- Date/Time: Saturday, November 22, 2014, 12:30pm
- TV: The ACC Network
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- Game notes from Hokiesports.com: Click here
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- Gameday information: Click here
- VT favored by 15
The Hokies are one win away from a bowl game, and they are a combined 14-0 in the ACC against their final two regular season opponents. The percentages say that Tech has a very strong chance of qualifying for a bowl, and in fact it will probably happen this Saturday against Wake Forest.
The Demon Deacons are one of those rare teams who are good in two phases of the game (defense and special teams), but because they are so terribly bad in one phase (offense), they are a bad team overall. I know a lot of you believe that Virginia Tech’s offense has been bad at times over the years, and you are correct. However, until you look at Wake’s “offensive” stats, you don’t have a sense of how bad an offense can truly be.
The Wake Forest offense: As bad as bad gets
You might already know that Wake Forest ranks dead last in the NCAA in total offense. Here are their efficiency numbers, using the FEI method on FootballOutsiders.com:
FEI overall: #124 (out of 128)
First down rate: #128
Available yards: #128
Explosive plays: #128
Methodical drives: #121
Value drives: #128
Wake Forest ranks dead last in four of the five major categories. The only thing that pulls their overall ranking up to #124 is the fact that their offensive strength of schedule is ranked #2 in the country. Playing Clemson, Louisville and Boston College will do that.
Here are their regular offensive statistics:
Rushing: 34.1 ypg
Passing: 170.5 ypg
Total: 204.6 ypg
Scoring: 15.1 ppg
Yards per carry: 1.1
Pass efficiency: 104.08
Sacks allowed: 37
Brutal. Wake Forest only averages 1.1 yards per carry. I’m not even sure how that’s possible. Virginia Tech has had some lean offensive years. Check out their total offense numbers in the following seasons…
2006: 295.2 ypg
2007: 330.5 ypg
2008: 303.4 ypg
2012: 376.8 ypg
2013: 356 ypg
2014: 372.8 ypg
Virginia Tech is pretty bad offensively this year (#91 nationally in yards per game), yet they are about 168 yards per game better than Wake Forest. Even the terrible 2006 offense was over 90 yards per game better than the Demon Deacons.
Inexperience and a lack of talent are the reasons for Wake’s inadequacies on offense. John Wolford (6-1, 205, Fr.) is the true freshman starter at quarterback, and he has struggled. The numbers say it all: 172-of-299 (57.5%) for 1,626 yards, nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The completion percentage is fine for a freshman, but Wolford and his receivers haven’t been able to challenge opponents down the field this season. As expected from a true freshman who lacks talent around him, he also has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns.
His running game? More freshmen, as well as an undersized senior.
Desmond Wortham (6-0, 205, r-Fr.): 66 carries, 193 yards. 2.9 ypc
Isaiah Robinson (5-10, 225, Fr.): 78 carries, 130 yards, 1.7 ypc
Orville Reynolds (5-9, 175, Sr.): 69 carries, 170 yards, 2.5 ypc
None of those backs are averaging better than 2.9 yards per carry. Wake’s offensive line starts three sophomores, including two true sophomores.
LT Will Smith (6-5, 290, r-So.): offers from Hampton and JMU
LG Antonio Ford (6-4, 295, r-Sr.): Good offer list from Oklahoma State, Louisville, and others
C Cory Helms (6-4, 305, So.): Cincinnati, Colorado State, ECU, Syracuse
RG Josh Harris (6-4, 310, So.): Marshall, Maryland, Middle Tennessee State, South Florida
RT Dylan Intemann (6-5, 305, r-Jr.): East Carolina, NC State
Only one of those five linemen had what I would call a good offer list. Wake is relying on sophomores that almost every power five conference program stayed away from on the recruiting trail. It makes sense that the Demon Deacons haven’t been able to block anybody.
Biggest mismatch of the season?
Virginia Tech sacks the quarterback a lot. Wake Forest allows a lot of sacks. Check out the comparison.
VT sacks: 3.5 per game, #4 in the country
Wake sacks allowed: 3.7 per game, #124 in the country.
Only Idaho, Louisiana-Monroe and SMU allow more sacks than Wake Forest. Only Utah, Clemson and Washington sack the quarterback more than Virginia Tech. The Hokie defense should be salivating at the opportunity to pad their stats this weekend.
The recipe is quite simple…
1: Shut down Wake’s running game, which averages 1.1 yards per carry. That shouldn’t be too hard. That puts Wake in long yardage situations, when the defense can pin its ears back.
2: Hold a two score lead in the second half. Again, that will put Wake in long yardage situations, and the defense can get after the quarterback.
I don’t expect Bud Foster to hold anything back in this football game. If they can rattle John Wolford early and force turnovers, they can make it a much easier day for the Tech offense.
The numbers say that this is the best matchup of the season for the Tech defense, and that Wolford is going to have a long afternoon.
(Trivia: Wolford officially visited Penn State, and his recruiting coach was former Tech defensive back Anthony Midget. Midget coaches the safeties at Penn State.)
Strong in the secondary
Frank Beamer noted in his press conference on Monday that Wake Forest has a very strong secondary, particularly at cornerback. He is correct. The Demon Deacons rank #55 in the country in defensive efficiency (FEI method), but they are #39 in explosive plays. That means the Hokies will probably have to consistently drive the length of the field to score, because Wake doesn’t give up big plays. That’s a big credit to their secondary.
Wake’s corners are a pair of fifth-year seniors: Kevin Johnson (6-1, 175, r-Sr.) and Merrill Noel, Jr. (5-10, 175, r-Jr.). Johnson has been named Honorable Mention All-ACC each of the last two seasons. For his career, he has broken up 31 passes, intercepted seven more, and registered 7.5 tackles for loss. Right now, NFLDraftScout.com rates Johnson as the #2 cornerback in the 2015 draft and projects him as a second or third round pick.
I’ve been a big fan of Merrill Noel since his freshman season, when he became a full-time starter. He was a Freshman All-American back in 2011, and he has 31 passes defended and seven interceptions in his career, along with four forced fumbles and 4.5 tackles for loss. Noel is rated as the #26 corner in his draft class, and is expected to be a late round selection.
Those two guys aren’t the only talented players in Wake’s secondary. Ryan Janvion (5-10, 190, r-So.) is rated the #11 free safety of his draft class (2017). He was an Honorable Mention All-ACC player as a r-freshman last season. He is one of Wake’s best tacklers, and he enjoys playing up around the line of scrimmage (88 tackles, 7 TFL).
The other starter in the secondary is veteran senior Anthony Wooding, Jr. (6-2, 190, Sr.). He is a transfer from Air Force, where he was a starter in the Falcon secondary. On the whole, the Wake secondary is very talented and very experienced. Frank Beamer wasn’t just paying them lip service when he said it was one the best secondaries on Tech’s schedule. He was being serious, and he was right.
Opposing teams are only averaging 180 yards through the air against the Demon Deacons. Virginia Tech must challenge this talented and veteran group with true freshmen Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips, as well as r-freshman Bucky Hodges. This is not a particularly good matchup for the Tech passing game, obviously.
A playmaking but inconsistent front seven
On the other hand, Wake Forest has struggled to stop the running game this season. Opposing teams are running for 193.5 yards per game and averaging 4.6 yards per carry. The Deacs only have one senior starter in their front seven, while they have four freshmen and four sophomores in the two-deep.
DE Wendell Dunn (6-3, 240, r-Fr.): Dunn has 7.5 TFL, which makes him one of Wake’s top playmakers
DT Tylor Harris (6-4, 285, Jr.): Harris anchors the middle, and he has 3.5 TFL
DT Josh Banks (6-4, 260, r-So.): 7.5 TFL and 4 sacks. Wake’s best interior playmaker
DE Zach Allen (6-2, 245, r-Sr.): 9.5 TFL and 4 sacks. Allen is a veteran playmaker
LB Brandon Chubb (6-1, 245, r-Jr.): 84 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks
LB Marquel Lee (6-3, 235, So.): 76 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 1 sack
ROV Hunter Williams (6-0, 230, r-Jr.): 47 tackles, 5 TFL, 1 sack
Though Wake has given up a lot of rushing yards, they have also made a ton of plays. They have 72 tackles for loss as a team, and their 7.2 TFL per game ranks #17 in the country. This is a team that is very capable of playing in the backfield and disrupting the other team’s offense, putting the opposition behind the chains.
Playing behind the chains can obviously hurt an offense like Tech’s. Though the Hokies have done pretty well in long yardage situations this year, that’s partly smoke and mirrors, and I don’t like the thought of Tech’s young receivers and Michael Brewer in third and 14 situations against such a good Demon Deacon secondary.
On the other hand, because of their overall youth up front, Wake isn’t perfect. After all, they are allowing over 190 yards per game on the ground. They can make plays, but they aren’t perfect with their gap fits, and there are still some talent issues as well. Virginia Tech was able to effectively block Duke in the running game. Can they come back with a second straight good performance against Wake Forest? It’s hard to say.
I’d like Tech’s chances to run the football in this game if they had their top three tailbacks. Instead, Marshawn Williams and Shai McKenzie are done for the season with torn ACLs, and while there’s an outside chance that Trey Edmunds could be back this week, he’s still got to find his rhythm and get back into football shape.
Last week, Duke entered the game with the #1 special teams efficiency rating in the country. Ross Martin promptly missed his first two field goal attempts of the year, including a 40-yarder that probably would have won the game. Jamison Crowder was also shut down on punt returns. Though Tech clearly didn’t dominate the Blue Devils on special teams, they did fight them to a draw, and that was enough to win the game.
Like Duke, Wake Forest has been terrific on special teams. Check out these numbers:
Field goal efficiency: #5
Punt return efficiency: #58
Kick return efficiency: #60
Punt efficiency: #7
Kickoff efficiency: #9
The Demon Deacons are mediocre at returning kicks and punts, but they are one of the best field goal kicking teams in the country, and their coverage teams have been dominant.
Wake’s kicker is Mike Weaver (6-1, 180, r-Fr.). He is 13-of-14 for the season with a long of 50 yards. He hasn’t missed a single kick from inside 50 yards this season (neither had Ross Martin). He is Wake Forest’s top offensive threat, believe it or not. It would be really hard for the Demon Deacons to score without Weaver.
I can see why Frank Beamer calls Wake Forest a dangerous team. Put yourself in Frank’s shoes, and remember that coaches always magnify the strengths of their opponent while downplaying their weaknesses.
1: Wake can make plays in the backfield, which could set up Tech’s young receiving corps and Michael Brewer in long yardage situation against a formidable secondary.
2: The Demon Deacons dominate the hidden yardage battle on special teams, and their field goal kicker is nearly automatic.
For a coach who has always put special value on defense and special teams, it’s very understandable that Frank would turn on the film and see a Wake Forest team that is very dangerous. I think their defense is as good or better than Duke’s, and the Hokies couldn’t muster 300 yards last week, and their only points came off turnovers.
On the other hand, Wake’s offense is so terribly awful that they counteract every good deed from the offense and special teams. 34.1 rushing yards per game? 1.1 yards per carry? 204.6 total yards per game? How is that even possible? Even though we all view Tech’s offense as bad, the Hokies are 168 yards per game better than the Demon Deacons. That’s how bad they are.
I fully expect the Wake Forest defense to play well on Saturday. I also fully expect the VT defense to thoroughly dominate the Demon Deacon offense. The Hokies can pitch a shutout in this one, as long as they don’t turn the ball over on the wrong spot of the field or give up a big play on special teams.
In the end, Wake is a football team that only has two wins on the season: Gardner-Webb (23-7) and Army (24-21). If they Hokies lose this one, it will be their own fault.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 20, Wake Forest 3
Will Stewart’s Take: Interesting stuff by Chris. Here’s a bad team that isn’t that bad in a lot of ways. If things break right for the Hokies, they could pitch their first shutout since beating Bowling Green 37-0 in the fourth game of the 2012 season, 33 games ago.
I think this matchup will push some of Frank Beamer’s buttons. He knows his defense should be able to shut down Wake’s offense and win the field position battle, provided the Hokies don’t do anything risky on offense or give up a big play on special teams. It strikes me as the kind of game that will make Frank dig in his heels, play it safe offensively, and wait for the defense to either get a big play or give the offense such great field position that an easy score will happen.
The thing we can’t factor into any sort of prediction is what it will be like playing in that environment at BB&T Field. I watched Clemson play there on Thursday night a couple weeks ago, and I was floored by how few people were in the stadium. We’re talking MAC-game-on-a-Wednesday night bad, or mid-1990s-Temple-in-Veterans-Stadium bad. I used to always say, “That’s when games start feeling like scrimmages, when no one’s watching and it feels like it doesn’t matter if you win or lose.” That can be dangerous, because it takes the air out of a team. Players want to play in full stadiums, home or away, and BB&T Field will be full of nothing but empty seats.
The spread on this is VT by 15. That sounds about right.
Will’s Prediction: VT 24, Wake Forest 6
Who do you think will win the VT-Wake game?
- VT wins by 20+ (24%, 217 Votes)
- VT wins by 10-19 (45%, 405 Votes)
- VT wins by 1-9 (26%, 232 Votes)
- Wake wins by 20+ (1%, 6 Votes)
- Wake wins by 10-19 (0%, 3 Votes)
- Wake wins by 1-9 (3%, 30 Votes)
Total Voters: 892