The First Bank & Trust Friday Q&A: Preparing For Wofford, Looking Ahead To WVU

Virginia Tech, Brent Pry
How does Virginia Tech head coach Brent Pry motivate his team for Wofford? (Jon Fleming)

1) For the offense, are you looking for a stat line like 440 yards and 40 points to be a satisfactory day on Saturday given the level of competition? If not, what should we as fans be looking for? – Hard Times

Chris Coleman: I don’t think I’m going to have my eye on total yards. Don’t get me wrong, if the Hokies put up something like 337 yards, I’m going to be disappointed. However, looking at things from a total yards standpoint is a bit antiquated considering the advanced metrics that are available to us these days.

“Available Yards Percentage” (OAY) is my favorite such metric. This is calculated by dividing drive yards earned by available yards measured from starting field position to end zone. So for example, what if Virginia Tech’s defense forces five turnovers against a woeful Wofford offense on Saturday? It’s possible. In that scenario, there will be fewer yards to cover for the Hokie offense to reach the endzone, which would hold down their total yards. However, if they convert all five of those short fields into touchdowns, they will have done all they could do.

Here’s a simpler explanation…

Team A: Starts their possession at the 50-yard line and drives 50 yards for a touchdown. That’s a 100% available yards percentage.

Team B: Starts their possession at their own 20-yard line. They drive to the opponents 10, where the drive stalls out, and they kick a field goal. They drove 70 yards, so they would have more total offense than Team A, but they trail 7-3.

Right now, Virginia Tech’s OAY ranks No. 112 nationally. The Hokies have gained 30.9% of the yards available at the beginning of each drive. Georgia currently ranks No. 1 with a 100% percentage (the stats don’t count FCS games, nor do they count garbage time possessions against FBS opponents). In other words, Georgia gained every single yard available against an FBS opponent (Oregon) this season. Obviously, that won’t last forever.

Here were some notable teams last year, where they ranked, and how the Hokies compared…

No. 1: Ohio State, 71.0%
No. 7: Alabama, 60.1%
No. 15: Wake Forest, 56.6%
No. 39: Pitt, 52.3%
No. 69: NC State, 46.7%
No. 70: Wisconsin, 46.6%
No. 76: Virginia Tech, 45.7%
No. 82: LSU, 44.4%
No. 94: Clemson, 42.4%
No. 111: South Carolina, 38.2%

Tech wasn’t great by any means, but it was right around NC State/Wisconsin levels on offense. The Wolfpack finished ranked No. 19, and the Badgers were just outside the top 25 in the “others receiving votes” category. The difference is those teams had better defenses than the Hokies so they won more games.

I think the Virginia Tech offense will get better as key players get healthier, and as the offensive line and tight ends get more comfortable with their blocking assignments. I also think the defensive stats won’t be so dominant when the Hokies start playing offenses that have a pulse. What does that mean for the final record? I don’t know.

To answer the question, I think the stats I’ll be looking for on Saturday is that available yards stat, and also yards per play.

2) If you were a coach, how would you prepare the team this week? It’s your job to take every opponent seriously, but how on earth do you get your team to do that when you have one of the worst teams to ever play in Lane right before a short week to your rival? – IV_Hokie12

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