Well the time has finally arrived - an ESPN Thursday night game in Lane Stadium against the #2 team in the country! Friends, this is what bigtime college football is all about and the entire nation will be watching. Virginia Tech was embarrassed on national TV earlier this season. They may not win but they have a chance to show the rest of the country that the LSU game was an aberration and THIS is the Virginia Tech that Hokie Nation is so proud of (minus the offensive coordinator).
I typically don't bother looking too in-depth at statistics early in the season. Virginia Tech has consistently ranked 100th or worse in total offense this season, so I referenced that in earlier comments, but for the most part I don't put much stock in stats, just like I don't put much stock in poll rankings until week 7 or so. By now, however, certain basic stats are very helpful in understanding how teams compare. And there are even a few deeper stats that can be very insightful.
First of all, let's examine the defensive rankings in the following table:
Virginia Tech Boston College
Scoring Defense 8 18
Pass Defense 40 105
Rush Defense 17 1
Total Defense 13 29
The two teams both obviously have VERY solid defenses. The only stat that jumps out as bad is BC's 105th ranked pass defense. But keep this in mind - BC has been blowing out their opponents who have resorted to passing a great deal to try and come back in the game (hence BC's likely overinflated ranking in rush defense as well). As a result BC has given up a lot of passing yards. However, BC is also #1 in the nation in interceptions with 18 so this is an example of a misleading stat that needed closer inspection. Overall, I'd say the defenses are comparable with a slight edge to the Hokies. Yes Cody Grimm starts at whip (though Cam Martin will definitely play) and Brett Warren starts in place of Vince Hall at MLB but I view that as a minor drop off as Warren played phenomenally against Duke.
Let's examine the basic stats on offense. Actually, let me warn that this is some material that may not be suitable for our younger readers, so if you have any young children you may want to ask them to leave the room for a few minutes.
Virginia Tech Boston College
Scoring Offense 55 28
Pass Offense 101 8
Rush Offense 90 72
Total Offense 112 16
!*@#($*&#@%&**&@#*^@#*&$.......Yikes. The Hokies are badly beaten in every category except rushing offense (where they are simply 'beaten'). So what this means is that Beamerball is going to have to be in full effect. There will have to be a defensive score or the Hokies will have to press their huge advantage in special teams play (Hokie special teams as a unit are among the top 5 in the country this year) in order to put up enough points to try and win.
You know what this means, my Calm and Beloved Reader? You are going to have to shed the Calm part of your name for one night and help the crowd be absolutely insane for this game. If you are going to the game you need to go read Pepsi Guy's post at TechSideline's football forum on how bad the crowd is needed for this one. Do whatever it takes. Start tailgating at 7:30 AM, don't use your voice at all the entire day (nods and head shakes can communicate a great deal actually), get your 'fired-up' music going on your iPod, pull out all the stops. The team needs this crowd to be like the Miami game in 2003 because the Hokie offense is simply outmatched in this game by the BC Eagle offense.
Even with Beamerball in effect, the Hokies might still be a bit outmatched. There is one KEY statistic and several intangibles that tilt the scale back to dead even however. The key stat is 3rd downs. The Hokies defense is 2nd in the nation in 3rd down defense (26%) while the Eagles are 25th in the nation in 3rd down conversions. If VT can get BC off the field on 3rd downs and prevent sustained drives, then the defense will still have some gas left in the tank in the 4th quarter where the game really will be decided. This is even more necessary because the Hokie offense is 114th (out of 119, folks, please send your "We'd like Bryan Stinespring to resign" letters care of Jim Weaver in the Virginia Tech Athletics office) in 3rd down conversions only converting 28% of their attempts.
The intangibles are pretty obvious - Lane Stadium, Thursday night, revenge for the 22-3 beatdown in Chestnut Hill last year on Thursday night, all these tilt in the Hokies' favor. If the crowd brings it, the offense scores early, the defense gets off the field after 3rd downs, well, who knows? This could end up being on HELLUVA good game. Whether you're in the stadium or not, cheer long and loud and we'll see what happens. TSF will be there doing the same.