Why It Matters: The first time I wrote this post, I said this game mattered because Maryland still had an outside chance at a bowl game. Stefon Diggs' Twitter speech aside, I think that dream is largely over at this point. Still, the team won't give up, as we've seen, and any win at this point would be absurdly sweet and satisfying.
When + Where: 12:30 on Sat., Nov. 3, at Byrd Stadium, College Park, Md.
TV: ACC Network*, so check your local listings.
Series History: A rather embarrassing 6-14 in favor of GT
Odds: Opened at Georgia Tech -6.5. That was fair pre-injury, but I imagine the line is about to move waaaaay up.
At a Glance
Last Time Out: Maryland suffered another heart-breaker, with plenty of ups and downs, and of course then lost their starting quarterback. Georgia Tech didn't fair much better: the Yella Jackets got rolled 41-17 by a good-but-certainly-not-great BYU team - in Atlanta, at that. There was something of an empty-corpse quality in the performance, getting absolutely steamrolled in all every aspect of the game. The offense, incredibly, accounted for three points - the two touchdowns were returns. The defense was little more than a doormat for BYU, which had four drives of 10+ plays. The most shocking stat, though: they were outpossessed by seventeen minutes. Yikes.
Season So Far: Let's say it just hasn't gone according to plan. That opening-day loss to 4-4 Virginia Tech doesn't look so good anymore; nor does the blowout win over 2-6 Virginia. Their three wins have come over opponents with a total of two FBS wins. (And yes, one was over Maryland. Bit of a downer when it's framed that way.) Questions are being asked of Paul Johnson, and he'd probably be fired if Georgia Tech wasn't still paying off Paul Hewitt. (Heh.) He already forced out Al Groh as a scapegoat, although he probably wasn't in the wrong. And now GT finds itself 3-5 on the margins of bowl irrelevance with a remaning schedule of UNC, Duke, and at Georgia. Also yikes.
Notable Stats: Despite their most recent horror show, this is the Georgia Tech team you know and probably hate. They're still triple option, grinding the life out of games and hitting a few big plays while controlling the clock. They're 28th nationally in scoring offense, 30th in total offense, 11th in yards per play, and first in 40+ yard plays, with more than two a game. They've struggled to throw a little more than they did last year; they still hardly do it and are fairly successful when they do, but they were more or less money with it last year and have been merely okay this season - 100th nationally(!) in completion percentage. But for as explosive as they can be on offense, they're ever bit as mediocre on defense: 80th in scoring defense, 74th in total defense, 103rd in RZ TD%, 88th in 40+ yard plays, 100th in passing defense, 83rd in yards per play. Luckily they're not very good at defending the run, at 70th nationally, because that's obviously going to be Maryland's focus.
Oh, and believe it or not, here's hoping this comes down to a field goal battle: Georgia Tech, at only 45.5%, has the worst mark in the ACC and 118th nationally.
Know the Name: Vad Lee. The backup quarterback to Tevin Washington, calls for Lee to start have increased dramatically as the season's gone on, and now it seems Johnson himself is warming to the idea of making a change. If he does end up starting, two possibilities: he adds some energy to GT's offense and kickstarts a win, or he suffers through the same first-start issues Caleb Rowe did last week. Here's hoping the change is made and the result's the latter.
Probably Wrong Conclusions After a Fleeting Glance: Georgia Tech, like Maryland, is in danger of seeing their season slip away here, but it seems the Yella Jackets have much more reason to fret. If Maryland wasn't in House Money Mode, they sure as hell are now; Tech still has expectations and pressure surrounding it. Whether that comes off in Maryland's favor or not, I don't know. I do know this didn't feel like a blowout game a few days ago, but it sure does now. There's one important factor here: the defense. Remember, GT's offense put up all of three points over BYU. The focus for Maryland should be exactly that: possess, possess, possess, limit turnovers as much as possible, make GT drive on a defense that, with Joe Vellano on the line, is historically quite stout against the trip-op. Linebacker under center or no, I'm confident Maryland will find a way to put up more than three points on that defense. It's a big ask, of course, and probably unlikely, but it's the only way forward I can see.