Boston College Q&A with @SoaringtoGlory

You can follow Joe @SoaringtoGlory on Twitter.

What are your thoughts on your team so far?

Boston College is right around where I expected them to be overall, but didn’t get there the way anyone expected.  Beat USC, lose to Colorado State?  Take Clemson to the wire, nearly blow a 20-point lead against Wake?  The Eagles are unpredictable but I never bought the media’s prophesies of doom for this team, especially those that killed BC after losing Andre Williams.  BC wasn’t massively underrated, but they were underrated to an extent, which is nothing new to us really.  We’re looking like a bowl team again and I’m satisfied.

What are your expectations going into the VT game?

Were the Hokies still ranked, the expectations would be minimal.  The Eagles haven’t played a good game at Lane Stadium in years, but Boston College is catching Virginia Tech at the right time.  This is about as good a chance they’ve had of beating VT in their building since we had Matt Ryan.  I am not expecting a win at this point but I am expecting that the Eagles will at least be in the game in the fourth quarter.  Part of it is that nobody knows how the Hokies are going to respond to the Miami embarrassment.

What are your thoughts on VT being BC’s inter-division rival? Do you like the arrangement or would you like to see BC matched with another team?

This rivalry game has served us well for a long time — I noted on my own site that these two teams have only gone one year since 1993 where they did not see one another.  There is a familiarity with playing the Hokies every year, and while I wouldn’t mind one-year breaks now and then, I have no issues with keeping the series going indefinitely.

What is your prediction for the game?

I’m debating this — my response might change several times from now until Saturday morning.  As for now, you caught me at a time when I’m expecting a narrow VT win.  The Hokies are clearly in trouble but I don’t think they’re as bad as they looked last Thursday.  Thing is, their run defense looked porous at best and that’s bad news if the Eagles run game gets going.  I don’t put too much stock into BC being 3-0 on the road as they’ve played lesser opposition all three times.  Even beating a relatively down VT team on the road would be worthy of praise.

Miami Preview and Prediction

The Hokies are 4-3 overall, 1-2 in the Coastal. They are staring 4-4 and the battle for bowl eligibility square in the face. They have more injuries than you’d care to count. Their freshman mike linebacker will be making his starting debut on Thursday night. They are missing their top 2 running backs. The offensive line can’t stop committing pre-snap penalties. They have four freshmen starting on offense. The quarterback has thrown as many interceptions as he has touchdowns. But you know what? It’s Thursday night. It’s Blacksburg. The Hokies backs are against the wall. This is when this team does their best work.

If Bud Foster can’t scheme around having to start freshman Andrew Motuapuaka at mike linebacker, then Duke Johnson has the potential to have a huge day. The Hokies defense has to bottle him up like they did James Conner much of last Thursday night but they need to avoid all the missed tackles. They need better play out of Kyshoen Jarrett who had a rough night against Pittsburgh. The Hokies will need his help stopping Duke Johnson in the run game and Phillip Dorsett in pass game.

Brad Kaaya is off to a good start in his career at Miami. However, he has not been particular impressive on the road except for a good performance at Nebraska (where he also threw two picks). This is a game where if the Hokies defense can bottle up Duke Johnson then they put a true freshman quarterback against a Bud Foster defense. That’s a match-up that Bud Foster wins almost every time.

Overall, the Miami defense has been better than in recent year. They rank 22nd in total defense. Their achilles heel appears to be stopping the run. There is a little more hope for the Hokies this week with Marshawn Williams coming back from injury and Wyatt Teller and David Wang starting on the offensive line. The running game was much better in the second half of last week’s game with those two in the lineup. Not to say that the Hokies will be able to run the ball effectively this week, but the chances are certainly better than they were last week.

Another key to this game will be the Hokies ability to convert on third down. Miami’s third down defense is only ranked 79th in the country where they are only stopping opposing teams 39.7% of the time. The running game needs to try to keep the Hokies out of third and long. But if they do get behind the chains, Michael Brewer needs to make good decisions and accurate throws to get first downs against this Miami defense. This is something he has been able to do fairly well throughout the course of the season.

This game will ultimately be decided by penalties and turnovers. Both of these teams have issues with both. The team who can take care of the ball and not beat themselves is going to win this game. Here’s hoping the Hokies can put the issues that they had with penalties last week behind them.

Like I said at the beginning of this article, it’s Thursday night. It’s Blacksburg. It’s the Miami Hurricanes. If you can’t get excited about this one, you might want to take a second look at your fandom. This is the type of game where the Hokies always play their best. The players always get fired up for Enter Sandman, the fireworks and playing under the lights on national TV (and possibly #AllMaroonEverything?). We know this team can be really good but we also know this team can be pretty bad and the injuries are starting to mount. Let’s hope it’s a vintage Thursday night performance in Blacksburg and the Hokies can get themselves back in the Coastal race.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Miami 13

Miami Q&A with StateOfTheU.com

You can follow Jerry Steinberg @TheStateOfTheU on Twitter or visit his website at StateOfTheU.com.

What are your thoughts on your team so far?

In all honestly I am disappointed. The defense, while statistically improved, failed miserably in Miami’s losses to Georgia Tech and Nebraska. The offense has been explosive, and freshman QB Brad Kaaya has been all that was advertised and more, but third down struggles have also cost the ‘Canes in their three losses.  More than anything I am upset that some of the same failures of recent seasons (consistency on both sides of the ball, ability to stop the run) have shown up again this year.

What are your expectations going into the VT game?

I expect Miami’s offense to move the ball against the injuries riddled Hokies D.  Duke Johnson is tough to stop for anyone. Kaaya looks better each time out.  But I also expect the Hokies O to get “healthy” against UM’s D.  Miami has yet to show the ability to stop the opposition in this type games during the Golden/D’Onofrio era.  Until it happens, in a big game against a good team, a solid/game-winning type defensive performance is not to be expected. Even in the biggest win n recent years (Last season Vs UF) it was more about forcing turnovers than making consistent plays.  Look for a high scoring game.

At this point, how do you see the Coastal division shaking out? Which team do you think will end up winning the division?

As much as Miami’s issues frustrate me, I realize that each and every team in the division has problems.  Someone is going to win, and I think 5-3 gets it done.  I’d like to say Miami, but my guess is it ends up being Duke again.

What is your prediction for the game?

Miami makes a bunch of big plays on offense, but gives up a few as well, and loses the special teams battle. However a key late turnover saves their season in a 31-27 win.

Why can’t the Hokies have an SEC-sized offensive line?

It seems whenever the SEC plays, I see Hokie fans on message boards and on Twitter pose the question, “Why can’t we have an o-line like [insert SEC team here].” In a recent Twitter conversation with @hokiesmash, he posed the question why can’t the Hokies have an offensive line at least as good as Pitt or BC’s? Pitt and BC might not be the gold standard for great offensive play but they are consistently good in the ACC and should be a model for the Hokies to follow. So the question is, why are Pitt and BC’s offensive lines better than the Hokies? Let’s look deeper into if that’s true and if so, why?

Recruiting

Where do Pitt and BC recruit their linemen from and how talented are they perceived to be when they enroll?
* Star values come from 247sports.com’s composite rankings

Pittsburgh

2014 Commits: PA (2), MI, CT
1 4stars  3 3stars

2013 Commits: PA (3), OH, NY
1 5star3stars 1 2stars

2012 Commits: PA, WI
1 4stars 1 2stars

2011 Commits: PA, NY
1 3stars 1 2stars

States Represented: PA (7), NY (2), CT, OH, MI, WI
Average Stars: 3.08 stars 3stars

Pittsburgh

Boston College

2014 Commits: MA (2), GA
3 3stars

2013 Commits: No Offensive Line Commits

2012 Commits: VA, MA, NJ
3 3stars

2011 Commits: MA (2), IL (2), PA, MD
4 3stars 3 2stars

States Represented: MA (4), IL (2), NJ, PA, MD, VA, GA
Average Stars: 2.77 stars 3stars

BostonCollege

Virginia Tech

2014 Commits: NJ (2), PA, OH
4 3stars

2013 Commits: VA (3)
3 3stars

2012 Commits: VA (2), PA (2)
1 3stars 3 2stars

2011 Commits: VA
1 3stars

States Represented: VA (6), PA (3), NJ (2), OH
Average stars: 2.75 stars 3stars

VirginiaTech

Do the Hokies recruit the same areas as Pitt and BC? Yes. All three schools have recruited the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

Do the Hokies have roughly the same recruiting success as Pitt and BC? Pitt’s offensive line recruiting has been better than both BC and VT. Pitt has one 5-star and two 4-star offensive line recruits. BC and VT have no 4 or 5 star offensive line recruits.

How have the results been different on the field been different over the last 4 years?

Pittsburgh

2014 Rushing Offense Ranking: 19th
2014 Sacks Allowed: 51st

2013 Rushing Offense Ranking: 102nd
2013 Sacks Allowed: 118th

2012 Rushing Offense Ranking: 92nd
2012 Sacks Allowed: 102nd

Boston College

2014 Rushing Offense Ranking: 8th
2014 Sacks Allowed: 34th

2013 Rushing Offense Ranking: 20th
2013 Sacks Allowed: 44th

2012 Rushing Offense Ranking: 115th
2012 Sacks Allowed: 106th

Virginia Tech

2014 Rushing Offense Ranking: 77th
2014 Sacks Allowed: 51st

2013 Rushing Offense Ranking: 109th
2013 Sacks Allowed: 96th

2012 Rushing Offense Ranking: 79th
2012 Sacks Allowed: 60th

oline-rankings

Boston College has by far been the most successful team on the offensive line. The 2012 season was nightmare that they rebounded nicely from. Pitt has not been better than the Hokies for the last two years before a huge improvement this year (hello James Conner). For the Hokies, 2012 was a mediocre year on the offensive line. 2013 was downright awful. So far, 2014 has been a return to mediocrity. So what does all this tell us and what do the Hokies need to do?

Well, out of the three teams analyzed, the Hokies are definitely getting the least out of their recruits. You can blame it on coaching transitions (three coaches in the last three years) or you can blame it on the quality of those coaches. I do not have enough insight into the program to give you the answer to that question but the level of production is clear. So what’s the answer? In my opinion it’s two-fold – pick a fertile recruiting area where you feel like you can be successful then get those recruits to sign with your program. Stacy Searels appears to be favoring the Southeast (Virginia to Florida) but he has gone as far as Massachusetts for a recruit. The biggest issue is picking an area where the Hokies can win the recruiting battles. It doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of time recruiting guys in the South who are going to the SEC anyway. It would seem like the low-hanging fruit would be recruiting the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic but if Stacy Searels feels like he can be successful in the Southeast – I hope he feels like he can close the deal with those recruits. Otherwise, the Hokies will not be getting any better on the offensive line any time soon. Virginia Tech will not be successful with the SEC’s leftovers. They are better off following Pitt and BC’s example by recruiting the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Then have some stability on the coaching staff to get the most out of those recruits.

Pittsburgh Q&A with @CzarOfPgh

You can follow Zach on twitter @CzarOfPgh

What are your thoughts on your team so far?

I’m basically like the guy from Momento; I should be carrying around polaroids of the past 30 years of Pitt football to remind myself in the offseason to never, ever be optimistic. The schedule seemed to be shaping up for an 8-4 type year: open 5-1 against Delaware, BC, FIU, Iowa, Akron, and UVA and then manage 3-3 in the chaotic Coastal. I remember thinking 4-2 to open the season would be a worst-case scenario. We’re 3-3.

So my thoughts are mostly not positive. From halftime of the Iowa game until halftime of the UVA game, the team has appeared alternatingly confused, listless, overpowered, and uninterested. I’m not smart enough to know if the issue is players, schemes, or coaching, but the current players in the current scheme aren’t getting it done for the current coaches. Something has to change before the season slips away.

What are your expectations going into the Virginia Tech game?

After that burst of negativity, let me be positive here. In the Paul Chryst era, Pitt has followed disastrous back-to-back losses to Youngstown State and Cincinnati with a win over a 13th ranked Virginia Tech. Later that year, a bad loss to UConn was followed with a win at a ranked Rutgers. Last year, terrible losses to Navy and Georgia Tech were followed with a win over a ranked Notre Dame. In short, when it really comes time to nut up or shut up, Chryst’s teams have always chosen the former.

So here we are – a disappointing 3-3 looking into the cavity-laden teeth of the ACC Coastal. There are 6 winnable games here and 6 losable games. When it seemed like the season was slipping away in years past, Chryst’s teams have been able to rally and salvage bowl eligibility. I can only hope they still have that kind of fight still in them [pulls out polaroid pictures and frowns].

At this point, how do you see the Coastal Division shaking out? Which team do you think will end up winning the division?

Forget everyone finishing 4-4, I think somehow everyone manages to finish 3-5.

More seriously, it’s clear (as it was before the season) that there’s no elite team here. In the absence of a team that has an elite offense and defense, someone who has one of those things is going to win it. If that’s the criterion, then it basically eliminates Pitt and UNC from the start. Things always seem to be on the precipice of falling apart at Miami, and Duke does a lot of things very well but none of them really elite. That leaves Georgia Tech’s offense and the elite defenses in the commonwealth of Virginia. UVA still has to play FSU and GT still has Clemson, so I am taking the Hokies, injuries and all, to end up on top.

What is your prediction for the game?

If Pitt has any chance of winning, they have to take advantage of the injury concerns the Hokies have at running back and the questionable choices Michael Brewer often makes. VT isn’t a team that’s going to put up a lot of points, so that is encouraging, because Pitt’s defense is adequate at best.

Unfortunately, Pitt hasn’t been able to put up points at all, really, over the past month.  The offensive line wasn’t able to get much of a push against Akron, of all teams. If James Conner can’t run and set up second- and third-and-shorts, then it’s trouble. Chad Voytik has spent way too much time looking uncomfortable, unable to go through his progressions, unable to see over the line, and unable to use proper mechanics. That’s a bad recipe against a VT defense that is ranked 4th in the country by the latest F/+ statistics.

I predict VT 21-Pitt 13 with a lot Twitter jokes about both offenses from the national tv audience.

Pittsburgh Preview and Prediction

Let’s examine the Hokies last three visits to Pittsburgh:

2012: #13 Virginia Tech 17, Pittsburgh 35
2003: #5 Virginia Tech 28, #25 Pittsburgh 31
2001: #12 Virginia Tech 7, Pittsburgh 38

That’s three times that a highly ranked Virginia Tech team has waltzed into Heinz Field and left with a lost. If the Hokies want to avoid it happening for a fourth consecutive time, they need to come prepared to play.

Virginia Tech’s front seven is small and fast. This works well against a lot of teams but Pitt has a very big offensive line and 6’2″, 250 pound running back. I don’t like how that matchup looks on paper especially with Luther Maddy out for the game.

You might say, is Chad Voytik going to beat us? Well, I didn’t think Tino Sunseri, Rod Rutherford and David Priestly would beat us either. His numbers this year aren’t terrible – 58.7%, 8 TDs, 5 INTs. If the Hokies want to take advantage of the matchup of the Hokies secondary vs Voytik – they need to jump out to an early lead and make him have to throw more than the Pitt coaches might feel comfortable with. That’s the formula for beating this Pitt team.

Statistically, the Pitt defense is very good. They rank 4th in total defense, 37th in rushing defense and 6th in passing defense. The Hokies haven’t been able to run on anyone this season, so don’t expect that to start this week with their top 3 running backs out for the game. That also means that once again, the success of the offense will reside squarely on Michael Brewer’s shoulders. If he takes care of the ball, more than likely the Hokies will win. If he reverts back to bad Michael Brewer, it will be difficult for the Hokies to win.  It’s really as simple as that. Let’s hope we see more of the Ohio State/UNC Michael Brewer than the ECU/GT Michael Brewer.

On paper this matchup looks pretty even all things considered. But given the Hokies bad mojo at Heinz Field, it’s hard to pick them. This game is going to look a lot like the UNC game – lots of penalties and just plain ugly football. I’m just not feeling good about the Hokies chances of going into Heinz Field in an even matchup and stealing a win. It didn’t work for those highly-ranked VT squads and I don’t think it’s going to work for the 2014 Hokies either.

Pittsburgh 27, Virginia Tech 24

Midseason Awards

We’re halfway through the season and we’ll take some time to examine who has stood out on the 2014 Hokies.

Offensive MVP

Finalists:

Michael Brewer – 10 TDs, 61.8% comp %, 234.8 ypg
Bucky Hodges – 234 yds, 4 TDs
Isaiah Ford – 366 yds, 4 TDs
Marshawn Williams – 362 yds, 3 TDs, 4.0 ypc

brewer_michaelWinner: Michael Brewer. He’s the straw that stirs the drink. Does he turn the ball over too much? Yes. But he also moves the offense better than it has since David Wilson, Danny Coale and Jarred Boykin were here. Virginia Tech’s current total offensive ranking is 71st. The Hokies were ranked 101st in total offense last year. There has been a significant improvement and lot of that can be attributed to better QB play (sorry, Logan).

Defensive MVP

Finalists:

Kendall Fuller – 1 INT, 1 TD, 2 Sacks, 13 passes defended
Ken Ekanem – 5 sacks, 8.5 TFL, 12 QBHs, 1 FF
Chase Williams – 23 solo tackles, 3.5 Sacks, 8.5 TFL, 14 QBHs, 1 FF

fuller_kendallWinner: Kendall Fuller. Seriously, who else could it be? When you throw at Kendall Fuller, you do it at your own peril. He has locked down every receiver he has faced this year. He basically shuts down one side of the field for the opposing offense. I’d rather not imagine what the Hokies’ defense would look like this year without him. Few teams in the country have a weapon in the secondary like Kendall Fuller.

Best position coach

Finalists:

Aaron Moorehead
Charley Wiles
Bryan Stinespring

moorehead_aaronWinner: Aaron Moorehead. It helps when you recruit two players like Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips. Last year, he squeezed as much production as possible from a receiving corps that Rece Davis referred to as “hot garbage” after the Alabama game. This year with Ford, Phillips and Byrn you’re starting to see a lot of production from that position group. It is not easy to get true freshmen to perform at the high level that Ford and Phillips are and that’s a testament to the good work of Aaron Moorehead.

Most surprising player

Finalists:

Bucky Hodges – 234 yds, 4 TDs
Shai McKenzie – 279 yds, 3 TDs, 5.1 ypc
Cam Phillips – 249 yds, 1 TD

hodges_buckyWinner: Bucky Hodges. The word out of spring and fall practice was that Bucky Hodges looked really good and would contribute this year at TE. No one said he would be the next Jimmy Graham (maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration). He looks very similar to TEs that have been drafted to the NFL in recent years (Ebron, Ertz, Reed). Enjoy him while we have him because he might be gone sooner rather than later. He’s that good.