jackets played the ACC Coastal leaders, the Virginia Cavaliers extremely tough but unfortunately found themselves on the losing end of a 33-28 game.

While it was the Jackets’ seventh loss of the season, it was another strong step forward for Geoff Collins’ program. A Jackets offense that once looked to be lost now appears to be turning a corner. Outside a tough outing against one of the ACC’s best defenses in Pittsburgh, the Jackets offense has totaled 340+ or more yards and after scoring just 20+ points in one of their first four games, they’ve done so in four of their last five. The offense by no means has been world beaters but they’ve certainly made big strides and that can be seen in both the box scores and when watching the games live.

Now, Georgia Tech isn’t to a place yet in their development under Geoff Collins where they have a solid chance of winning each week but they have at least become a competitive team in the last few weeks. Even if the offense struggles, the defense for the most part this season has been quite solid.

Now, for the Yellow Jackets’ the struggles have been expected and its’ the first year of a rebuilding process. Any improvements are a welcomed sight and a sign of the potential the program has going forward. But for Virginia, the case is a little bit different to say the least…

Virginia Tech: 

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  • Virginia Tech has had quite a rollercoaster of season internally. Not too long ago, it looked like Justin Fuente’s tenure in Blacksburg was quickly coming to an end. The Hokies last season had a disappointing 6-7 campaign before starting 2-2 this season. The Hokies were never truly bad but they also weren’t on their normal pedestal around the top of the ACC, the program appeared to have fallen though no quite as hard as Florida State has done over the last few years.

    That being said, ever since Justin Fuente apologized to his team following the Hokies, September 27th matchup against the Duke Blue Devils, a 45-10 loss. Since then, fortune has been on the Hokies side, winning four of their last five, only dropping a game to a top-25 ranked Notre Dame team in South Bend. The Hokies had the lead in that game for the majority of the game and were the better team on the field that day but the Irish were able to put together one strong scoring drive at the end of the game to grab a victory.

    After that tough loss to Notre Dame, the Hokies had to recover quickly and take another top-25 team in Wake Forest. They would respond well to the loss and played possibly their best game of the entire season as they dominated the Demon Deacons en route to a 36-17 victory. The victory was by far their best defensive performance of the year as well, only allowing 301-yards of total offense.

    Part of the growth and turnaround for the Hokies has been also due to making a change at quarterback. After Kansas transfer Ryan Willis started the first four games of the season but following a poor performance against Duke, Fuente benched Willis in favor of sophomore Hendon Hooker. Hooker since taking over has completed 59% of his passes for 814-yards and seven touchdowns. He has also yet to throw an interception this season.

    It’s worth noting that Ryan Willis wasn’t doing horrible as quarterback but he was struggling. He still put up decent numbers, completing 61.5% of his passes this season for 906-yards, and nine touchdowns. That being said, he has turn the ball over quite a bit, throwing five interceptions this season.

    Overall, it’s safe to say Virginia Tech isn’t world beaters and they’re not a team that is going to compete with the elites on a regular basis (for now). But the Hokies at least have some momentum riding with them and have played their best football here over the last few weeks. Three of their six wins have come against weaker opponents in Old Dominion, Furman, and Rhode Island. Old Dominion is 1-9 this season while both Furman and Rhode Island are FCS opponents. But give them credit, a lot of teams that were in Virginia Tech’s situation the last two years just would’ve shut it down emotionally and painfully get their way through the season. The Hokies, however, kept their heads up and have played their hearts out of late.

    With all that being said, if the Hokies were to falter down the stretch here, it could still result in a potential loss of Justin Fuente’s job. A second straight 6-6 season and the struggles on the recruiting trail would be enough for the Hokies athletic department to fire Fuente to say the least.

    On Saturday, these two Techs will match up for another battle in this fun rivalry. Both schools enter the game with something to prove and are looking for what would be sweet victories. For Virginia Tech, a victory would solidify at the very least, a winning season. For the Yellow Jackets, it would only be win No.3 of the season but they would pick up another big win over an ACC Coastal rival (win over Miami earlier this season).

    Both programs are in similar but also widely different situations. Both have been making immense strides over the past few weeks but their reasons for that climb have been widely different. The Jackets on Saturday will look to continue their rebuilding effort and look to remain a competitive team down the stretch. The Hokies, however, are looking to climb back up to their pedestal among the ACC’s best. All in all, it should create a great and intense game on Saturday afternoon between the two rivals.