- Date/Time: Saturday, November 1, 2014, 12:30pm
- TV: ACC Network
- Virginia Tech-BC rostercard: Click here
- Game notes from Hokiesports.com: Click here
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- Blacksburg Weather: Click here
- Gameday information: Click here
- Virginia Tech favored by 3
We’ve seen some ugly football the last two weeks. With Boston College and their running attack coming to town, I don’t think things are going to get any prettier this weekend.
The Eagles are 5-3 on the season, with a 2-2 mark in the ACC. They have lost very close games to Colorado State (6-1) and Clemson (6-2), and they upset Southern Cal earlier his year when they outrushed the Trojans 452-20.
Games between the Hokies and Eagles haven’t been pleasant to watch in recent years. Even the winning fan base usually steps back and says “Man, that was an ugly game.” I’m not expecting Saturday’s game to be any different.
Boston College Offensive Stats
Rushing: #11 (277 ypg)
Passing: #123 (134.4 ypg)
Total: #68 (411.4 ypg)
Third downs: #107 (35.19%)
TFL allowed: #95 (6.5 per game)
Sacks allowed: #31 (1.38 per game)
Except for rushing yardage, that isn’t all that good. However, the advanced stats paint a different picture.
Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI): #34 nationally
The FEI takes into account things like methodical drives, value drives, offensive strength of schedule, explosive drives, first down rate, etc. Virginia Tech’s offensive FEI ranking is #104.
S&P Ratings: #35 nationally
The S&P looks at drive efficiency, success rate, etc. Virginia Tech’s offense is #80 nationally in the S&P ratings.
BC: Virginia Tech’s dual kryptonite
Two things have bothered Virginia Tech’s defense this year: mobile quarterbacks and power running games. Georgia Tech, Pitt and UNC have bothered the Hokies with quarterbacks who can run, and the Panthers doubled it up with a power running game and a big back. Miami also crushed Tech with a power running game.
Boston College is very similar to Pitt in that they mix a power running game with a quarterback who can run. However, they differ in that BC’s quarterback is even more mobile than Pitt’s. Here’s a breakdown of the Eagles’ leading rushers:
QB Tyler Murphy (6-2, 213, r-Sr.): 113 carries, 843 yards, 7.5 ypc, 8 TD
RB Jon Hilliman (6-0, 215, Fr.): 135 carries, 572 yards, 4.2 ypc, 9 TD
RB Myles Willis (5-9, 203, So.): 64 carries, 520 yards, 5 ypc, 1 TD
WR Sherman Alston (5-6, 163, Fr.): 25 carries, 237 yards, 9.5 ypc, 2 TD
Murphy is a transfer from Florida, where he was recruited by Scot Loeffler and current BC head coach Steve Addazio. He is obviously a very good runner. The Eagles have always had a power running game, and now they mix in option elements to make them even more difficult to defend. It might seem like a simple offense on paper, but when you watch the film you see that BC mixes in a number of different running plays, including getting small but fast freshman receiver Sherman Alston involved. Tech mike linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka will be mentally challenged even more than he was last week.
Jon Hilliman is a true freshman tailback who has made a big impact on the BC running game in 2014. Hilliman is a big, physical back from St. Peter’s Prep in New Jersey, where he was a 2,000 yard rusher as a senior last year. He was listed with offers from Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, Georgia, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, UNC, NC State, Ohio State, Oregon, Pitt, Wisconsin…and many others. He was a big time recruit, and it’s no surprise to see him take the reins of BC’s running attack this year.
Boston College isn’t quite as big as usual up front, though they still have good size and they are very strong. However, their best attribute is their experience, including the tight ends and fullback.
LT Seth Betancourt (6-6, 300, r-Sr.)
LG Bobby Vardaro (6-5, 299, r-Sr.)
C Andy Gallik (6-3, 304, r-Sr.)
RG Aaron Kramer (6-7, 293, r-Sr.)
RT Ian Silberman (6-5, 294, r-Sr.)
TE Mike Giacone (6-5, 262, Jr.)
TE Louie Addazio (6-3, 256, Sr.)
FB Bobby Wolford (6-2, 248, Jr.)
That’s a ton of blocking experience, particularly with three-year starter Andy Gallik, four-year starter Bobby Vardaro, former Florida Gator starter Ian Silberman, and experienced tight ends and fullbacks. They’ll be facing an undersized Tech defense that is missing its best and most experienced defensive tackle, and its best and most experienced inside linebacker. Unless Andrew Motuapuaka makes immense improvements overnight, this is not a matchup that favors the Hokies. BC is going to go right after Tech, just like Pitt and Miami did. However, the Eagles are going to do it with a more mobile quarterback.
The running game masks the weakness of the passing game
Tyler Murphy is just 86-of-154 (55.8%) for 1,034 yards, with six touchdowns and six interceptions. He’s not a particularly gifted passer, which is what the Florida Gator coaches found out when they had to use him last season.
Only three different players have caught 10+ passes for the Eagles this year.
WR Dan Crimmins (6-5, 237, Jr.): 20 catches, 225 yards, 11.2 ypc
WR Josh Bordner (6-4, 230, r-Sr.): 19 catches, 263 yards, 13.8 ypc, 3 TD
WR Charlie Callinan (6-4, 220, r-Fr.): 10 catches, 119 yards, 11.9 ypc
The first thing you’ll notice about that group of wide receivers is their size. This is a Boston College team that is built to block people. One of those receivers is bigger than Dadi Nicolas (6-4, 231), and another weighs just one pound less. All three of them are bigger than starting VT linebacker Deon Clarke (6-2, 213). Tech’s defensive backs are going to have to put on their big boy pants this weekend, because this is their toughest matchup in terms of physical receivers who like to hit.
Nevertheless, if the Hokies can stop BC’s running game, the lack of a good Eagle passing game will play into Bud Foster’s hands. Tech simply must stop the BC running game and force them to throw the football in long yardage situations. Unfortunately, that’s much easier said than done.
Rushing: #6 (91.4 ypg)
Passing: #38 (208.4 ypg)
Total: #8 (299.8 ypg)
Third downs: #53 (37.7 ypg)
TFL: #5 (7.9 per game)
Sacks: #21 (2.8 per game)
Boston College does pretty much everything well on defense, and from that standpoint they are a horrible matchup for Virginia Tech’s offense. Then again, I don’t know of a defense that would be a good matchup for the current state of Tech’s offense.
Here are BC’s advanced defensive stats:
FEI: #34 (VT is #2)
S&P: #27 (VT is #8)
BC’s defense isn’t quite as efficient as their regular stats would indicate. However, they are still pretty darn good, and they are probably salivating at the chance to play the Tech offense.
Surprise, Surprise…the front seven is big
Like seemingly every other position on this BC team, the front seven is huge.
DE Brian Mihalik (6-9, 295, Sr.)
DT Truman Gutapfel (6-3, 289, So.)
DT Conner Wujciak (6-3, 304, Sr.)
DE Kevin Kavalec (6-2, 256, So.)
SLB Josh Keyes (6-2, 223, Sr.)
MLB Steven Daniels (6-0, 257, Jr.)
WLB Mike Strizak (6-2, 229, Jr.)
Sean Duggan will also split time at middle linebacker, and he is a 6-4, 250 senior. Like I said, this team is big across the board. Brian Mihalik doesn’t make a ton of plays, but he’s really hard to move off the line of scrimmage, and I’d take a wild guess and say that he would play offensive tackle for the Hokies.
The two guys to watch are end Kevin Kavalec and strongside backer Josh Keyes. Kavalec leads all linemen with 7.5 tackles for loss, and he also has 2.5 sacks. Keys leads the team with 10.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
Here’s a game-by-game look at what this defensive front has done against the run this year:
UMass: 55 yards
Colorado State: 162
NC State: 42
Wake Forest: 19
They have held five of their eight opponents to 55 yards or fewer on the ground. After having a rough outing against Pitt, they responded by holding Southern Cal to just 20 yards rushing. That’s pretty impressive. The VT offense struggles to block pretty much every defense they face. If anything, this week’s game is a worse matchup than usual.
Asprilla leads veteran secondary
Boston College is never known for producing a lot of athletic defensive backs, but they are always fundamentally sound and well-coached. Manny Asprilla (5-11, 183, Sr.) has been starting at cornerback since he was a true freshman back in 2011, and if there is any defensive player familiar with Tech’s offense in the ACC, it’s him. He has broken up eight passes this year, and he also has three tackles for loss.
Strong safety Dominique Williams (6-0, 220, r-Sr.) is a veteran player who has made major contributions on defense and special teams throughout his career. He also has (stop me if you’ve heard this before) very good size for his position.
Justin Simmons (6-3, 198, Jr.) is a veteran player who saw starting time two years ago as a freshman. He starts at free safety for the Eagles, and he leads the team with two interceptions. He also has two TFL and a sack. John Johnson (6-0, 194, So.) is the least experienced member of the secondary, but he did play 12 games on special teams a year ago before assuming a starting role this year.
Overall, though this secondary won’t wow you with talent, they have played pretty well this year. I think they could be exploited by a good passing game with a downfield threat. However, those two things have been absent from this Virginia Tech team in recent weeks.
Special Teams Comparison
I’m in an advanced stats mood, so let’s use the advanced stats to compare special teams.
FEI: BC #89, VT #17
The FEI takes into account return and coverage efficiency, field goal efficiency, and opponents’ field goal efficiency. As you can see, Virginia Tech’s special teams have clearly outperformed BC’s this season.
As a sidenote, if you’re wondering about the overall rankings for both of these teams, here they are:
FEI: BC #30, VT #29
S&P: BC #29, VT #25
BC on the road vs. VT at home
Boston College is 3-0 on the road this season, and Tyler Murphy’s completion percentage shoots up to close to 70%. Of course, the Eagles have only played UMass, NC State and Wake Forest on the road, so the competition hasn’t been great.
Meanwhile, the Hokies are 2-3 at home this season. They have defeated 1-AA William &Mary and MAC opponent Western Michigan in Lane Stadium. They have lost to East Carolina, Georgia Tech and Miami. In other words, they haven’t beaten anybody with a pulse at home.
Virginia Tech has not defeated a Power 5 conference opponent inside Lane Stadium since October 12, 2013. That’s over a year ago, and with the way the Hokies have played the last couple of weeks, it’s easy to see that trend continuing this weekend.
The advanced stats say that Virginia Tech is ever so slightly better than Boston College. However, those stats take into account the entire season. Anybody who has watched Virginia Tech play in recent weeks knows this is not the #29 or #25 team in the country. This is a team that has played poorly the last two weeks, scoring just two offensive touchdowns, one of which came against the backup Miami defense when the score was 30-0.
That Pitt team the Hokies lost to a couple of weeks back? The Panthers tied an NCAA record with five fumbles in the first quarter against Georgia Tech, en route to a 56-28 loss. Tech made Pitt look dominant, while a mediocre Yellow Jacket squad squashed them like a flea.
Boston College is a bad matchup for the Hokies because of several things…
1: A mobile QB
2: A power running game against VT’s undersized defense and Andrew Motuapuaka
3: A dominant front seven against a bad running game
Both teams have played eight games, and I don’t suddenly see the trends changing in game nine. If the Hokies want to win this one, they’ll have to find a way to do it ugly. Either that or have a big game through the air, which doesn’t seem very likely.
I’m not picking Tech this week. How could you do so, unless you are looking through orange and maroon glasses? That said, I want to see more energy out of the team this week. If they come out and play with fire and put up a fight, then we’ll know that this team is still mentally involved and they still have a chance to qualify for a bowl.
However, if they come out with little to no emotion and get trucked like the last couple of weeks, then we’ll know they have checked out mentally and the season is probably over.
Prediction: Boston College 24, Virginia Tech 16
Will Stewart’s Take: There’s nothing to indicate that the Hokies are going to snap out of their funk this weekend and start playing better … but Tech has gone on two-game slides before, and they almost always end, without any indication that it’s going to get better.
The only time the Hokies have lost three straight since entering the ACC in 2004 was in 2012, when they dropped games to Clemson, Miami, and FSU in successive weeks. Those three teams went a combined 30-9 that season. Tech’s losses to Pittsburgh and Miami, who are a combined 7-7 when not playing the Hokies, look more damning by comparison.
It’s against this backdrop that Boston College comes into Lane Stadium seeking to improve their record to a bowl-eligible 6-3. Steve Addazio is a good fit for BC personality-wise, but so was Frank Spaziani. The difference is that Addazio appears to be a better coach, though it’s early in his BC tenure. Addazio has taken the 2-10 team Spaziani left behind in 2012 and has gone 12-9 in 2013 and 2014.
Chris has already detailed how this is a bad matchup for the Hokies. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to lose; Ohio State was a bad matchup, too. But at this point, the Hokies haven’t shown anything in the last two weeks to indicate that they can overcome a bad matchup, so it would be intellectually dishonest to pick a win for the Hokies. I felt that way about the Miami game last Thursday. I wanted to pick a win; it just didn’t feel right, or correct. So I picked a loss that unfortunately turned out to be true.
So it is with this game. The Hokies have to show us some renewed life, or the season is just going to get more difficult Saturday afternoon.
Will’s Prediction: Boston College 23, Virginia Tech 13
Who do you think will win the VT-BC game?
- VT wins by 1-9 (20%, 207 Votes)
- VT wins by 10-19 (6%, 61 Votes)
- VT wins by 20+ (2%, 24 Votes)
- BC by 1-9 (16%, 170 Votes)
- BC by 10-19 (43%, 449 Votes)
- BC by 20+ (13%, 141 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,052