Tech's rushing game versus WVU's shaky run defense is likely to be the defining factor in this game. Sure, turnovers and special teams always figure to play a factor with the Hokies, but the ground attack here figures the most prominently.
No one has forced Grant Noel to pass yet - he has passed when he wants to, not when he has to. Getting Noel into a new situation is WVU's top priority, because if Tech is able to run the ball 40-45 times things are going to get ugly.
TACKLING THE PROBLEM
Rick Sherrod's 62 tackles this year are an impressive figure, but they highlight the problems of WVU's defense.
While the safeties do play closer to the line in this defense, and as a result get more tackles, many of Sherrod's have come dowfield after gains by opposing ballcarriers.
A look at Virginia Tech's totals paints a picture of the goals for this defense. A linebacker (Ben Taylor) leads the team with 32 stops, and Tech has seventeen players who are already in double figures in tackles. That balanced approach, with multiple defenders making plays, is what WVU is striving for.
Another telling figure is that Tech has only 391 total tackles this year throught four games, while WVU has 444. the upshot? WVU is allowing more plays, and therefore has higher tackle totals.
The Mountaineers' best defense against this is twofold. First, the defensive line needs to penetrate. A quick tackle on the quarterback would be nice, but if that can't be achieved the goal is to force the QB back away from the line as he runs to the corner, which should allow more pursuit to get to the ball.
Second, the quarterback must be made to make his decision early. Making the QB get rid of the ball early in the play removes the "option" from the equation and allows all defenders to flow to the ball.
We also wouldn't put it past Tech to throw an option pass off the option or a sweep. With WVU concentrating on stopping the run, the opportunity for such a play presents itself nicely.
We've written before that WVU's home field advantage is long gone. Hopefully, we will see a small return of that atmosphere this Saturday, but we're not optimistic.
It has nothing to do with the players on the field, either. It seems to happen whther WVU is ahead of behind. No matter what the score, hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of seats are empty by halftime, as people drift away to whatever else there is to do in Morgantown on a football Saturday.
We don't understand that mindset - fans spend hunderds of dollars for tickets, travel and tailgates, then watch about half the game before leaving.
GET OVER IT
We have to admit that we're more than a little tired of hearing about the bad enivronment at Mountaineer Field from visiting players, especially those from Virginia Tech.
A stroll along the Tech sidelines is no picnic, either, as the cups and plastic bottles that litter the sidelines in on the visiting side of the field attests.
We hope that Tech's players are more concerned with the stands than the field of play.