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Virginia Tech, Georgia to match similar strengths
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Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer, left, and Georgia head coach Mark Richt pose with the Chick-fil-A Bowl trophy during a press conference Friday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. - photo by Associated Press
    ATLANTA — Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer had a ready response to Friday’s question: Does Chick-fil-A Bowl opponent Georgia remind you of any team?
    Said Beamer: Virginia Tech.
    Georgia coach Mark Richt says he also sees similarities between the teams. The Bulldogs and No. 14 Hokies boast similar strengths and even share some of the same concerns, leading each coach to predict a close game Saturday night.
    ‘‘When you look at it we’re real similar,’’ Beamer said. ‘‘They’ve got a good defense and we’ve got a good defense. Both of them are ranked. Offensively, we’ve both got new starting quarterbacks. We both came up a little short in offensive linemen and had a little inexperience there. Their kicking game is real good and I think our kicking game is good.’’
    Virginia Tech (10-2) leads the nation with its averages of 221 yards and 9.3 points allowed per game. Georgia (8-4) is ninth in total defense, giving up 264 yards per game, and 22nd in scoring defense, allowing an average of 17.1 points.
    The Hokies allowed a total of 29 points while winning their last six games. They shut out two of their last three opponents.
    ‘‘Hopefully we’ll win by one point,’’ Richt said Friday before adding ‘‘Hopefully we’ll score one point.’’
    The only two teams to score more than 13 points against Virginia Tech were the only two teams to beat the Hokies — Georgia Tech (38-27) and Boston College (22-3) in back-to-back midseason games.
    Georgia suffered a more prolonged midseason slump, losing four of five games to drop to 6-4. The Bulldogs saved their season with consecutive upsets of No. 5 Auburn and No. 16 Georgia Tech.
    ‘‘I think both of us are playing our very best here at the end of the year, and as coaches that’s what you want to do,’’ Beamer said.
    Georgia’s streak of four straight seasons with 10 or more wins and top 10 rankings has ended, but the Bulldogs could move back into the top 25 by taking a third straight win over a ranked opponent.
    Georgia, making its second straight postseason appearance in the Georgia Dome, also is playing to make up for last season’s poor showing in a loss to West Virginia. The Bulldogs fell behind 28-0 in the Sugar Bowl, played in Atlanta while repairs continued to the flood-damaged Superdome in New Orleans. Georgia made a strong comeback but lost 38-35.
    ‘‘That’s extreme motivation,’’ said Georgia senior safety Tra Battle, who had three interceptions in the win over Auburn.
    ‘‘It was kind of embarrassing to come out and perform the way we did. ... We say remember what happened last year. Don’t let it happen again. If we let that happen again it will just destroy what we did the last two games.’’
    Neither team is known for its offense, thanks in part to the year spent breaking in new starting quarterbacks. Virginia Tech’s Sean Glennon, a sophomore, started all season, while Georgia freshman Matthew Stafford didn’t take the job for good until the second half of the year.
    Tailback Branden Ore, who missed the final regular-season game against Virginia with a high ankle sprain, will return as the Hokies’ top offensive threat. Ore rushed for 1,095 yards and 14 touchdowns despite missing almost two full games with the injury.
    Georgia lost starting tailback Thomas Brown to a knee injury in October, leaving Kregg Lumpkin and Danny Ware to share playing time. Lumpkin and Ware combined to rush for 1,061 yards and eight touchdowns.
    Richt turned over play-calling duties to quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo on a temporary basis before the season-ending 15-12 win over Georgia Tech. When offensive line coach and offensive coordinator Neil Callaway was named the new head coach at Alabama-Birmingham this month, Richt named Bobo the new offensive coordinator. Callaway is with the Georgia staff as the line coach through the bowl game.
    Richt hasn’t said if he will relinquish play-calling duties on a permanent basis, but he said he won’t interfere with Bobo’s calls against the Hokies.
    ‘‘I’m pretty much leaving it to Mike to decide how to call it,’’ Richt said. ‘‘I just trust him. I know how it was for me when I was calling plays. When you get too many suggestions, it can be problematic. I’m trying to stay out of his hair.’’
    Atlantic Coast Conference teams have an 8-6 advantage over Southeastern Conference teams in the game, formerly known as the Peach Bowl. The average margin of victory in the last 20 years is only 8.4 points, but that includes Louisiana State’s 40-3 rout of Miami in last year’s game.
    According to bowl president Gary Stokan, new contracts with ESPN and Chick-fil-A pushed payouts for each team to about $2.83 million this year, an increase from last year’s $2.32 million.