Before I get into this column, I want to thank all of you for bearing with me over the last week or so. Content hasn’t been coming as often as I would like, and I skipped Monday Mail entirely this week.
I apologize for its absence, and I thank you for coming back to read.
This column isn’t going to reveal any Earth-shattering news. It’s not going to be full of statistics or in-depth analysis. Instead, it’s going to make a pretty easy statement.
Justin Fuente must find a way to defeat Georgia Tech this Thursday night.
You’re probably thinking, “Well obviously, Ricky. Virginia Tech needs to keep winning to stay in the Coastal race.” And indeed, given that Virginia, Miami and even Pittsburgh are all nipping at the Hokies’ heels, Tech needs to avoid losing at all costs.
But this Thursday’s game against the Yellow Jackets is about more than maintaining an advantage in the ACC Coastal Division standings. It’s about winning a game that Fuente has yet to win, and about beating a program that has shockingly pestered the Hokies for years.
Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech have played every season since 2004, when the Hokies joined the ACC. Since then, the Yellow Jackets have walked away with a win five times, three of which came inside Lane Stadium.
Even worse, Georgia Tech’s resurgence has come of late. Paul Johnson’s option attack has stifled Virginia Tech three out of the last four seasons and the Hokies haven’t beaten Georgia Tech since 2015.
Fuente’s history against Georgia Tech is abysmal. The Hokies fell flat on their face in a primetime showdown in 2016, as backup quarterback Matthew Jordan led Georgia Tech to a 30-20 upset in Blacksburg that wasn’t as close as the score would indicate. Last season, Fuente chased points and thanks to a leaky secondary, Virginia Tech lost 28-22.
There is no reason Georgia Tech should prove to be this difficult. Sure, their option attack is rare and players don’t see it often, but the Yellow Jackets aren’t a powerhouse. They won nine games in 2016, but won just three the season before and five games in 2017. Georgia Tech has finished inside the top 50 in recruiting just twice since 2014, placing 44th in 2015 and 48th in 2017 (data per 247Sports).
My point is this — Virginia Tech should be winning these games. Even if they’re ugly wins, the Hokies shouldn’t be losing to Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech has more talent and plays a brand of football that is still relevant in the 21st century, while the Yellow Jackets are a gimmick offense that makes some coaches look like they belong in high school.
Fuente is too good of a head coach to have an 0-2 record vs. Georgia Tech. If Fuente is going to get Virginia Tech where he wants them to be, which is regularly contending for the ACC Championship and sometimes for the College Football Playoff, he needs to get them over the Georgia Tech hump. Virginia Tech needs to be defeating Georgia Tech on a regular basis, not the other way around.
Thursday night is opportunity on a silver platter. Virginia Tech has a primetime matchup, at home, against a 3-4 Georgia Tech team that owns wins over Alcorn State, Bowling Green and Louisville (who isn’t good without Lamar Jackson). Despite all the injuries and depth problems, Fuente’s Hokies should win this game. Now will they?