If you read yesterday’s post you know that Virginia Tech has a good quarterback, and conventional wisdom says that the Hokies should be stout on defense and special teams. Lets dive into the numbers and see if we can figure out what these Turkeys are made of.
We’ll start with the basics. Virginia Tech is 44th in total defense. They give up 365 yards per game. They are 29th in rushing defense (123.9). They are 29th in pass efficiency defense (allowing a rating of 120.5). They are 11th in sacks (3.3 per game). This is the same as Penn State (as far as sacks). I’ll also add that Virginia Tech has intercepted 12 passes, which is good for 11th in the nation. The sack and interception numbers should worry Pitt fans.
Linebackers seem to be a strength. 5’10” junior Rayshard Ashby is a guy to watch out for. He’s Tech’s leading tackler by a longshot (91 on the season), and he’s also collected three sacks. 6’1″ sophomore Dax Hollifield has three interceptions and 53 tackles of his own.
Tech also prides themselves on being “DBU”.
I don’t know about you, but this looks like a targeting foul to me. At least it would be if a Pitt defender was making the tackle. (or just going for the ball…)
But all kidding (sort of) aside, Defensive Back Jermaine Waller and Caleb Farley have seven INT’s between them so Kenny Pickett will need to protect the football. I’m assuming they can also tackle…even if they are leading with the crown.
On special teams, Virginia Tech is perhaps less dominant then they used to be. The Hokies have not blocked a punt all year. (Lets hope I’m not jinxing us.). On the other hand, Tech’s kicker is a respectable 13 for 17, and he’s perfect inside 39 yards, which is all you can ask for from a college kicker.
Offensively Tech likes to run the ball. They’ve posted 429 rushing attempts vs 252 passing. They are good but not great at running, posting at team average of 4.1 YPC. Look out for a strong dose of DeShawn McClease (600 yards, 4.2 YPC) and Keshawn King (300 yards 4.6 YPC). Also keep your eyes peeled for WR Tre Turner on the end-and-around. He’s carried 15 times so far and averaged over 11 YPC. 6’4″, 245 QB Quincy Patterson gets about 5 totes per game as well, so IF HE CHECKS IN YOU CAN BE SURE HE IS GOING TO RUN IT (that’s a message for the defense who clearly could not figure this out when Syracuse ran a similar strategy). HEY DEFENSE HE IS #4 IN CASE YOU ARE NOT PAYING ATTENTION.
If you sum it all up, it looks kind of like this:
Virginia Tech has the 79th ranked offense by yardage and they like to run the ball. Pitt has the 11th ranked defense by yardage and they like to stop the run. VT Quarterback Hendon Hooker has not thrown more than 23 passes against an FBS team – which means they are picking their spots and that is helping Hooker’s efficiency. I like Pitt’s chances of stopping the run and forcing Hooker to throw, which should put Pitt at an advantage. I also like Pitt’s chances of putting pressure on Hooker when he does throw, although at 6’4″, 228 hes not going to be easy to bring down.
What I don’t like is Pitt’s chances to move the ball against what is a pretty solid Hokies defense. I think Tech’s pass rush is going to disrupt Pickett and force him into happy feet mode, and that’s going to take points off the board for Pitt. The Panthers also aren’t going to catch any breaks from the officials or the Virginia Tech fans. Pitt is 2-6 at Lane Stadium for a reason…
Predictions come on Friday, so hold you water ladies and gentlemen. Between now and then you should marinate on the fact that the match-up is not exactly great for our Panthers. And so cautious optimism, (or tempered realism) would be the expectation I’d set here. After all, we have a chance to break back into national relevance and put ourselves into the top 25, and you all know how Pitt plays when a ranking hangs in the balance.
Saturday will tell us a lot about this team. Let’s see if they belong in the national conversation.