Before every football game this year, The Blue Zone is going to sit down with a football writer from the opposing school’s student newspaper to get the scoop on their team and season.
This week, The Chronicle’s Daniel Carp spoke to The Technique's Associate Editor Nishant Prasadh about this weekend’s contest between Duke and Georgia Tech.
The Chronicle: Duke had a whole extra week to prepare for Georgia Tech's triple-option attack, which is one of the more interesting offensive systems in college football. Does having the bye week added to their preparation give the Blue Devil defense an advantage?
Nishant Prasadh: You hear a lot about how when teams have an extra week to defend against the option it gives them an advantage because they have more time to prepare for it. I think no matter who you're facing you will have to take your entire week to prepare for a specific scheme. I don't have the exact numbers but we examined this phenomenon a while back and found there wasn't much of a difference between teams that had one or two weeks to prepare for the triple option. No matter who you're playing, there's going to be an advantage in being more prepared if you have two weeks, but it can also throw teams out of their rhythm.
TC: The Yellow Jackets put up 68 points in their win against North Carolina last weekend, and a big part of their offensive outburst was the utilization of two different quarterbacks. Where did this explosion come from?
NP: There's a certain energy that's come to the team in the last couple of weeks. Georgia Tech is 3-1 in its last four games. Part of the reason for that is two of those wins came against Boston College and Maryland, who are the ACC's two weakest teams, but part of it is that lately they've made the switch to the two-quarterback system with Tevin Washington and Vad Lee. Washington has done a great job at quarterback ever since he took over the starting job midway through the 2010 season, but you hear a lot of players talk about the energy that Lee brings. Vad is a better athlete and he's a really excitable guy in the huddle. Both of them are going to play on Saturday.
TC: Although the triple option is a run-based scheme, Georgia Tech excelled in the passing game last weekend, averaging 29.7 yards per completion against North Carolina. How has the aerial attack become such a big feature of the Yellow Jackets' run-heavy offense?
NP: The passing game has been a pretty big feature of the offense. You run, run, run and when you finally set up the pass once you've drawn everyone into the box, you go for it all. With Vad in there, head coach Paul Johnson has been able to get a little more creative in the passing game.
TC: Defensively, Georgia Tech has struggled this season, allowing more than 40 points in a game five times. Duke's offense has put up a lot of points this season, what do the Yellow Jackets have to do to stop the Blue Devils from another big game?
NP: The biggest thing is to get pressure on Sean Renfree. It's a really bad matchup for Tech defensively. One thing that happened when Al Groh was fired was that when Charles Kelly came in as the interim defensive coordinator they simplified the scheme a lot. Part of what that involved was taking out all of the nickel and dime packages from the playbook. On every play now Georgia Tech will run a base 3-4 defense, and against a team like Duke that is pass-first, that's going to be a problem for them if they can't get pressure on the quarterback. Conner Vernon is going to pose a huge matchup problem because Tech's top cornerbacks have been wildly inconsistent, and Duke hasn't given up many sacks this season. If the defensive line can't get a solid pass rush on the quarterback, it's going to be a long day for the Georgia Tech secondary.
TC: Saturday's game has large implications on both Georgia Tech's bowl eligibility and who will represent the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship game. How much will that knowledge play into the way the Yellow Jackets approach this must-win game?
NP: I think they're very aware of the stakes. They need this win and a couple of other things have to go right to preserve their chances of playing in the title game. I think at this point it's just as much about proving to themselves that Georgia Tech is a good team. It adds an incentive to know that you've struggled this much earlier in the season and fought back to a point where you still have a chance to get where you wanted to go in the first place. So they know that, and this has been a historic season for Duke so they are certainly going to come out fighting.
TC: Finally, what is your score prediction for Saturday's contest?
NP: I'm going to say Georgia Tech 41, Duke 28.