This weekend BYU (3-2) will play host to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-2) in what will be the Cougar’s homecoming game. In honor of it being homecoming week, BYU has chosen to show their school spirit during the game. Rather than wearing their names on their jerseys, as has been the tradition at BYU, the words ‘Tradition’, ‘Spirit’, and ‘Honor’ will appear on the back of the Cougar’s uniforms this Saturday night.
BYU is coming off an impressive 31-14 win over Utah State, while the Yellow Jackets lost to Miami (Fla) over the weekend, and both teams are looking to improve to 4-2 on the season in this Saturday night showdown. With Taysom Hill coming off of the best passing performance of his career, and Jamaal Williams back to his old ways, the Cougars are ready to take on their second ACC opponent of the year, hoping to avenge their loss to Virginia earlier this season.
Georgia Tech is led by head coach Paul Johnson who has been at the helm since 2008. During that time, the Yellow Jackets hold a 44-27 record. During his time as head coach, he has led Georgia Tech to two appearances in the ACC Championship game and five straight bowl games.
BYU and Georgia Tech have met a total of three times, and all three of those games have been in the last 11 years. The Cougars have won two of those three games, with the most recent being their 41-17 blowout victory in Atlanta, Georgia last season. The Yellow Jackets went on to finish last season with a 7-7 record, including a victory over USC in the Hyundai Sun Bowl.
Georgia Tech is known for running the option. Coach Paul Johnson had success running his version of the option during his tenure at Navy, and brought it over to Georgia Tech with him. For those unfamiliar with the option, it is briefly defined in the football encyclopedia as follows:
In the simplest version of this play, the quarterback receives the ball and runs either to the right or left, accompanied by an additional offensive player (typically a running back or a fullback). As the defense moves to tackle the quarterback, the quarterback may choose to laterally pass the ball to his accompanying player. If the defense moves to engage that accompanying player, the quarterback may keep the ball and thus advance it himself. This gives the quarterback the option of two different actions during a run. When executed properly, an option offense should can usually gain 2-3 yards before the linebackers and defensive backs can identify who has the football and make a tackle.
This offense is led by sophomore quarterback Vad Lee. As a result of their offensive scheme, Lee has only attempted 76 passes on the season, but has run the ball 82 times. He has completed 34 of those 76 attempts (44%) with 628 yards (8 YPA) , 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. On his 82 carries he has logged 241 yards (3 YPC). From these stats it's obvious that the Yellow Jackets are a run first team, which should bode well for the Cougars, considering the BYU front seven, and their run defense which is ranked 40th.
When Lee does decide to pass the ball, his favorite target is WR DeAndre Smelter. Smelter, a 6'3" 220 lb junior from Macon, Georgia, leads the team with 11 receptions on the season for 185 yards, an average of almost 17 yards per reception. Smelter is an impact player to keep an eye on this Saturday night. Watch for Georgia Tech to go to him for some big plays.
In their run heavy offense, there are multiple guys to keep in mind when it comes to running the ball. They have four players with over 25 carries on the season, and all four of them have rushed for over 160 yards. Running back David Simms has carried the biggest portion of the load, averaging 5 YPC on 66 rushes for 325 yards. But their most efficient back is Robert Godhigh. Godhigh, a senior, is rushing for almost 9 YPC.
**To see an example of Vad Lee and the Georgia Tech option offense in action, here is the highlight real of the Georgia Tech offense vs Elon earlier this season**
Georgia Tech runs a 3-4 defense which is ranked 20th in the country. Their stout defensive line and linebacking corps is yielding only 120 rushing yards per game. Adam Gotsis is a 6'5" 300 lb junior DT who is one of the anchors of their defensive line. Also watch for LB Tyler Marcodes to be disruptive, playing out of the defensive backfield. Marcodes had a 95 yard interception return earlier this season.
Georgia Tech will make it difficult for the Cougars to effectively move the ball against them on the ground, as they will force Taysom Hill and the BYU offense to beat them through the air. This isn't terrible news for BYU, as after the last two weeks, most BYU fans have a lot more confidence in the Cougar passing game.
Speaking of passing defense, the Yellow Jackets are giving up 209 passing yards per game. Sophomore safety Chris Milton is one of the leaders in the secondary, and plays everything from cornerback to kick returner. His season has been highlighted by a 54 yard pick six earlier this year.
Perhaps the biggest thing to watch for when Georgia Tech is on defense is their ability to create turnovers. The Yellow Jackets have forced three fumbles and six interceptions so far. That has been a weakness of this BYU team, as the Cougars have turned the ball over 11 times.
A brief look at the kicking game shows us that kicker Harrison Butker is 21/22 on PAT's this season, and 3-5 on field goals. His three makes come from 40+ yards, while his two misses were 30-39 yarders.
If we can learn anything from history, its that BYU has a good track record when facing these types of offenses. Back in their Mountain West Conference days, the Cougars always seemed to be able to handle Air Force's option attack with relative ease, while most teams struggled handling it. The BYU defensive front seven is about as stout as any in the nation this year, so BYU fans should be confident in their ability to keep Georgia Tech's option attack in check.
If the Cougars can be smart with the ball, they will have a good shot at beating Georgia Tech. But in the last three games, BYU has turned the ball over 8 times. If the Yellow Jackets can force a couple of turnovers, and turn them into short fields or quick scores, the game could easily turn to Georgia Tech's favor. In my opinion, turnovers will be the biggest key to this game. If the Cougars lose the turnover battle for the second time in three weeks, they will have their work cut out for them against a solid Georgia Tech team that is undoubtedly coming into Provo expecting to win this game.
Can Taysom Hill continue the upward trend in his passing game? If Hill doesn't regress back to his early season numbers of a 30% completion percentage, and if the Cougars can cut back on the excessive turnovers, BYU wins.
Prediction: BYU wins 28-21
The game is a home game @ 5 pm MDT. You can watch it on ESPNU.
Give us your insight and score predictions on the game, we are anxious to see what you think.