Bowl game on the line in Black Friday clash

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  • Date/Time: Friday, November 28, 2014, 8 PM
  • TV: ESPN
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  • Game notes from Hokiesports.com: Click here
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  • Blacksburg Weather: Click here
  • Gameday information: Click here
  • Line: UVA favored by 1

Virginia Tech and UVA will be fighting for bowl eligibility Friday night in Lane Stadium. This past weekend the Hoos defeated Miami to get back into the bowl picture, while the Hokies took what appeared to be an easy opportunity to get bowl eligible against Wake Forest and threw it down the toilet.

uva_fb_mike_london_2013_02

Mike London has never beaten Virginia Tech. Frank Beamer hasn’t lost to UVA since 2003, and he hasn’t failed to gain bowl eligibility since 1992. There is a lot riding on this game, not only for the players, but potentially for both head coaches as well.

Both teams have had their share of close losses. The Hokies barely dropped games to ECU, Georgia Tech, Pitt, Boston College and Wake Forest, as you well know. UVA dropped some tough ones as well:

28-20 vs. UCLA
41-33 at BYU
20-13 at Duke
28-27 vs. UNC

They’ve also pulled out very close wins against Pitt and Louisville.

Both of these teams aren’t good enough to blow teams out (though UVA did handle Miami last week), and they generally aren’t bad enough to be blown out themselves. I’m expecting a close game on Friday night.

OXVT’s Tale of the Tape

Here’s a look at an OXVT infographic tale of the tape for this huge showdown. (click for a larger version.)

vt-uva_tale_of_the_tape

A versatile backfield

UVA features a versatile backfield that is capable of hurting defenses on the ground and through the air.

Kevin Parks (5-8, 200, Sr.): 168 carries, 675 yards, 4.0 ypc, 4 TD, 28 catches, 166 yards, 2 TDs
Taquan Mizzell (5-10, 190, So.): 63 carries, 278 yards, 4.4 ypc, 2 TDs, 35 catches, 197 yards
Khalek Shepherd (5-8, 200, Sr.): 81 carries, 348 yards, 4.3 ypc, 2 TDs, 13 catches, 75 yards

Mizzell is UVA’s second leading receiver. Though he touches the ball a lot, he hasn’t looked like the 5-star recruit who signed with UVA in February of 2013. Mizzell’s longest gain from scrimmage this year is just 20 yards, and he averages only 5.6 yards per reception.

Parks has had an issue with concussion symptoms, but he is expected to play against Virginia Tech on Friday night. Parks is a quality back, and although not a star, he is a versatile tailback who can get it done in the running game and the passing game. If he can’t go, Mizzell and Shepherd should get all the work at tailback for the Hoos. All three play a big role in the offense.

Lambert takes control of the quarterback position

Earlier this year, there was a quarterback controversy in Charlottesville with Greyson Lambert (6-5, 235, r-So.) and Matt Johns (6-5, 210, r-So.) splitting time at quarterback. In recent weeks, Lambert has taken over as UVA’s full-time quarterback. Here are his numbers:

139-of-229 (60.7%) for 1,421 yards, with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions

Lambert doesn’t run particularly well, but he’s a big guy with a good arm. He has a tendency to throw some very bad looking interceptions at times, and I would expect Bud Foster to be blitz-happy on Friday night. If the defense can pressure Lambert into a couple of turnovers, that would make the job of Tech’s offense much easier.

Matt Johns seems more mobile than Lambert, and he’s also gotten plenty of work throwing the ball. Here are his numbers:

86-of-156 (55.1%) for 1,044 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions

At first glance, it might appear that Johns is the better player, and early in the season he did look like the guy, particularly when he brought the Hoos back after two terrible Lambert interceptions against UCLA. However, Lambert has since taken the quarterback spot by the horns, and appears to be entrenched as UVA’s starter.

Last season, the UVA staff put Lambert in terrible situation. He was put in the game against Bud Foster’s defense down 10 points in the fourth quarter. Foster went right after the young r-freshman, and the results were expected: 4-of-16 for 54 yards with an interception and three sacks. Lambert will be looking to rebound from that performance this year.

The UVA Offensive Line vs. Tech’s pressure

Here’s the UVA line from left to right.

LT Mike Mooney (6-6, 290, So.)
LG Cody Wallace (6-4, 300, Sr.)
C Ross Burbank (6-4, 310, Jr.)
RG Conner Davis (6-5, 300, Sr.)
RT Eric Smith (6-5, 295, So.)

This is a UVA line that is a bit better than it was expected to be this season. Conner Davis is a three-year starter, Eric Smith started as a true freshman last year, while Ross Burbank and Cody Wallace have experience.

They will face a Virginia Tech defense that ranks highly in defensive line advanced stats:

Standard down yards per carry: #42
Passing down yards per carry: #8
Opportunity rate: #45
Power success rate: #12
Stuff rate: #30
Adjusted sack rate: #1
Standard downs sack rate: #2
Passing downs sack rate: #6

Nobody in the country gets after the quarterback like Virginia Tech. I always believe that most of Tech’s sacks came on passing downs, but the advanced stats show that the Hokies are actually a little better at getting to the quarterback on standard downs. Regardless, it will be up to the UVA offensive line to keep Greyson Lambert’s jersey clean. I expect Bud Foster to pressure him relentlessly in an effort to force turnovers, because it’s unlikely the VT offense is going to be able to drive the length of the field to score.

The VT offense vs. the UVA defense: Advanced Stats

Well, this is pretty much a mismatch in favor of the Hoos. Not that that comes as a surprise.

VT FEI Offense: #99
UVA FEI Defense: #6

VT S&P Offense: #76
UVA S&P Defense: #32

Though the S&P rankings are much close than the FEI numbers, there is still a 44 spot difference in the S&P. We can also use the advanced stats to compare VT’s offensive line with UVA’s defensive line. First, Tech’s offensive line.

Standard Downs Line Yards per Carry: #89.
Passing Downs Line Yards per Carry: #114.
Opportunity Rate: #102.
Power Success Rate: #96.
Stuffed Rate: #96.
Adjusted Sack Rate: #107.
Standard Downs Sack Rate: #16.
Passing Downs Sack Rate: #118.

vt_fb_oline_2014_01

All of Tech’s run blocking stats are bad. They’ve done a good job protecting the quarterback on standard downs, but on passing downs…look out. Now, let’s look at the UVA defensive line stats:

Standard Downs Line Yards per Carry: #40
Passing Downs Line Yards per Carry: #14
Opportunity Rate: #36
Power Success Rate: #15
Stuffed Rate: #20
Adjusted Sack Rate: #15
Standard Downs Sack Rate: #5
Passing Downs Sack Rate: #61

The Hoos are not only better than Virginia Tech in most of those categories, but they are waaaay better in most of them. The matchup with UVA’s talented front seven is one of Tech’s toughest matchups of the year.

The UVA front seven

Virginia’s front seven is very gifted, and the scary part is that all four starters on the defensive front return next season. Here’s the defensive line:

DE Mike Moore (6-4, 265, Jr.): 8 TFL, 3 sacks
DT David Dean (6-1, 295, Jr.): 7.5 TFL, 1 sack
DT Donte Wilkins (6-2, 285, So.): 1.5 TFL
DE Eli Harold (6-4, 250, Jr.): 14 TFL, 7 sacks

Eli Harold is an excellent defensive end, and David Dean is a former 757 athlete who I wanted the Hokies to offer when he was coming out of high school. Eli Harold, combined with linebacker Max Valles, presents the most formidable pass rushing threat the Hokies have face this year. Here are UVA’s linebackers:

SLB: Max Valles (6-5, 240, So.): 10.5 TFL, 8 sacks
MLB: Henry Coley (6-2, 245, Sr.): 71 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 8 sacks
WLB: Daquan Romero (6-1, 230, Sr.): 78 tackles, 7 TFL, 2 sacks

The last two weeks, we’ve seen Michael Brewer get sacked a total of 11 times. Some of those sacks were his fault, but many came because the Hokies couldn’t pick up blitzes. In particular, Wake Forest had a lot of success blitzing the right side of the VT offensive line.

Tech’s ability to counter the blitz will have to get better in a hurry this week, as UVA’s talent level in the front seven is much better than that of Wake or Duke. This matchup does not favor Virginia Tech at all, and Scot Loeffler has to find something that will slow down the notorious blitzing schemes of UVA defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta.

Relative weakness in the secondary

UVA ranks #56 in the country in pass efficiency defense. There is talent in the secondary, though it’s a big more raw than the talent in the front seven. I think if the Hokies want to move the ball this week, they’re going to have to throw the ball better than they did over the last two weeks.

Here’s the UVA secondary:

CB Tim Harris (6-2, 200, So.)
FS Quin Blanding (6-4, 215, Fr.)
SS Anthony Harris (6-1, 185, Sr.)
CB Maurice Canady (6-2, 190, Jr.)

Harris led the NCAA in interceptions a year ago, Blanding is a physically imposing 5-star freshman, and Canady is a very good corner. Tim Harris is the weakest of those four players, and Tech could also choose to attack DreQuan Hoskey (6-0, 180, Sr.), who plays quite a bit.

Quin Blanding (3) in action against UCLA earlier this season.
Quin Blanding (3) in action against UCLA earlier this season.

That’s a talented group of players, though they are more attackable than the front seven. That said, the Hokies will have to find ways to counter UVA’s blitz before they can even think about challenging the secondary.

Final Thoughts

The Hokies and Hoos are both 5-6. UVA is 3-4 in ACC play, while Tech is 2-5. The Hokies had the advantage of having crossover games against Wake Forest and BC (combined 4-10 in the ACC), while UVA had the disadvantage of having to play Louisville and Florida State (combined 13-3). Despite the difference in schedules, UVA heads into this game with a better conference record.

I thought Tech had a good chance to win the Coastal Division this year because their schedule was set up for success. I never saw that Wake Forest loss coming. I knew their defense would test us, but I figured a 20-3 game sounded about right, so that’s where I picked it. As it turned out, a mere field goal was all it would have taken to win the game in regulation.

Is that rock bottom? I think so. However, I might feel differently on Friday night. If I see UVA players dancing on the field, if I heard the UVA band playing the Good Ole Song, and if I see their fans swaying after the game is over…that will be the new rock bottom. I wrote after the Georgia Tech loss that I was tired of seeing opponents celebrate on our field, and since then we’ve had to endure two more opponents (Miami and BC) doing the same thing.

Virginia Tech has not defeated a Power 5 conference opponent at home since October of 2013. Since then, Tech has lost to Duke, Maryland, Georgia Tech, Miami and Boston College in Lane Stadium (not to mention AAC member East Carolina). This is simply not a good team at home, and the trend says that they will lose to UVA on Friday night.

On the other hand, the Hoos are winless on the road this season. In fact, they haven’t won a road game since a 33-6 win over NC State on November 3, 2012. Something has to give here, right? Somebody has to win. The team that can’t win at home, or the team who can’t win on the road.

I think the matchups favor UVA. Here are Virginia Tech’s last four scoring drives…

12 plays, 98 yards, 5:05, TD
4 plays, -9 yards, 1:08, FG
5 plays, 31 yards, 2:04, TD
6 plays, 15 yards, FG

In their last two football games, Virginia Tech has scored just four times. One of those scoring drives actually went backwards. Two scoring drives were because of turnovers in the opponents’ territory (thanks, Bud!). One was a field goal in overtime where the Hokies began the drive at the Wake 25.

In short, Virginia Tech simply can’t score right now. Throw out the fourth quarter of the BC game, and Tech has scored just 36 points in their last four football games. Things have gone from bad to worse. Is this rock bottom? I sure hope so.

With the way Michael Brewer has been playing, there’s no way I can pick Tech in this game. That would be dishonest of me. If I were the coaches, I would play Brenden Motley the whole game. UVA doesn’t have much of a scouting report on him, he has a stronger arm than Brewer, and he is a running threat. In fact, I have a sneaky feeling that Motley will play a lot. However, I have no way to prove that, so I’m picking this game based on how Tech has used Motley the last two games. If they play him more, and he turns out to be a capable player, then the Hokies have a very good chance to win.

Prediction: UVA 17, Virginia Tech 10

Will Stewart’s Take: These two teams have played some ugly football the last two years. The two teams have combined for just 53 points in the last two games, an average of 13 points per team per game. Not that points are the sole determinant of whether or not a football game is ugly. But you saw those games. They were ugly.

This one is likely to be a less-than-inspiring defensive slugfest, as well. It won’t even have the benefit of being played in a full stadium, as attendance is expected to be poor, as it was for the 2012 contest.

When was the last time you were truly worried about losing to Virginia? It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? This game represents Virginia’s best opportunity to beat the Hokies in many years. The Hoos have a good enough defense to lock down Tech’s offense, as Miami and Wake Forest did, and then it’s anybody’s game.

It will be interesting to see what Virginia Tech does to try to inject some spark into the offense. In 2008, an Al Groh-coached Virginia team that didn’t have much of a chance of moving the ball against the Hokies came into Blacksburg and used Vic Hall running the read option as a wrinkle. That worked for about one half of football, then the Hokies outscored the Cavaliers 10-0 in the second half for a 17-14 win.

Will the Hokies do that sort of thing with Brenden Motley, or will they stick with the Michael Brewer-heavy game plan? It’s not in Frank’s nature to go wrinkly this late in the season, but you never know.

If you think the Cavaliers are going to heavily blitz the Hokies — that’s Jon Tenuta’s history, after all — well I think the Hokies are going to heavily blitz the Hoos. That’s been Tech’s modus operandi on defense all season, and it has led to the third-most sacks in VT history under Beamer, and that’s in just 11 games — so it’s comparable to a lot of the seasons on this chart by OXVT, which only included 11 games:

sack_totals_thru_nov-22-2014

Like Chris, I think this game will be close, very comparable to some of the games played in the last few years, when the Hokies have had low-ranked offenses going up against some good Virginia defenses. Since 2006, Tech has failed to score 20+ points against the Hoos in four of the eight games they have played. I think this one will go that way, but no way am I picking the Hoos to end Tech’s bowl streak and the Commonwealth Cup streak.

Will’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 13, Virginia 10

What do you think will happen? Scroll down past this inspiring tweet and register your vote in our weekly prediction poll.

 

Who do you think will win the VT-UVA game?

  • VT wins by 20+ (3%, 37 Votes)
  • VT wins by 10-19 (4%, 54 Votes)
  • VT wins by 1-9 (33%, 401 Votes)
  • UVA wins by 20+ (8%, 96 Votes)
  • UVA wins by 10-19 (25%, 308 Votes)
  • UVA wins by 1-9 (26%, 314 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,210

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24 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Mixed opinions for sure. My heart is with the Hokies. I’m hoping for an inspired performance on both sides of the ball, coupled with some offensive creativity for a change. Counting on Bud to unleash hell. But the logical side of me is very worried. Our offensive struggles don’t pose a good matchup with UVAs defense; we’ve been terrible in field position exchanges; and the law of averages alone all suggest things will go the Hoos’ way. Nevertheless, I’m like Will and there’s no way I’ll pick UVA. I think we’ll get a defensive TD and a special teams TD (Stroman punt return?) and win 27-20. And for those of you wondering….I’m gonna make my first drink of the day now 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving and Go Hokies!

  2. Unfortunately, we are at the point of needing to do the unexpected (in Frank’s tenure). The Hokies are desperate to preserve any sort of dignity and the only way I see us having any chance is to sit Brewer and commit to win with Motley. The eyes don’t lie and Brewer just doesn’t have the necessary spark this team needs.

  3. Give up trying to figure out these two teams. Based on last week, go with the Hoos. Based on the whole season, who the helll knows? VT beat UNC and Duke, both of whom beat uva who beat Miami who beat VT.
    But pick UVa to beat VT? Hell no!
    Hello copious amounts of Alcohol!
    Hello irrational optimism!
    Go to hell Wahoos! Go Hokies!

    btw
    Happy thanksgiving and safe travels, that goes for you as well Wahoos. Don’t let your grief blind you on the long drive back to C’ville.

  4. Let’s line up and play the game, and hopefully the HOKIES will prevail in a tough fought game. We need our great Hokie fan base to show up and back our team to victory. GO HOKIES!

  5. I really hope I’m wrong, but all indications are that Wahoos will be dancing in Lane after the fat lady sings on Friday night. Let me be frank (no pun intended), based on the current state of our team, winning Friday, IMO, would be considered a greater upset than our win over OSU.

  6. When the dam breaks, it sometimes breaks big-time. When Sugar Bowl bound UVa (let that sink in) came to Lane in 1990, Tech had not won in a few years. The Hokies got up and got rolling, sending Hoo fans streaming out the exits in a 38-13 romp. I’m afraid it will go like that, but the wrong way. Hopeful, but expecting the deluge.

  7. The only way I can see VT winning this game is
    1. They run a different offense and catch UVA off guard.
    or
    2. UVA’s offense gives up points to the VT Defense.

  8. What gives you any hope Tech can score 20 points (or even 13)?

    Thus game will be ugly. Tech’s bowl streak and UVA streak end and we will lose 5 home games for the first time ever. Very discouraging.

  9. There isn’t enough bourbon in the world to fix the emotional damage that would be caused by beating Ohio State in the Horsehoe yet also losing to UVa in Lane stadium in the same season. Might be a bit ironic, however, since the last time UVa beat VT was the same year it became legal for me to drink!

  10. Will, thank you for a glimmer of hope! This game is totally unpredictable. But … You know the defense will hold UVA to no more than 14 points and may force some turnovers. Bud does his best work against UVA. If the offense can generate 21 points, we win in a breeze. Otherwise, I still think we can win in a close one. I’m going with something like 17-10. Good Guys.

    1. Anyone that picks Tech to win this game has already begun drinking! There are absolutely no reasons to think Hokies will win. Sorry just the truth.

  11. this is a directional game….two teams – and really, two programs – going in opposite directions. Will, you picked the team going in the wrong direction. I sure hope you are right.

    1. The only reason UVa is going at all upward is that they have sucked so badly the last couple years. They may be ascending, but it is only to the bottom rung of mediocrity. We are just a mess and dropping like a brick in water.

      I don’t expect to win, but not because the are anything but bad. We are just worse.

  12. First UVA game I’ve been to fully expecting to lose. Actually, the first VT game against anyone with that mindset. That’s how beat down I am at this point. I’ll be as happy as anyone if we prevail but I will not be down after the game. Already mentally prepared…. and that sucks.

  13. Hoos defense a lot better than Wake Forest. Thus VT should score 0.
    If Hoos have any offense at all or have short fields courtesy of AJ Hughes 20 yd punts,
    then could be a romp for UVA.

  14. 10 – 19 points Hoos wins by ..been Hokie for a long time….But too much going on in the Hokie Camp….

  15. The last time I worried about UVA beating us was when I was removing the battery from my bag phone so that I could use it in my vhs camcorder.

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