(Sports Network) – FACTS & STATS: Site: Bobby Dodd Stadium (55,000) — Atlanta, Georgia. Television: None. Home Record: MT 1-2, GT 2-1. Away Record: MT 1-1, GT 2-1. Neutral Record: MT 0-0, GT 0-0. Conference Record: MT 1-1, GT 3-1. Series Record: First meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets step out of conference action to play host to the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders this weekend in Atlanta.
Georgia Tech is coming off last weekend’s 33-21 win over Virginia, the team’s second win in as many weeks. The Yellow Jackets have never lost back-to-back games in three seasons under head coach Paul Johnson, but the focus now is on building a lengthy winning streak. Following this contest, they’ll hit the road for their next two games against Clemson and Virginia Tech.
Meanwhile, Middle Tennessee is coming off a lifeless 42-13 loss at home to Troy. That game took place last Tuesday, giving the Blue Raiders 11 days to prepare for this bout. The Blue Raiders have been fairly inconsistent, having posted 34 and 56 points in their two victories, while being held to less than 20 points in each of their three losses.
This marks the first-ever meeting between these two schools. In fact, Georgia Tech has never played a Sun Belt Conference team previously.
Starting quarterback Dwight Dasher made his much anticipated return for Middle Tennessee against Troy after sitting out the season’s first four games due to a suspension. As expected, Dasher was a bit rusty, throwing for only 172 yards on 22-of-37 passing in his debut. Then again, the entire offense struggled, as the Blue Raiders amassed just 207 total yards. They’ll need to get the ground game going to help take some of the pressure of Dasher’s shoulders. Of course, Dasher can also contribute in that department with his scrambling ability. For his career, he has thrown for more than 4,200 yards and ran for more than 1,900. He scored both of the team’s touchdowns last week, but he was also sacked four times and had to exit the game early with an injured finger.
The Middle Tennessee defense is allowing 27.4 points and 385 yards per game, both of which rank near the bottom of the national rankings. One of the main problems has been the team’s inability to create turnovers, as the Blue Raiders rank dead-last among 120 FBS teams in turnover margin (-1.8). In their last contest, Troy posted 519 yards of total offense and scored touchdowns on five of their six red-zone trips. MT also allowed Troy to convert 8-of-16 third downs, as the Trojans enjoyed an eight-minute advantage in time of possession. One of the top playmakers on the defensive unit has been Jamari Lattimore, who is tied for 10th in the nation in sacks per game (1.1). Lattimore also has a team-best six quarterback hurries. However, he won’t have too many opportunities to pin his ears back and get after the quarterback as Georgia Tech prefers to keep the ball on the ground.
The Yellow Jackets will try to repeat what they were able to do offensively against Virginia. Coach Johnson’s option attack was in top form, as Tech rolled up 477 rushing yards to top the Cavaliers. It marked the team’s most- ever rushing yards in an ACC game. Senior B-back Anthony Allen accounted for 195 of those yards, while quarterback Joshua Nesbitt added 109 yards on the ground. Nesbitt has been the driving force to the team’s option game, and he needs only 150 yards to break the ACC record for career rushing yards by a quarterback. In fact, he and Allen are No. 1 and No. 2 among conference rushing leaders this season, averaging a combined 178 yards per game on the ground to lead the nation’s third-ranked rushing attack (328 ypg). Put simply, there won’t be any mystery as to how the Yellow Jackets plan to attack Middle Tennessee’s defense.
Ever since a 45-28 loss at home to NC State three weeks ago, the Georgia Tech defense has made some strides. Against Virginia last week, the Yellow Jackets allowed only 376 total yards, 167 of which came in the final quarter. However, it’s worth noting that Tech defensive coordinator Al Groh was UVA’s head coach for nine seasons until he was fired last year, so he certainly had an element of familiarity. Still, it was an impressive performance, as the defense held UVA to 3-of-12 on third downs. Anthony Egbuniwe led the unit with seven tackles and posted one of the team’s four sacks on the day. On the season, Brad Jefferson leads the team with 36 tackles to go along with a pair of sacks. One area the Yellow Jackets need to make some more plays is against the pass, as they’ve managed only two interceptions on the year so far.
If the Blue Raiders have any hopes of pulling out a victory, they’ll need to avoid falling behind early. So far in their three ACC victories, the Yellow Jackets have allowed a total of 10 fourth-quarter points. The Blue Raiders will also need to create some points off turnovers, as they’ve managed just 10 points off turnovers this season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia Tech 34, Middle Tennessee 17