Wednesday, November 27, 2013

game preview: Virginia Tech

Date/Time: Saturday, November 30; 3:30


Line: VT by 13

Record against the Hokies: 37-52-5

Last meeting: VT 17, UVA 14; 11/24/12, Blacksburg

Last weekend: Miami 45, UVA 26; VT bye

Injury report: (too early)

How bad is it?  In this day and age where players can find bulletin board material in every corner of a sports page, the Hokie players decided to come right out and provide all UVA could handle.  Brutal honesty pervades the article, the only lies coming before the word "but" in every Hokie quote.**  And why shouldn't they?  They wouldn't say it if they were even the tiniest bit afraid they would lose.  I'd call it overconfidence, but there's nothing "over" about it.

-- UVA run offense vs. VT run defense

Top backs:
Kevin Parks: 210 carries, 926 yards, 4.4 ypc, 11 TDs
Khalek Shepherd: 51 carries, 304 yards, 6.0 ypc, 1 TD

UVA offense:
160.91 yards/game, 3.83 yards/attempt
91st of 125 (national), 10th of 14 (ACC)

VT defense:
103.27 yards/game, 2.94 yards/attempt
4th of 125 (national), 1st of 14 (ACC)

Remember how I've been saying that really good defensive tackles will murder our offensive line, every time?  And how that comes true pretty much always?  Teams with one good DT, like Aaron Donald of Pitt, have had very little trouble imposing their will.

Tech so happens to have two really good DTs.  You don't usually find DTs so high on the tackles list; Luther Maddy and Derrick Hopkins are 4th and 6th, respectively.  Third tackle Nigel Williams has 13 tackles, 7 of which are for loss.  VT also rotates three defensive ends with impunity, and brings two top-quality linebackers in Jack Tyler and Tariq Edwards.  It's a really aggressive defense that knows what the hell its doing.

The upshot is that the run game is going to go completely and utterly nowhere.  Kevin Parks needs 74 yards to reach 1,000 for the season, and I'd be surprised to see him get half that.  I'd be surprised to see the whole team reach that number.  End of story.

-- UVA pass offense vs. VT pass defense

David Watford: 231/404, 57.2%; 2,080 yards, 8 TDs, 15 INTs; 5.15 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Jake McGee: 39 rec., 330 yards, 2 TDs
Darius Jennings: 36 rec., 319 yards, 3 TDs

UVA offense:
215.1 yards/game, 5.1 yards/attempt
125th of 125 (national), 14th of 14 (ACC)

VT defense:
164.9 yards/game, 6.2 yards/attempt
15th of 125 (national), 2nd of 14 (ACC)

London promises that both Watford and Greyson Lambert will get to play this week.  I can't tell whether that means he's decided at long last to go back to the QB rotation or whether he means he already figures the game will be out of hand enough to get away with it.  I suspect it'll be more like giving Watford a much quicker hook, which it's about time for.  I know I said I wanted the QB merry-go-round to end - we all did - but that didn't mean I wanted the coaches to start digging once they hit rock bottom under center.

Neither quarterback is going to be successful.  VT has a whole bunch of guys who can get to the pocket and a pretty good secondary.  Brandon Facyson turned out to be a damn good cornerback when forced to step in for Antone Exum in the starting lineup.  Kendall Fuller is as advertised, too.  No reason to expect our receivers to be open.  Jake McGee can probably find a way to make some plays, but at this point the only WR I have much confidence in is Keeon Johnson; his size might provide some opportunity, although to counter that, Facyson is a pretty big cornerback himself.

Watford threw three picks against Miami; frankly I'd be terribly surprised to see our QBs combine for any fewer than that.  And I'd be surprised if they didn't have mouthfuls of turf every other play; just pencil in a minimum of four sacks for the VT defense.  Moving the ball will be close to impossible this week.  We make it terribly hard on ourselves; now we're facing a defense uniquely able to make it even harder.

-- VT run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
Trey Edmunds: 155 carries, 582 yards, 3.8 ypc, 10 TDs
J.C. Coleman: 61 carries, 205 yards, 3.4 ypc, 0 TDs

VT offense:
117.09 yards/game, 3.12 yards/attempt
115th of 125 (national), 12th of 14

UVA defense:
174.73 yards/game, 4.49 yards/attempt
84th of 125 (national), 13th of 14 (ACC)

Hey, cool - something we do better than Tech.  Their usual inability to put a run game together to help out Logan Thomas is a big part of the reason for their late-season ACC slide.  Boston College and Maryland - decent but not exactly paragons of brilliant defense - held them to 55 and 54 yards on the ground, respectively.  This, naturally, has forced Thomas to win games with his arm - a dicey proposition.

Thomas and Trey Edmunds carry the running game, with J.C. Coleman providing a change of pace.  Tech's O-line problems are coming home to roost, though; it's just not a very good one, and they haven't been able to open a lot of running room.  If there's one matchup in this whole wretched game where UVA has an advantage, it's Brent Urban vs. Whoever Blocks Him.  And with some pretty good linebackers still running around, I like our chances to at least not fall completely flat on our face here.

Then again, you don't get to 2-9 without failing to live up to a few expectations along the way.  VT has been pretty impotent on the ground at times, but they've also had some successes, and against teams much better than ours.  The Miami game is one.  While I'd expect some stretches of reasonable success and maybe even a forced punt or two, don't go expecting this portion of the game to be four quarters of defensive dominance.

-- VT pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Logan Thomas: 211/362, 58.3%; 2,632 yards, 15 TDs, 12 INTs; 7.27 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Willie Byrn: 46 rec., 598 yards, 2 TDs
Demetri Knowles: 39 rec., 518 yards, 3 TDs

VT offense:
241.5 yards/game, 7.3 yards/attempt
64th of 125 (national), 10th of 14 (ACC)

UVA defense:
232.5 yards/game, 7.2 yards/attempt
74th of 125 (national), 12th of 14 (ACC)

I really think this will have very little to do with our defense, with one variable to be discussed in a bit.  The point is, Logan Thomas's performances vary astoundingly from one game to the next.  He was great against Miami, UNC, and GT.  He was pathetic against Marshall, Duke, and Alabama.  Thomas has trended somewhat upwards as the season goes on, but still.

The variable, of course, is that he'll get to throw against a defense missing the national interceptions leader for a half.  By the time Anthony Harris gets back, the game is likely to be out of hand, so it's a big deal.  Harris and Demetrious Nicholson are more than arguably the two most talented players in the secondary, so Thomas's degree of difficulty is significantly lessened.

Fortunately, his weapons are not tremendously frightening.  VT's receivers are good but not great, with Willie Byrn coming largely out of nowhere to be the team's receptions leader.  Thomas also leans on redshirt freshman Joshua Stanford, who could develop into a very productive player later in his career, and Demetri Knowles rounds out his top three targets.  D.J. Coles is a big and tall possession and red-zone target as well.

Using three- and four-wide sets is something I'd expect to see out of Tech; it'll severely test our depleted secondary and spread the field for their running game besides.  There have been isolated successes at times in defending the pass, but the strategy by and large will be to hope for one of Thomas's bad games.

-- Favorability ratings

UVA run offense: 1
UVA pass offense: 0
UVA run defense: 5
UVA pass defense: 3.5

Average: 2.375

-- Outlook

Yeah, right.  Look, VT is a flawed team, but only on offense.  There are certain ways to imagine the shocker of all time, here, but when's the last time this 2013 UVA team ever successfully executed whatever followed the phrase "if we can just...."??  Whatever good the defense does will be undone and then some by paralyzing offensive ineptitude, which will include giving up touchdowns directly as well as the gift of short fields as well.  Do yourself a favor: Find a Saturday matinee movie.

-- Prediction summary

-- The entire UVA running game fails to gain 75 yards, sacks not included.

-- The UVA quarterbacks combine for at least three INTs.

-- And get sacked at least four times.

-- VT's defense scores at least one touchdown.

-- Logan Thomas's single-game passer rating is better than his season average of 126.4.

Final score: VT 31, UVA 3

-- Rest of the ACC

Miami @ Pittsburgh - Fri. 3:30 - Miami tries to keep its outside shot at a Coastal title alive.  Since they need us to win for that to happen, they'd probably be psychologically better off losing so they don't spend the next 24 hours with false hopes.

Florida State @ Florida - 12:00 - The penultimate hurdle for FSU's BCS CG hopes.

Duke @ North Carolina - 12:00 - If Duke wins, they become the ultimate hurdle.

Wake Forest @ Vanderbilt - 12:21 - 12:20 was just too early to expect fans to show up.

Maryland @ NC State - 12:30 - You can root for NC State because their opponent is Maryland, or you can root for Maryland so we'll have company in ACC Winless Land.

Georgia Tech vs. Georgia - 3:30 - This is the most evenly matched this game has been in years.

Boston College @ Syracuse - 3:30 - Cuse tries to give the ACC its 11th bowl-eligible team.

Clemson @ South Carolina - 7:00 - A win could put Clemson solidly into the BCS as an at-large team - the obstacle being the number of scrub-conference autobids that are likely.

**Seriously, these guys are some morons.  Logan Thomas: "I don't think anyone thinks they're better than anyone else.  I think they think they're better than us.  But really we're better than them."  Jack Tyler: "I don't wish ill on anyone.  I wish ill on UVA."  Little Shaney gets in on the dumb-hypocrite action in another article, too.  Skool is grate!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You gotta love London's post-game analysis (as quoted by the Daily Progress):

“They scored 16 points,” London said. “We scored six. I think there were some good things that we did defensively, but we have to keep them out of the end zone. It was a great effort by the team.”

"Whatever it may be, there are different things that have occurred that have not allowed us to get those points."

“That has happened over the course of the year.”

Oh my God, there's coach-speak, and then there's this. Doesn't exactly give you confidence that London has a clue what went wrong or how to fix it. "Things have occurred." Ay yi yi.