FACTS & STATS: Site: Heinz Field (65,500) — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Georgia Tech 3-1, Pittsburgh 2-2. Away Record:
Georgia Tech 2-1, Pittsburgh 2-1. Neutral Record: Georgia Tech 0-0, Pittsburgh
0-0. Conference Record: Georgia Tech 2-2, Pittsburgh 2-1. Series Record:
Pittsburgh leads, 5-3.
GAME NOTES: ACC Coastal Division foes will collide at Heinz Field on Saturday
afternoon, as the Pittsburgh Panthers play host to the Georgia Tech Yellow
Paul Chryst’s Panthers are very much in the hunt for a divisional crown and
berth in the ACC Championship Game. Pittsburgh sits tied with Duke and
Virginia atop the division standings at 2-1, and ended a three-game losing
streak with a 21-16 win over Virginia Tech on Oct. 16.
Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets opened the season with five straight wins and
earned a spot in the Top-25. The team has hit a wall of sorts however, with
back-to-back losses to Duke (31-25) and North Carolina (48-43). The loss to
the Tar Heels leaves Tech at 2-2 in conference play.
Pittsburgh holds a 5-3 series advantage against Georgia Tech and has won all
three home games against the Yellow Jackets, although this is the first
meeting at Pittsburgh since 1920. However, it was Georgia Tech that
got the win in last year’s clash, a 21-10 decision in Atlanta.
Johnson’s triple-option attack is once again running at full throttle this
season. The Yellow Jackets generate 463.3 yards of offense per game, with
306.3 coming on the ground, good for fourth nationally.
Sophomore quarterback Justin Thomas is the straw that stirs the drink for
Tech, leading the team in rushing with 625 yards and three TDs. Senior
tailback Zach Laskey gets plenty of carries as well, racking up 595 yards and
five scores on the year.
Tech doesn’t pass the ball much, but Thomas does lead all FBS quarterbacks
with 19.18 yards per completion. He has 10 touchdown passes on the year, with
half of them going to senior wideout De Andre Smelter (18 rec, 418 yds, 5
Unfortunately, the shootout loss last week to North Carolina (48-43) showed
this team’s defensive deficiencies. This season, Georgia Tech is yielding 28.3
ppg, on 415.6 yards of total offense. The Yellow Jackets live by the run and
die by the run, allowing 5.3 yards per carry and 187.9 yards per game.
Sophomore linebacker Paul Davis leads the team with 57 total tackles. Senior
linebacker Quayshawn Nealy is second with 49 stops. Freshman end KeShun
Freeman (26 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks) has shown flashes of strong play for
a defensive front that has struggled to get to opposing quarterbacks (eight
sacks on the season).
The Panthers don’t run out of the option, but running the football is still
the squad’s best asset. Pittsburgh is generating 239.0 yards per game on the
ground this season, averaging 5.2 yards per carry and has benefited from a
real workhorse in the form of sophomore standout James Connor.
The 6-foot-2, 250-pound youngster has proven to be one of the most productive
backs in the country, ranking eighth in the nation in rushing (137.0 ypg),
amassing 959 yards and 11 TDs through seven games.
A couple of other underclassmen are contributing at a high level as well, as
sophomore quarterback Chad Voytik has passed for 1,041 yards and nine TDs,
with his favorite target being fellow sophomore Tyler Boyd, who has hauled in
36 balls, for 514 yards and five TDs.
Pittsburgh has solid defensive numbers on the year, ranking 14th in scoring
defense (18.6 ppg) and fourth in total defense (280.4 ypg). The team has been
particularly strong against the pass, ranking seventh in the nation, allowing
a mere 168.3 ypg.
Senior linebacker Anthony Gonzalez paces the Panthers with 43 total tackles.
Senior end David Durham (14 tackles) and freshman end Rori Blair (11 tackles)
are tied for the team lead with three sacks apiece.
Both teams possess dominant rushing attacks, but star power resides with the
Panthers, who should edge out the Yellow Jackets thanks to Connor, Voytik and
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Pittsburgh 27, Georgia Tech 24