'Nole Your Opponent: Virginia Tech Hokies

Tech is the first team since division play began to go 8-0 in conference. But is this the best Hokie team since joining the ACC?

I'm going to have to say no. Heck, it may not even be the second-best. You look at the talent that was on the 2007 team and what it accomplished, I think I'd have to go with it. In 2007, the Hokies allowed 16.1 points per game and 15.1 points per game in conference play to lead the ACC. Its only two regular season losses were to teams that at the time were ranked No. 2 in the country, it was loaded with talent on defense and at wide receiver and it was Tyrod Taylor's freshman year. The problem was we had only one good running back and he was inconsistent and an offensive line that was a trainwreck at the beginning of the year.

As far as second-best team since joining the ACC, it would be neck-and-neck between this year and 2005, talent wise. This team is loaded on offense while the 2005 defense was diabolical at times. Of course, the 2004 team holds a special place in every Hokie's heart for coming together like it did to capture the conference title. Talent wise it was inferior, but no Virginia Tech team other than this one can probably come close to that 2004 team as far as intangibles and resiliency.

Is this the first time in this decade that the offense can be considered better than the defense?

It's the second. In 2003 we had a very good offense that was 12th in the nation in scoring average, but a defense that gave up big chunks of yards at a time.

Who of significance (if anyone) has Virginia Tech lost off this team due to injury/ suspension? How has VTech replaced them?

Pretty much the entire receiving corps. Flanker Dyrell Roberts has missed the last three games and will miss this one with compartment syndrome in his left thigh. Flanker Marcus Davis will play this weekend, but suffered a concussion against Miami. Split End Jarrett Boykin has struggled recently thanks to a shoulder injury (no, I won't tell you which one) that requires cortisone shots prior to the game. Boykin's slowed production has been what's really hurt, but younger guys like Austin Fuller and Xavier Boyce (who was once a starter before losing the job to Boykin) have stepped up.

On defense, the main injury is to cornerback Rashad Carmichael. He hurt an ankle against Miami that kept him out a good deal of that game and caused him to miss the game against UVa. The Hokies responded by moving Jayron Hosley to boundary corner and starting true freshman Kyle Fuller at field. Fuller has been magnificent this season, which is remarkable considering this is his first year playing D1. He passed the test against Miami and will have to do just as well against FSU's receivers. It looks like Carmichael will play, but Fuller will definitely see the field either at corner or nickel back.

What worries you about this game, if anything?

The fact we aren't very good at stopping the run and you guys are pretty good at it. The teams that have stopped your run game have had pretty stout front sevens and were the same defenses that gave us the most trouble in conference play (Boston College and North Carolina). The teams you gashed (NC State, Miami, UVa, Wake Forest) were the same teams we went over 5.0 yards per carry against. Our front seven isn't that big and gets even smaller when we play nickel. If you guys have success on the ground early, that's when I'll start getting really nervous.

I look at Virginia Tech's schedule for 2011:

Clemson
BC
UNC
Miami
App. St. (9/3)
Arkansas St.
@ Wake
@ UVa
@ GT
@ Duke
@ ECU (9/10)
@ Marshall (9/24)

and FSU's schedule for 2011, and I can't help but think this is only round one of at least a two-round bout. Do you think this year's game is a prelude to a 2011 championship game with potential National Championship implications for either team?

After this year I will never believe any national championship hype about our team until after we win a national title. Never. But as far as winning the conference, sure I think we'll have a shot. North Carolina's about to get very young and Georgia Tech's about to lose its quarterback and B-back so it'll probably be between us and Miami in the Coastal. I like the Stephen Morris kid, the Canes have a lot of talent and who knows, maybe they'll mess around and hire a competent head coach. Fortunately that game's in Blacksburg next year.

The thing going against us is we'll be breaking in a new quarterback. Logan Thomas should have a very good supporting cast and from the bits and pieces we've seen he should be fine, but you never know until he's actually asked to go out there and lead a team.

Two teams return their starting QB in the Coastal next year: Miami and Duke. And I somewhat doubt that Jacory Harris will beat out Morris for the job, so it might be only Duke. It'll certainly be an interesting year in our division.

Inside, I'll give my statistical breakdown of Virginia Tech.  

Let's get right to it.  Virginia Tech is a really good team.  I can say with confidence that they have been a better team than Florida State so far.  

F__ratings_december_1_2010

They will be the best team FSU has faced so far this year (slightly better than Oklahoma).  The offenses are quite close, but Tech has a substantial edge in defense over the 'Noles. 

But that doesn't mean Florida State can't win.  Virginia Tech is not without its weaknesses, and there are some aspects of Florida State's attack that match up quite well with the Hokies.  

Below, however, I want to show you why opponent-adjusted measures that also remove garbage time are so important.

For one, there has been a certain aspect of luck with Virginia Tech's defense.  This chart shows yards/play allowed in conference play, and also takeaway frequency in conference play.  

TM Yards-Allowed/Play Takeaway Rate Team
Boston College 4.5 4.5% Virginia Tech
Clemson 4.6 4.3% Miami (Florida)
Maryland 4.7 3.2% Boston College
Florida State 5 2.6% Maryland
Miami (Florida) 5.1 2.5% NC State
NC State 5.3 2.4% Florida State
North Carolina 5.3 2.3% Wake Forest
Virginia Tech 5.5 2.1% Clemson
Wake Forest 6 2.1% Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech 6.1 2.0% Duke
Duke 6.2 2.0% Virginia
Virginia 6.5 1.9% North Carolina

That's right, Virginia Tech's defense was 8th in conference in yards/allowed per play, but first in takeaways.  Generally yards/allowed per play is the better indicator.  When something is this out of whack, It makes sense to think that the team might be a bit lucky.  I noted this for the Miami game as well.  Defenses who rely on turnovers and not stopping opponents from moving the ball won't be great for long.  

However, I would caution that Virginia Tech probably gave up a lot of that yardage in garbage time.  

Again here we see that Virginia Tech was one of the top teams in the conference, particularly if you remove the turnovers.  

ACC Out-Gain Per-Play %
Team Gained Allowed Outgain %
FSU 6 5 20.0%
UM 6 5.1 17.6%
VT 6.3 5.5 14.5%
UNC 6 5.3 13.2%
MD 5.2 4.7 10.6%
BC 4.9 4.5 8.9%
Clemson 4.7 4.6 2.2%
NC State 5.2 5.3 -1.9%
GT 5.9 6.1 -3.3%
Virginia 5.4 6.5 -16.9%
Duke 5 6.2 -19.4%
Wake 4.4 6 -26.7%

But again we have to consider how much garbage time was involved here.  Because VTech won't be pulling its starters against FSU.

Perhaps the most visible example is that Virginia Tech allowed 140 yards on 15 plays to Wake Forest over the Deacon's last three drives!  Tech had already pulled its starters.  

Tech's defense is not as good as Miami's, Oklahoma's, BC's, or Clemson's.  It's about on par with NC State and Florida's.  It is a bit better than Maryland, UNC, and BYU.  

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