(Editor’s Note: Usually, I’ll put the other team’s logo over there. But there is no way I’m putting that VT logo on this page. Not now. Not never.)
It’s finally that week. But this year is a little different. The Hokies are jawing a little more. They have been posting more messages on my wall. In general, they are being, well, Hokies. Why?
They are nervous, for the first time in a long while.
And deservingly so. The Hoos have won 6 of the last 7 and a win would mean UVa, for the first time, would reach the ACC Championship game. But Tech is not coming in to this game as a pushover, they are actually a very solid team. Virginia Tech steps into this matchup 10-1 and 5th in the BCS, mainly due to the fact that a TON of teams lost this week. Their only loss was to Clemson at home. Tech doesn’t really have any great wins, just enough good wins. That’s why OK State is still ahead of them after losing to Baylor. Notable wins include Miami, Wake, GT, and UNC, but only the Deacs win was by 2 touchdowns or more. So what else can we expect from the Hokies? Let’s get to the preview.
With the untimely firing of Joe Pa, Frank Beamer moves into the active D-I leader in all time wins with 250. Outside of his years at The Citadel in the ‘70s and Murray State in the early ‘80s, he has been the head coach of VT since 1987. He has 3 Big East titles, 4 ACC titles, and has played for a National Championship, but lost to FSU in 1999. Since then, there has only been 2 seasons when Tech has not had double digit wins. He also has 18 straight bowl appearances, with an 8-10 record, most coming in lower bowls, and a 1-4 record in BCS bowls, with the only win coming in 08 against Cincinnati.
The teams the Hoos do well against are the Pro Set teams, and we got another one on tap this week. This is a very senior laden offense, but is lead by a sophomore in Logan Thomas. At 6-6, 254, he is a physically formidable QB, with the ability to pass or run. He has the same completion % as Rocco and about the same amount of yards, but he has a 16:7 TD/INT ratio, and has only thrown 2 interceptions in the past 6 games, both to Duke. Because of his size he will rush the ball as well, most notably on 3rd downs as he can fall forward and pick up 3 yards. Thomas has 387 yards and 9 TDs on the year, two more than their leading rusher David Wilson. Teams get into trouble when they forget about Logan’s running ability.
Speaking of rushing, the afore mentioned David Wilson is Tech’s go to guy. He is the nations 3rd leading rusher in relation to yards, but only has 7 touchdowns on the season. The offense goes through the run, and Wilson has as eclipsed the 100 yard mark every game but 2 this season, Arkansas State and UNC. He will get his yards on the ground, but the Hoos will need to keep him, Thomas, and backup Josh Oglesby (308 yards, 6 TDs), out of the endzone. ‘Bend, don’t break’ definitely applies here.
On the other end of those passes are Danny Coale (761, 3) and Jarrett Boykin (629, 4), two senior “receivers” that can run great routs and create off of broken plays. D.J. Coles and Marcus Davis are the backups and have seen their fair share of action as well. They will use TE Chris Drager as well, but not the RBs or FBs as much, so most of the passing plays will be in the vertical game.
Another year, another reloading job by Bud Foster. They are only giving up 16.9 points/game, which is good enough for 10th in the nation. They say they play a 4-3, and while that’s their base, Tech’s look is closer to 4-2-5 look with the OLB and ‘Rover’ giving that defense 2 linebacker/defensive back hybrid. FS Antone Exum, ROV Eddie Whitley, and LB Edwards are the leading tacklers, which shows that the defensive line is feeling the pain of the injury bug. CB Jayron Hosley leads the Hokies in interceptions, and is/was an All-American candidate and possible Top 20 NFL pick, if he decides to enter after the season. The key is definitely to attack the defensive line and wear them out as the game goes along. And with the bevy of backs UVa has, it shouldn’t be an issue. They also have 13 picks on the season, but only 5 fumble recoveries, again reinforcing the play of the secondary vs. front 7.
Just like UVa, it has been an adventure for the special teams this year. Tech had to break in a new kicker this year in Cody Journell, and he has been good (12/15), but has missed 2 of his last 4 and none over 41 yards. Punting has been an absolute disaster and rank 118 of 120 in net punt yards. They will, however, put David Wilson back on kick returns, and he has done a very good job.
How Virginia Wins
This game will come down to time of possession. Virginia Tech is about +10 on the season, while the Hoos are about +3. Rushing the ball and stopping the rush are the biggest keys of the game. And not just containing Wilson, but Thomas as well. Tech thrives off of the 3rd and short scenarios, and if the Cavs can force Tech into a lot of punts they can take advantage of the field position game. The Hoos also did a good job stopping FSU from scoring TDs in the redzone (1) and will need that 7s vs. 3s mentality as well this game. But the Hoos cannot do it alone, and that is something we can’t control. Penalities and turnovers have been the constant in the lone loss and the close games throughout the season for VT and if somehow the Hokies are doing both, the Hoos have to take advantage of them all. Lastly, this has to be a low scoring game. I don’t think we will go down the 14-13 road again, but if this game is in the 20s, the Hoos have the advantage.
How Virginia Loses
Tech finds a way to win games. You don’t get to be 10-1 by having a lot of breaks go against you. They will run the ball with Wilson for yardage, but they have to contain the run again with a 5/6 split. If the Hoos let Wilson break away for long runs or multiple touchdowns, it will not favor the Cavs. Conversely, they need to cover the pass, and they can’t do it with less than 6 in coverage against a very upperclassmen heavy receiving core. Lastly, Tech big quarter is the 2nd, where they are outscoring opponents 120-37. Virginia is being outscored 106-74 in the same quarter as well. If Tech puts up a large number before half, it might be too much for the Hoos to overcome.
1-11. That is Virginia’s record against Tech since that 1999 season that saw the Hokies go to the National Championship game. And outside of a few close games, they have always been blowouts. This team is very good and no one anywhere thought the Hoos would be 8-3 this year. And even if Virginia loses this game, it shouldn’t diminish the amazing season we have had. But if the Hoos are going to take that next step, they have to get this monkey off their back, and it’s a big one. It’s the last step of London’s reclamation project and the only one he hasn’t accomplished yet. I think this will be a lower scoring game and I can calculate scenarios where the Hoos can win up to 28-24. The sign “We are going to win” has been prevalent late into this season, and I think it will have one more good run this week as well. Hoos 27, VT 24.