FACTS & STATS: Site: Bobby Dodd Stadium (55,000) -- Atlanta, Georgia. Television: Raycom Sports. Home Record: BYU 4-1, GT 3-2. Away Record: BYU 0-3, GT 0-2. Neutral Record: BYU 0-0, GT 0-0. Conference Record: BYU 0-0, GT 2-3. Series Record: Series is tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The BYU Cougars will try to solve their road woes when they visit Bobby Dodd Stadium to take on the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech this weekend.
BYU is 0-3 on the road this season, although each of those outcomes was decided by three points or less. Last week, the Cougars traveled to South Bend and, despite hanging tough with the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish, came away with a 17-14 loss. That game kicked off a stretch that will see the Cougars play four of their final five regular-season games on the road.
Meanwhile, Georgia Tech is looking to build on last week's 37-17 victory over Boston College. It was the Yellow Jackets' most complete game in more than a month, as it snapped a three-game slide. Like their counterpart, the Yellow Jackets will log some travel miles down the stretch, playing three of their next four contests in unfriendly confines.
The all-time series between these two schools is tied, 1-1. The last time these schools met was in August of 2003.
BYU ranks in the bottom tier of the nation in most offensive categories. Points were once again hard to come by last week, although the Cougars did score two straight second-quarter touchdowns to find themselves with a 14-7 halftime lead on the road against a ranked opponent. Those TDs broke Notre Dame's streak of 17 consecutive quarters without allowing an offensive touchdown. However, it was a different story in the second half, as BYU was shut out over the final 30 minutes and finished with only 243 yards of total offense. Riley Nelson completed 23-of-36 passes for 177 yards. Both of those second-quarter TDs came from his arm, although Nelson was also intercepted twice and sacked four times. Cody Hoffman hauled in eight passes for 86 yards and a score, while Jamaal Williams paced the ground game with 64 yards on 14 carries.
Whereas the Cougars have been rather inconsistent on offense, their defense has been among the best in the nation, save for a 42-24 setback to Oregon State two weekends ago. BYU enters this tilt ranked fourth in the nation in total defense (276.9 ypg) and eighth in scoring defense (14.0 ppg). The Cougars also rank 15th in both sacks (2.9 per game) and tackles for loss (7.5 per game). Last week, they bottled up Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees to 117 yards on 7-of-16 passing, as he threw for one touchdown and one interception. However, they had some problems stopping the run, as Notre Dame's Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood both went over the century mark, combining for 257 yards on 33 carries (7.8 ypc).
Those rushing totals are of particular interest to Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson and his flexbone option game. The Yellow Jackets have averaged 37.7 ppg this season behind their rushing attack, which ranks third in the nation with an average of 339.6 ypg. They ran for 391 yards (5.1 ypc) and four touchdowns against Boston College, accumulating 24 first downs on the ground. Zach Laskey ran for a game-high 101 yards on 17 carries, while quarterbacks Tevin Washington and Vad Lee combined for 125 yards and three scores. Georgia Tech appeared to lose its focus in a sloppy second half, which coach Johnson was not particularly pleased with in his post-game remarks. Also, Laskey did have to leave the game with a shoulder injury, and his status is questionable for Saturday's contest.
Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Al Groh was fired on Oct. 8 following the team's three-game skid, during which the Yellow Jackets gave up 42, 49 and 47 points. After a bye week, the defense executed much better in last week's win over BC, holding the Eagles to just 15 first downs and 296 yards of total offense. BC was able to convert only 1-of-9 third downs and finished with a mere 16:15 of possession time. It was a total team effort by the GT defense, as no player tallied more than four tackles. Isaiah Johnson (4.0 tackles, forced fumble, pass breakup) and Brandon Watts (4.0 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1.0 sack) headlined the unit.
The trick for Georgia Tech's defense will be to execute at a high level two weeks in a row, something the team has struggled with throughout the season. The Yellow Jackets will get a boost playing at home, but the crowd may suffer if BYU's defense shuts the door on the option attack.