All posts by treadmillhorse

Marshall Preview and Prediction

The Hokies get to play a 12th game! I like how Adam Amin described the Hokies game against UVA as tournament football. Lose and go home. Luckily, the Hokies were able to get past their in-state rivals. They brought an increased intensity and got a couple of fortunate bounces. Commonwealth Cup streak – check. Now the Hokies get the chance to keep another streak alive with a win against Marshall.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ Rank: 81st
Offensive S&P+ Rank: 64th
Defensive S&P+ Rank: 89th
Special Teams S&P+ Rank: 65th

Marshall 

Overall S&P+ Rank: 37th
Offensive S&P+ Rank: 110th
Defensive S&P+ Rank: 7th
Special Teams S&P+ Rank: 90th

This week you’re going to hear that Virginia Tech scheduled a win to become bowl eligible. That could not be further from the truth. Marshall is good! They have 8 wins and by the S&P+ ranking they will be 3rd best team the Hokies have faced this season. I believe the ranking is inflated to some degree by who Marshall has played this year but nonetheless this is a good team.

They remind me of a Frank Beamer coached team – limited offense but a really strong defense. The one good thing about this matchup is the Marshall does not look like the type of team that can exploit the Hokies struggles on defense. They will certainly be able to move the ball but I don’t expect the point explosion that a lot of teams have been able to put on the Hokies in the 2nd half of games. They have a better passing offense than rushing offense but it’s not exactly explosive. Watch out for Marshall’s big wide receiver, Tyre Brady. He has 64 catches and 9 touchdowns this season and has been targeted 126 times this season!

Marshall has an extremely stingy defense. This is a defense that doesn’t give up much on the ground which requires teams to try to beat them through the air. Teams have had some success against Marshall in the passing game. The Hokies offense will need to make some plays against this defense in order to win. This would be a good game to see a lot of misdirection and RPOs to keep Marshall out of sync. They might even throw in a trick play or two. Keep an eye on Safety Malik Gant, he leads the team in tackles and tackles for loss – which you don’t see very often from the safety position.

This game has the makings of a lower scoring affair than the Hokies are used to. Marshall has been very good at winning games where they score less than 30 points. What’s critical in this game is that the Hokies put up points on Marshall’s defense. The Hokies defense should be able to do enough to keep them in the game but the offense has to score against the Marshall defense. A big play on special teams would help too. This looks like a pretty even matchup on paper, but the Hokies should have the motivation edge and will find a way to pull it out in the end.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 28, Marshall 24 

 

 

Virginia Preview and Prediction

The Hokies are going through a rough stretch. They have lost 4 straight and 4 straight home games for the first time in program history. Up next is UVA. This game has a 25-year bowl streak and a 14-year winning streak against UVA on the line. The Hokies have the talent necessary to win this game, but they are going through a crisis of confidence right now. They can’t catch a break.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ Rank: 82nd
Offensive S&P+ Rank: 54th
Defensive S&P+ Rank: 89th
Special Teams S&P+ Rank: 82nd

Virginia

Overall S&P+ Rank: 44th
Offensive S&P+ Rank: 64th
Defensive S&P+ Rank: 35th
Special Teams S&P+ Rank: 87th

Virginia is a good team this season. For the first time in a couple of years. The best way to describe them is solid in all phases of the game. Their quarterback, Bryce Perkins, is a dual-threat QB that completes passes at a high percentage and can also pick up yards on the ground. This team likes to use the run to set up the pass. Perkins is averaging 6.4 yards per carry and 9 rushing touchdowns this season. Virginia’s tailback, Jordan Ellis, is averaging 4.9 yards per carry. This is a good rushing team that can also throw the ball downfield. The Hoos most talented deep threat is Olamide Zaccheaus. He is averaging 11.8 yards per catch and has 8 receiving touchdowns this season.

Virginia is very good against the pass. If you hope to move the ball against this defense, you need to get something going on the ground. This is a game where Ryan Willis and Steven Peoples will need to find some yards on the ground. They don’t need to force it but there needs to be a good mix in playcalling. Yards through the air will be hard to come by. Keep an eye out for Juan Thornhill and Bryce Hall in the secondary. The Hoos also have two talented linebackers in Zane Zandier and Chris Peace.

If the Hokies hope to win this game, they are going to need to bring some intensity which has been missing in recent weeks. A rivalry game may be what this team needs to up their level of intensity. If the Hokies can play like they did in the first half against Miami and sustain it for 60 minutes, they should be in good shape. This team needs to not worry about the streaks on the line and focus on winning one game. Have a 1-0 mentality. On paper, UVA looks like the more experienced team but rivalry games can get crazy sometimes. Especially in a series that has been as lopsided as this one. As much as the Hokies are suffering a crisis of confidence, the Hoos also haven’t beaten the Hokies in 14 years. You could say the Hokies are in the Hoos’ heads. Barring a major turnaround from the Hokies, this feels like the week a couple of streaks come to an end.

Prediction: Virginia 31, Virginia Tech 21

Miami Preview and Prediction

The Hokies had a historically bad performance against Pitt. Don’t believe me? Read this. Or don’t. Either way, after a series of dismissals and injuries on defense, the Hokies are fielding a lot of 3rd and 4th options on defense. That’s not ideal on a defense that was young to begin with going into the season. You can see the results of all that youth and attrition.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ Rank: 75th
Offensive S&P+ Rank: 49th
Defensive S&P+ Rank: 93rd
Special Teams S&P+ Rank: 57th

Miami

Overall S&P+ Rank: 30th
Offensive S&P+ Rank: 69th
Defensive S&P+ Rank: 10th
Special Teams S&P+ Rank: 117th

Miami doesn’t have a quarterback that is playing at a high level but they have a couple of running backs that can make the Hokies pay without having to put the ball in the air. Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas are both averaging over 5.5 yards per carry and have the ability to break big plays if the Hokies can’t fill their gaps and wrap up the ball carrier. Miami doesn’t have a particularly strong passing game but it might not matter against the Hokies.

Miami’s defense is very talented. This might be the best defense the Hokies will see all season. If the Hokies hope to win this game, they will need to be able to move the ball against this stingy defense. This year, Virginia Tech has not been able to run the ball consistently and if there is one area of Miami’s defense where they are more susceptible it’s on the ground. Unfortunately for the Hokies, Miami’s pass defense is one of the best in the nation. The Hokies will need to look to RPOs and read option to try to move the ball against this defense. This might be a good game to get either Quincy Patterson or Hendon Hooker involved in. Watch out for Miami’s talented linebackers Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney.

After the Boston College game, I had some optimism that this team was close to putting a complete performance together on offense and defense. That could still happen against Miami or UVA, but after the Pitt performance, they look like a team that is closer to packing it in for the season than putting together a complete performance. This team just looks overmatched. The biggest key for this team right now is to not quit. Not to give up on the season. Keep fighting and try to keep getting better week-to-week and even play-to-play. If you’re looking for some positives, it’s possible that the Hokies get Jerrod Hewitt, Rayshard Ashby and Deshawn McClease back this week. Ultimately, I think the Hokies will once again be overmatched on defense. I do believe the Hokies will play better on defense than they did last week. But I don’t think the offense will be able to put up points on Miami’s defense.

Prediction: Miami 31, Virginia Tech 17

Pittsburgh Preview and Prediction

This year’s Hokies have been the definition of inconsistent. One week, it’s the defense. One week, it’s the offense. I would argue the Hokies have only had two complete performances this season – against William & Mary and against Duke. Other than those games, you either get the Hokies offense or the Hokies defense or neither. If the Hokies hope to make a bowl this season, they need to close the season with a couple of complete performances.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ Rank: 61st
Offensive S&P+ Rank: 37th
Defensive S&P+ Rank: 81st
Special Teams S&P+ Rank: 34th

Pittsburgh

Overall S&P+ Rank: 71st
Offensive S&P+ Rank: 50th
Defensive S&P+ Rank: 87th
Special Teams S&P+ Rank: 61st

This is the third consecutive game against a team with a strong running game. Hokies struggled mightily with Georgia Tech and looked significantly better against Boston College. They will need to be even better to stop the Pitt rushing attack. They are led by Qadree Ollison who leads the team with 819 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns. He is backed up by Darrin Hall who has big play ability and is averaging 7.4 yards per carry. He also had 229 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns against UVA last week. Pitt uses a lot of reverses and misdirection to confuse the opposing defenses. If the Hokies defense loses track of the ball carrier, then it’s off to the races.

Pitt’s defense has been a very up and down this year – just like the Hokies. In some games, they have looked excellent and in others they’ve looked mediocre or worse. You never know what you’re going to get from this defense. Their performance last week against UVA was probably their most complete performance of the year. This defense is better at stopping the run than the pass but they have struggled with both at times this season. This defense is good at getting in the backfield to generate sacks and tackles for loss. Watch out for Rashad Weaver getting pressure on Ryan Willis.

The Hokies remaining games are winnable but the Hokies need to put a complete performance together. This one isn’t a great matchup but it does look like a winnable matchup and the Hokies need to take advantage to get a win where they can. They need to avoid penalties and turnovers. If the defense shows up like they did against BC, and the offense can show up like they did against Georgia Tech, the Hokies should be in good shape. It’s difficult to predict games this year with a team as inconsistent as this year’s Hokies. If the Hokies want to get to a bowl game, this is where they need to go on the road and pick up a win in a place that’s been tough for them to get wins in the past. They are due for a complete performance.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 28, Pittsburgh 27

Boston College Preview and Prediction

This has been a very different kind of season for Virginia Tech. I can’t remember a season where the offense has been asked to carry the defense like they have this season. As I mentioned in my season preview, this defense was always going to be young and inexperienced. But you add on dismissals and injuries and this defense looks pretty thin at a lot of positions. Give this defense another year of experience and recruiting, I think things will be okay but for now hold on to your butts.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ Rank: 55th
Offensive S&P+ Rank: 24th
Defensive S&P+ Rank: 91st 👀
Special Teams S&P+ Rank: 10th

Boston College

Overall S&P+ Rank: 38th
Offensive S&P+ Rank: 69th
Defensive S&P+ Rank: 32nd
Special Teams S&P+ Rank: 88th

This Boston College team is exactly what you expect from Boston College – great defense and a strong running game. AJ Dillon is going to be a handful. He’s is rated as one of the top running backs in the nation. He leads the team with 807 rushing yards and 7 rushing touchdowns. His physical running style will make life difficult on Virginia Tech’s defense. Expect him to get a heavy workload on Saturday.

Boston College’s defense is ranked 16th in Passing Efficiency Defense. Which means they don’t give up a lot thru the air. If you want to consistently get yards against this defense, you need to do it on the ground – something Virginia Tech hasn’t been particularly good at this year. This defense also wreaks havoc in the backfield piling up tackles for loss and sacks. This is a game where the Hokies need to avoid getting in long yardage situations. Watch out for Wyatt Ray coming off the edge.

This is another bad matchup for the Hokies. The Hokies defensive personnel are on the smaller end in size but they are quick. That can work against spread teams like Duke and UNC. But against teams that will line up and smack you in the mouth like Georgia Tech and Boston College – not so much. Since the Boston College is a more traditional, pro-style offense the Hokies will have more success than last week against Georgia Tech. But it’s still a terrible matchup and the Hokies will need to outscore Boston College to hope to win. Likely into the 30s, if not the 40s.

Prediction: Boston College 38, Virginia Tech 24

Georgia Tech Preview and Prediction

If the Hokies hope to win the division, they need to win their home games down the stretch. They’re off to a great start in conference after picking up three straight road wins. Now they need to take care of business at home. Next up, they have Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are in last place in the Coastal but this will be a formidable team for the Hokies. Georgia Tech is 2-0 against Justin Fuente’s Hokies.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ Rank: 51st
Offensive S&P+ Rank: 39th
Defensive S&P+ Rank: 67th
Special Teams S&P+ Rank: 10th

Georgia Tech

Overall S&P+ Rank: 64th
Offensive S&P+ Rank: 21st
Defensive S&P+ Rank: 104th
Special Teams S&P+ Rank: 105th

Georgia Tech is one of the best offensive teams the Hokies will see all year. This team can put up points in a hurry. If the Hokies defense is not disciplined and don’t finish tackles, the Jackets will be off to the races. Just ask Louisville. They gave up 66 points to the Jackets in their own house. Georgia Tech’s most dangerous player is their quarterback TaQuon Marshall. He has rushed for 647 yards and 9 touchdowns this season. He is very good at running Paul Johnson’s spread option attack. He also has 8 fumbles on the season. If the Hokies hope to keep the Jackets out of the end zone, it would help to force a turnover or two.

If the Hokies hope to have success in this game, they will need their offense to outscore Georgia Tech’s offense. The Hokies have had a lot of trouble keeping up with the Jackets offensively in recent years. The Hokies have only been able to put up 20 and 22 points respectively in two games against Georgia Tech under Justin Fuente. This is a game where Georgia Tech is likely to score into the 30s, so the Hokies will need to keep possession and put the ball in the end zone. The Jackets are a bad defensive team but they are good at not giving up the big play. They are the opposite of the Hokies in that regard. This is a game where the Hokies need to get something out of the ground game to make life easier on Ryan Willis. This was a struggle for the Hokies against North Carolina.

If there is an area where the Hokies might find an advantage in this game, it’s on special teams. Georgia Tech is vulnerable in this area. The Hokies need to take advantage of kickoff returns and converting points off field goals. These are areas where the Jackets have struggled this year and where the Hokies have been very strong. The Hokies need to take advantage of special teams play on Thursday night. This game could use a little Beamerball.

The Hokies are 7-0 in weeknight games against Georgia Tech. Paul Johnson is 2-0 against Justin Fuente. Something’s gotta give. On paper, this might look like an easy win for the Hokies. They are in first place in the division. The Jackets are in last place. The Hokies are playing at home on a Thursday night — a time slot where they have thrived in the past. As Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friend. Georgia Tech’s strength goes right up against Virginia Tech’s weakness. Georgia Tech’s outside running game is going against a secondary who is struggling to make tackles right now. Not to mention a secondary who has had trouble covering one-on-one downfield — for the couple of times that Georgia Tech goes downfield per game. That’s a bad combination. This looks like a nightmare matchup for the 2018 Hokies.

Prediction: Georgia Tech 34, Virginia Tech 24

Midseason Awards and Outlook

Offensive MVP: Ryan Willis

Ryan Willis has been the difference in two conference wins against Duke and North Carolina. Against Duke, he was efficient, made all the throws he needed to make, drove the Hokies up and down the field that night. Against North Carolina, he only needed one drive to win the game and he went 98 yards in just under 6 minutes to seal the win. Even if you don’t have your best game, as long as you can lead the game winning drive, all is forgiven.

Honorable mention: Damon Hazelton, Steven Peoples

Defensive MVP: Rayshard Ashby

Rayshard Ashby has been a very pleasant surprise on defense this year. He is manning the Mike linebacker position like you would hope from a veteran, even though this is Ashby’s first season starting. He leads the team in tackles, tackles for loss and always seems to be in position to make the play. His instincts and ability to make tackles has been impressive.

Honorable mention: Reggie Floyd, Houshun Gaines

Special Teams MVP: Oscar Bradburn

This is a tough one. The Hokies special teams have been excellent this season. I’m going to give this to Bradburn because you can’t play much better than he has this season. He has a 42.76 yard average on his punts, with a long of 63. He has dropped 11 of his 33 punts inside the 20. He’s doing a good job of flipping field position for the Hokies, which has been important given the defense’s struggles.

Honorable mention: Brian Johnson (7-9 FGs), Jordan Stout (35 touchbacks on 37 kickoffs)

2nd Half Outlook

The offense has been a little ahead of schedule and the defense has been a little behind schedule. The defense is bad right now. The biggest issue is giving up big plays. They are arguably the worst team in FBS at giving up big plays. Outside of the big plays, the Hokies defense is pretty solid. The big plays make those numbers look much worse. The Hokies can improve in the second half of the season as some of their young players get more experience. But I wouldn’t expect a night and day improvement. Bend but don’t break needs to be the mantra of this defense.

Considering the Hokies play in the first half of the season, it is almost shocking that they are 3-0 in conference and in position for a chance to win the division. The division is winnable but the Hokies need to play much better on defense. There are no easy wins left on the schedule. The Hokies are going to have to grind out games from here on out. Have the defense get some stops and have the offense outscore the other team’s offense.