Sat 10/01/05, Noon.
Milan Puskar Stadium
Poll Rank: NR
ECU 20-15 W
Rtn Lettermen: 41
Rtn Starters: 17
Poll Rank: 3
Ga. Tech 51-7 W
Rtn Lettermen: 44
Rtn Starters: 14
Last Meeting: 2004
Virginia Tech and WVU are very similar in one aspect – they throw the ball only when necessary. WVU has thrown just 76 passes on the season, but has completed 52, for a 68.4% completion rate. Given the short distance of many of WVU's throws, of course, a high percentage is expected. Virginia Tech has thrown just eight more times, and shows a 50 for 84 mark, good for a 59.5% completion mark.
The difference, however, is in when the teams throw the ball. Tech has thrown 35 times on first down this year – the most they have thrown on any of the four downs. Fully 41.6% of Tech's passes have come on first down. That element of uncertainty works against opposing defenses, which can't load up against the run on first down.
A breakdown of WVU's first down running vs. passing percentage wasn't readily available, so I went back and totaled the first down runs vs. passes in the ECU game. (I have to admit I didn't have time to go back and peruse the play-by-play of all of the games this year.) Against the Pirates, WVU had 27 first down plays, and ran the ball on 24 of them.
Now, I know that the circumstances in each game are different, and the ECU game may have been an aberration. But I still would bet that the percentage of WVU pass plays on first down is far less that that of Tech. And again, that's not necessarily bad – just food for thought.
PICKING A WINNER
Amidst the mountains of stats and interesting numbers that sports information offices put out for each game come a few key items that seem to truly tell the tale of the game. This one, from the Tech side of the ledger, is probably the gem of the week.
Under Frank Beamer, Tech is 122-27-2 when outrushing their opponent. When Tech gets outrushed, the record falls to 16-50.
Everyone focused on Michael Vick, Bryan Randall and now Marcus Vick when talking about the Tech offense, but often for the wrong reason. It was their contributions to the rushing game, even moreso than their passing, which contributed to this very telling state and keyed many of those Hokie wins.
Many people have been quick to recount the many parallels between the 2003 game and this one. VPI won 51-7 the week before the 2003 game, ditto this year. VPI is ranked third, and guess what? They are again this year.
|WVU 4-0, 1-0
VT 4-0, 2-0
|Sat 10/014/05 Noon|
|Milan Puskar Stadium|
|Series: 28-21-1 WVU|
|BCS: WVU-22: VT: 3|
|Line: VT -12|
|Stats & Trends|
If you ever listen to financial services ads, you'll always hear this disclaimer: "Past performance is not an indicator of future results." Keep that in mind, because it applies strongly here. The 2003 game is long gone. These are two different teams. Tech is much better defensively than they were on their last visit to Morgantown.
We noted last year that Tech includes a plea in its pregame notes to refer to the school as "Virginia Tech" even though the school's proper name is Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Also listed are a number of banned references, including "VPI" and "VA Tech".
Any quick listen to ESPN or other broadcast outlets quickly reveal many references to the latter, with both radio and TV talking heads saying "Vaaaaahhhhh Tech" repeatedly. My bet is that the Tech administration doesn't complain much to ESPN about that.
NOT ENOUGH CREDIT
A number of media outlets, including this one, have given the Hokies a lot of credit for their excellent defense. The hype is well-deserved, as Tech has a number of outstanding players on the defensive side of the ball, and has a number of high national rankings. The Hokies are eighth in rushing defense, second in scoring defense and third in total defense on the NCAA lists this week.
|VT Message Board|
|VT Official Site|
When two defensive titans meet, the easy analysis is to call for a low-scoring game, but for some reason I don't think this game is going to fit that profile. There are enough good athletes on the offensive side of the ball to get some points up, even in the face of two tremendous defenses. The winner might score 24-27 points in this one.
Virginia Tech has 28 plays of 20 yards or more this year. WVU has 27. Of those plays, each team has four of forty yards or more. Why is this important? Simple. With both defenses having throttled opponents for the most part in 2005, the team that can break an extra big play or two is likely to have a big advantage. Field position could play a huge role in what is anticipated to be a defensive battle, so the team that is able to change it and pin opponents in a hole is going to be have more chances to score points.
Finally, be nice. Even to the opposing fans. There's no need to act like an idiot. If you see bad behavior, point it out to the authorities. It will make a nicer atmosphere for everyone.