Tag Archives: coastal division

Miami Preview and Prediction

This is a huge game. If the Hokies lose, they are mathematically eliminated from Coastal contention. If the Hokies hope to repeat as Coastal champions, they will need to win this game on the road against undefeated Miami.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 15th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 70th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 4th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 34th

Miami

Overall S&P+ ranking: 14th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 20th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 31st
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 54th

As you can see, they are two very evenly matched teams. Both teams have put together impressive resumes against relatively soft schedules. No one would argue these aren’t two very good teams. Both teams are trying to build a resume ahead of the ACC Championship for a chance at the College Football Playoff. They could both be considered dark horses in the CFP race.

I’ve watched Miami’s games this year and they just don’t pass they eye test to me. At least not for an undefeated team nine weeks into the season. You always expect them to play better than they do. What has stood out to me is that they play down to their competition. Which means they can play up to their competition in a big game, and they probably will. So don’t expect the same Miami team that struggled against GT and UNC.

The Hokies offense is going to have trouble moving the ball against Miami’s defense. They aren’t as good as Clemson’s but they are probably better than Duke’s and BC’s. They will be a challenge. The Hokies will be able to put some points on the board as Justin Fuente and Brad Cornelsen will be able to scheme against an aggressive defense but I would not be surprised if the Hokies’ offense gave up a turnover or two. It will be important for the Hokies to not give the Hurricanes a short field and limit turnovers. Turnovers and special teams will be key in this match up.

The Hokies cannot have big lapses like they did against Clemson. They had a busted coverage which led to a 60 yard touchdown and a mishandled catch which led to a pick 6. That cost the Hokies 14 points in game decided by 14 points.

A key stat favoring the Hokies is that they rank 3rd nationally in third down conversions allowed. Miami ranks 118th in converting 3rd downs. That could be an issue for Miami but they do excel at finding big plays on offense. The Hokies need to focus on limiting Miami’s big play ability and force them to convert 3rd downs to move the ball down the field.

Bud Foster’s goal needs to be to make Miami one dimensional by stopping their running game. UNC was able to limit Miami to 1.8 YPC last week. If the Hokies can force Malik Rosier to throw the ball, that works in Virginia Tech’s favor and should limit Miami’s big play ability.

Miami is better than they have shown the last two weeks. It’s strange to see an undefeated team as a home underdog (probably has more to do with Vegas folks being high on VT recently but I digress). Virginia Tech’s average game performance is better than Miami’s average game performance. That doesn’t mean that Miami can’t put together a special performance on a big stage. We’ve seen that from them before. But all things being equal, I like the Hokies’ defense limiting Miami’s offense and Tech’s offense’s ability to find big plays. Special teams will be key in this game. Field position battles will matter in a close game. Expect a low scoring affair. This game will be classic Virginia Tech-Miami. Lots of big hits. Lots of emotion on both sides. It’ll be a fun one on ABC prime time. We will need Joey Slye to come up big in this game.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Miami 24

 

2017 Virginia Tech Season Preview

Justin Fuente had a great debut going 10-4 in his first season. This included wins over Coastal division rivals Miami, Pitt and UNC. He also brought back order to the ECU series with a resounding victory. Then he took the Hokies back to the ACC Championship Game for the first time since 2011. There they took the eventual National Champions to the final possession. Pretty good first season all things considered.

For all that Fuente did well in 2016, it will be challenging to repeat or exceed the same level of success in 2017. The Hokies will have a new quarterback and have to replace three of their top four receiving targets from 2016.  This will be a season where the Hokies will have to lean on the defensive side of the ball to have success. We’ve seen this story before.

Offense

Joshua Jackson should be a solid QB for the Hokies. He was close to playing himself into the starting job as a true freshman last year. Justin Fuente likes him because he makes good decisions. He is the type of quarterback who will make the correct read on each play and not turn the ball over. That is very important to Fuente’s offense. Joshua Jackson is the type of quarterback that Fuente has liked in the past. If he had the same supporting cast as Jerod Evans had, I could see him putting up similar numbers. Unfortunately, Isaiah Ford, Bucky Hodges and Sam Rogers are no longer around.

Healthy bodies at the running back position will also help Joshua Jackson. Last season, the Hokies had to rely on Travon McMillian, Sam Rogers and Steven Peoples. The other running backs on the roster were nursing injuries or off-the-field issues. This year McMillian returns along with Deshawn McClease, Peoples and newcomer Jalen Holston. It’s good to have healthy and capable options to choose from in the running game. You should see rushing yards from scrimmage improve from that position group. A lot of that will come from read-option plays like we saw last year.

Look for Cam Phillips to have a huge year as the Hokies’ primary pass catcher. I’m expecting him to be first or second team All-ACC this year. He should see around the same amount of targets as Isaiah Ford did last year. Phillip Patterson and Eric Kumah should fill that 2nd receiver role on the outside. They lack experience but will get better as the year goes on. There are a variety of options in the slot like CJ Carroll, Henri Murphy, Hezekiah Grimsley and Sean Savoy. This inexperienced group will need to step up for the Hokies to have an effective offense.

Defense

On defense, the Hokies should be stout. This is a defense that could be better than last year’s group which finished 18th in total defense. The Hokies have a talented secondary. They also boast one of the most experienced group of linebackers in the country. The biggest question mark is on the defensive line where there is not much experience or depth. The Hokies will need some young players step up.

The defensive line returns four players with starting experience. The starting line features Vinny Mihota, Trevon Hill, Tim Settle and Ricky Walker. While all have enough talent to be front line starters, the depth behind them is full of unknowns. The good news is that the Hokies have a lot young players to choose from. In previous seasons, the Hokies have been able to work with lineups like this. A mix of experienced starters and inexperienced backups. They need to make sure to avoid the injury bug. That would cause major issues for this position group.

For the first time in a long time, the Hokies linebackers are a major strength. They are one of the most talented and experienced groups in the ACC. Andrew Motuapuaka was third team All-ACC and a statistical leader in the conference. Tremaine Edmunds was second team All-ACC and could choose to leave early for the NFL at season’s end. That leaves Mook Reynolds, who was one of the best hybrid linebackers in the conference in 2016. And came on strong at the end of last season. This is an elite group and one of the best in the ACC.

No surprise the secondary is full of talent. This is DBU after all. The corner position will cycle between Brandon Facyson, Greg Stroman and Adonis Alexander. Terrell Edmunds and Reggie Floyd will split duties at the safety positions. Add in all-everything true freshman Devon Hunter who can step in and provide support. This is a talented unit.

Special Teams

Special teams went back to being special under James Shibest. #Shibestball became a thing in 2016. I look forward to more special teams plays like the fake punt he drew up against Clemson last season. Joey Slye is back to boom the ball on kickoffs and be very accurate inside 50 yards on field goals. He has one last chance to prove he can make those 50 yarders. New Aussie punter Oscar Bradburn has a canon for a leg but he will need to adjust to American football. I wouldn’t expect a huge drop-off in the punting game. I think the Hokies should be able to win the field position battle in most games. I would also expect big things from Greg Stroman in the return game. He already has 2 career punt return touchdowns. It would be surprising if he didn’t add to that this year.

2017 Outlook

The good news for the Hokies is that the Coastal division is full of teams with question marks. Only UVA and Duke return their quarterbacks from last year. The team that is able to re-load the best on offense is the team that will win the division.

One of the Hokies biggest challenges this year, is to win all the games they should win. Last year, the Hokies should have beaten Tennessee, Syracuse and Georgia Tech. At the end of the season, the Hokies were statistically better than those three teams but they stumbled when they played them. The Hokies will look for more consistency this season. But it will be difficult with so many new faces on offense.

* Key games for the Hokies: Clemson, at Miami, at Georgia Tech

Date Opponent Prediction
Sun, Sep 3 West Virginia W
Sat, Sep 9 Delaware W
Sat, Sep 16 @ East Carolina W
Sat, Sep 23 Old Dominion W
Sat, Sep 30 Clemson* L
Sat, Oct 7 @ Boston College W
Sat, Oct 21 UNC W
Sat, Oct 28 Duke W
Sat, Nov 4 @ Miami FL* L
Sat, Nov 11 @ Georgia Tech* L
Sat, Nov 18 Pittsburgh W
Fri, Nov 24 @ Virginia W

Final Regular Season Record: 9-3 (5-3 ACC)
Expected finish: 2nd in Coastal Division
Final Regular Season Ranking: 19th
Predicted Bowl Game: TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, FL

TaxSlayer_Bowl_Logo_2014-Closed-PNG

Miami Preview and Prediction

The Syracuse game was a big bump in the road for the Hokies. No one would’ve expected that to be the next game the Hokies lost. A notable blemish of the Beamer era was that the Hokies dropped games that no one expected them to. It appears in year 1 of the Fuente era that still remains a problem for the Virginia Tech program.

The biggest concern for me from the Syracuse game is that one loss can turn into three losses. The Miami game is only five days after the Syracuse game with only three days of practice. That is not much time for the team to put the Syracuse game behind them. My hope is that one loss does not turn into another loss to Miami which could hurt the team’s confidence. After two consecutive losses, who would feel confident going to play Pitt at Heinz Field?

Another thing that concerns me is that Tech’s losses have come in twos in recent years.

2015
at East Carolina (9/26/2015)
Pitt (10/3/2015)

at Miami (10/17/2015)
Duke (10/24/2015)

2014
East Carolina (9/13/2014)
Georgia Tech (9/20/2014)

at Pitt (10/16/2014)
Miami (10/23/2014)

2013
Duke (10/26/2013)
at Boston College  (11/2/2013)

This suggest a group of players that don’t bounce back well from losses. Which gives me concern given the short week and a tough-to-swallow loss on Saturday. Let’s hope that this staff can get the team to focus on the next game in a short period of time. They did a great job of regrouping after the Tennessee game. The Hokies went out a blew out Boston College the next Saturday.

Now let’s talk about Miami. These look like two very evenly matched teams.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 16th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 79th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 6th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 39th

Miami

Overall S&P+ ranking: 17th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 38th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 12th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 38th

The key to stopping the Miami offense is to limit the running game. If Miami has to go one-dimensional with the passing game then Brad Kaaya’s passing statistics drop. The key to slowing down the Miami offense will be limiting their talented running backs, Mark Walton and Joe Yearby. If the Hokies can do this, they should be able to slow down Miami’s offensive attack.

If the Hokies want to have success against the Miami defense, they will need to use misdirection. Miami starts three true freshmen linebackers. If the Hokies want to have success on offense, they will need to use misdirection to confuse them. That means more read option than we saw against Syracuse.

Both teams are suffering significant injuries. Both teams are coming off losses. Both teams are trying to get back in the Coastal division race. This should be a very close game. In a game like this I tend to give a slight advantage to the home team. It’s a big deal to have to travel when you have five days between games.

The Hokies lost to Tennessee then rebounded quickly to beat Boston College. This coaching staff has shown they can turn things around quickly after losses. Expect the Hokies to put together a better performance than they did against Syracuse. Should be a close game but I expect the Hokies to win.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, Miami 21

Miami Preview and Prediction

Who knows with either of these two teams? It’s been a long time since anyone could figure out what was going on with either of these two programs besides the fact that both have been treading water. A win on Saturday would be big towards staying in the Coastal race for both teams. The winner of this game becomes a legitimate contender in the Coastal division.

The Hokies are catching the Canes at a good time. Recent history tells us that the Canes lose a little bit of their edge after losing to FSU. It’s been like that for about the last five years. We’ll see if a beat up Miami team still has the focus and energy to show up on Saturday.

A couple of keys for the Hokies will be stopping Miami’s advanced passing game. Brad Kaaya is a very good passer having thrown for almost 1,500 yards with eight touchdowns and only one interception. VT’s young secondary will have to be up to the task of covering Miami’s group of talented and experienced wide receivers. They have the type of speed that should pose a major challenge to the Hokies inexperienced secondary.

Last year, the Canes steamrolled the Hokies on the ground. The just lined up and ran it down our throats. That’s less likely to happen this year since the Canes are starting a very young offensive line along with two running backs who while talented, are not Duke Johnson. This is a game where the Hokies can’t afford to get bad play from their linebackers. They need to be able to stop the run and make Miami have to beat the Hokies through the air.

This is not your father’s Miami defense. This is a game where the Hokies offense should be able to move the ball both on the ground and through the air. Regardless of who is playing quarterback for the Hokies, they need to look to establish the run to set up the pass. In each of their victories this season, the Hokies have been able to run the ball effectively to help out their passing attack. Let’s hope we see more carries for Travon McMillian this week. The Hokies simply need to pick a running back and stick with him like they did in the NC State game.

On paper, this game looks very even. Most Virginia Tech-Miami games are. One team is going to take a big step forward this week toward remaining in the Coastal race. The team that loses this game runs the risk of letting the division race slip away from them. I’m hoping the Hokies gained confidence from that win against NC State but I’m still worried that the speed of Miami’s wide receivers combined with inconsistent play from the VT linebackers will lead to a long day down in South Florida. Just like last week, prove me wrong, Hokies.

Prediction: Miami 34, Virginia Tech 20

Miami Q&A with StateoftheU.com

You can follow Cam Underwood @TheStateOfTheU on Twitter or visit his website at StateOfTheU.com.

What are your thoughts on your team so far?

It’s hard for me to feel good about this team. We’re talented, sure, but we’re not seeing the success that I think we should reasonably see in year 5 of the Al Golden regime. I like what we have at the offensive skill positions, but the offensive line needs serious improvement. The defense seems to be good on some plays and bad on others, and the defensive line leaves much to be desired. Overall, at 3-2 through 5 games, I’d say the way I feel about this team is “blah”.

What are your expectations going into the Virginia Tech game?

My expectation going into the VT game is to see a tightly contested game. Both teams are capable of winning the Coastal, and the first step towards that is a win on Saturday.

From Miami, I’d hope to see some fight. I’d hope to see some of the elite level playmaking we saw against Florida State, and improvements in the deficient areas.

From VT, I have no idea what to expect. The QB situation is unknown, and but the defensive talent is high. VT has played some good games and some bad ones, just like Miami has. I’m interested to see which version of each team shows up on Saturday afternoon.

Last year, Miami struggled after the FSU game, do you expect the Canes to bounce back better this season?

I do not expect the Canes to bounce back better than in previous years following a loss to FSU. The last 2 years after losing to the Seminoles, Miami has gone 2-8. What has demonstrably changed from years past to make me think there will be improvement to that? Nothing.

So, no, I do not expect us to be a better team after this loss. I do not expect us to win the Coastal division. I do, however, expect us to win some games as we head through the rest of October and November, but there will be plenty of losses (including at least 1 game we “should” win) between here and the end of the season.

At this point, how do you see the Coastal division shaking out?

I see Duke as the best team in the Coastal, flawed though they are, and would be shocked if they don’t win the division this year.

What is your prediction for the game?

My prediction for Saturday is Miami 27, Virginia Tech 23.

Pittsburgh Q&A with @CzarOfPgh

You can follow Zach on Twitter at @CzarOfPgh.

What are your thoughts on your team so far?

As has been the case with basically every Pitt team I’ve watched, I have really no clue what to make of them. There have been some very positive signs.

The defense, in particular the pass defense, has been night and day different than last year. Last year’s philosophy on defense suited Paul Chryst’s conservative personality quite well: bend but don’t break. Unfortunately, the talent level just wasn’t good enough to avoid breaking. This year, Pat Narduzzi has already implemented a tough, attacking defense. Starting cornerback Avonte Maddox has had a phenomenal season so far, and last year’s top recruit in Pennsylvania Jordan Whitehead has already seized the starting strong safety spot and is among the team leaders in tackles.

On the downside, the run defense is still a work in progress. A large part of this is talent. Paul Chryst failed to recruit the d-line and linebacker positions very well. Still, it’s obvious that the new more aggressive scheme will pay off once the talent level begins to catch up in a few years.

More troubling, the offense is suddenly a mess. Sure the loss of James Conner to injury and 60% of last year’s starting OL to either the NFL or season-long injury has been a major problem. A bigger problem, at least in my opinion, is a lack of a real identity. It’s not clear to me what the offense wants to be. At least with Paul Chryst you knew he wanted a power running attack. Thus far, Jim Chaney seems very hesitant to try to run inside, possibly due to the OL concerns. The problem is that the outside running game hasn’t been so great either. There have been a lot of East-West plays that never really develop. To go with those issues, Chaney quite obviously never trusted Chad Voytik to do… whatever it is Chaney wants to do. Nate Peterman has looked like he can make a lot of accurate throws, but he’s also been fairly turnover prone. I’m eager to see the offense develop into something with a real identity rather than random elements tossed together to see what works.

What are your expectations going into the Virginia Tech game?

I expect a fairly ugly game, especially if the weather is as expected. I know VT’s defense didn’t look like the elite unit it was expected to be against ECU, but I don’t think Pitt can do (or wants to do) the kinds of things on offense that ECU does. I’m terrified that VT’s talented defensive line is going to eat Pitt’s offensive line for lunch. Jim Chaney is going to want to establish the run one way or another, and that is going to be a tough order. Even if the weather were ideal, I’m not sure how well Pitt could pass against a great secondary and strong pass rush. In poor weather, it might be impossible. Unfortunately, I think a good passing game that keeps Tyler Boyd and the tight ends involved is going to be the best chance Pitt has to reliably move the ball.

When VT has the ball, I hope to see an improved rushing defense. VT has a lot of talent at running back, and Pitt is going to need to hold their own in order to have any chance of winning. If the passing defense can keep up its improved play over last year, Pitt’s success is going to come down to how well they can stop the run.¬† In an ugly game in wet weather, I can’t really say that either team has a clear advantage.

Heinz Field is a house of horrors for VT, how do you feel about Pitt coming to Lane Stadium?

To be honest, the thought of coming into a night game at Lane would terrify me. I want no part of that. Luckily, this year’s game is at noon. It’s hard to think of any stadium that’s truly intimidating for a noon game. Couple that with the expected wet, cold weather, and it’s hard to imagine much of a home field advantage for VT.

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

From the looks of it, Duke is going to be the class of the Coastal. They’re really playing great defense, and if recent history carries any weight, the offense will get going pretty soon too. They’re capable of easily winning the Coastal outright. Miami should be right up there with them, but it’s hard to have any faith in an Al Golden-coached team. They could easily collapse and lose several games that they shouldn’t. I also wouldn’t write off Georgia Tech either. They were too good last year to look so sloppy this year. I think they’ll still have a respectable finish.

What I am trying to say here is that I think Duke probably wins it but everyone has a good shot of finishing well. Except Virginia.

What is your prediction for the game?

Ugly. Maybe not Mizzou-UConn ugly, but pretty bad. These are two flawed teams that have been forced by injury to reconsider what their strengths are. A noon game in wet weather isn’t going to help them figure it out. I expect Virginia Tech to pull out a victory because they’re more talented on defense. If Pitt can figure out an offensive recipe that works–and it was in the VT game last year that the light bulb went off for the offense–then they have a good chance. Still, VT is the more talented team, so unless they get unlucky in the turnover department, I’d expect VT to win close.

Q&A with Mike Kline from the Duke Sports Blog

You can follow Mike Kline on twitter @MikeKlineDSB

What are your thoughts on your team so far?

So far Duke has either met or exceeded my expectations on the season. Most expected a good team with a good record, but not sure many believed, even with a favorable schedule that they’d be 8-1 and in position to be in the drivers seat in the coastal. Duke is not all things for everyone, but they are a team that believes they can win.¬† Anthony Boone has been at times very good and the running game has been surprisingly good. Defensively they’ve done well against the pass, but struggled against the run. They are a team with a lot of momentum heading into the Virginia Tech game.

What are your expectations going into the VT game?

Duke has had two back to back games against physical opponents so their could be a combination of fatigue and some bruises to account for when they take on the Hokies. They also have the risk of looking ahead at UNC on the big Thursday night matchup next week so minds could be else where.

The good news for the Blue Devils is that they are at home and after years of being the doormat they believe they can beat anyone.

Virginia Tech has definitely had a down year since beating Ohio State, but the fact is they are still a formidable opponent for Duke and one that they cannot look past.

Who do you think is going to win the Coastal Division?

Right now, unless Duke has a total collapse, I think the Blue Devils will take the Coastal Division as long as they win two of their next three games and get some help in some other games. Obviously if they win out they will take the crown for the second straight year. I just have the feeling this is another special year for the Blue Devils so I think they’ll get the job done.

What is your prediction for the game?

I think this is a game that can go either way but I expect something similar to what we saw between these two teams last year. I think Duke wins a low scoring game, though I don’t count out the Hokies at all. It wouldn’t be shocking if they pulled out the W, but I think Duke wins 21-17.