Thursday, December 30, 2010

Game Preview - Orange Bowl

After week two's loss James Madison, no college football fan could make a strong case for Virginia Tech's appearance in a BCS bowl. In fact, even some Hokie faithful began to have chills of a bowl ineligible season, but here we are about to watch our Hokies compete against Stanford for the Orange Bowl title. I can't claim to have had full confidence in the Hokies running the table in their ACC schedule, but as frustrated as the loss to JMU made me, I didn't see the Hokies dropping too many more contests. Part of me even had a sense of relief that our worst losses lay behind us. And as we've seen thus far, the recurring theme has been that of a late start, for both many individual games and the season as a whole. Our Hokies have had more than just a few poor first quarter performances followed by playing great football thereafter. This theme and the level of play Virginia Tech football has exhibited has me optimistic about the upcoming contest on January 3. I fully expect the Hokies to keep the opposition fans on edge throughout the night.

Let's take a look at the Hokies' opponent, the Stanford Cardinal. Wake Forest is the only common opponent shared between the two teams this season. Each team slaughtered the Deamon Deacons, doubling their score in each respective game. The Cardinals play in the Pac 10 conference, soon to don the name Pac 12 with newcomer teams. To establish the caliber of the Stanford team, I start with analyzing their conference. Their conference includes the likes of the USC Trojans, Oregon Ducks, and UCLA Bruins. Historically, fans of the Pac 10 have griped of the college football commentary world consistently under-rating their conference, and this claim has some ground on which to stand. For example, in the 2008-09 bowl season, the Pac 10 cleaned up with a 5-0 record. But then in the 2009-10 bowl season, the Pac 10 went 2-5. If you trace back over the inter-conference play, you'll notice that the pendulum swings. This year, the Pac 10 has gone 11-9 in their inter-conference play. Considering their win percentage, they place fourth amongst conferences that had some team in the top 25 sometime this season. The ACC ranks seventh in this way. This year, Oregon is all the rage, earning a number two ranking and some weeks holding the number one spot. Oregon has handed Stanford their only loss. In all comparison, the Pac 10 stacks up as a tougher conference this season than the ACC. By that barometer, Stanford placing second in the conference while losing only to a team headed to the National Championship Game makes them a formidable opponent and the favorite to win on Jan 3.

Let's take a top-down look at the Cardinal. Stanford head Coach Jim Harbaugh took over the team in December of 2006 and has since steadily improved the program to reach their current BCS bowl bid. In his first season as head coach, his squad defeated a number one ranked USC, the favorite by 41 points. This season, Sanford has won most of its games by a definitive margin. Only Arizona State and USC handed them a win margin of less than a touchdown. In each of these games the Cardinal scored their winning points in the fourth quarter, which shows they can finish strong in a close game. Stanford exemplifies the West Coast offense by ranking second the Pac 10 in passing with 3076 yards on the season. They've put up 2532 rushing yards and also ranked second in the conference in that category. The Stanford defense ranks first in the Pac 10 allowing 2404 passing yards, 1515 rushing yards, ~18 points per game, and ~327 yards per game. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, doesn't have numbers quite as good. The Hokies have allowed 2591 yards and 1936 yards in passing and rushing respectively. On offense, the Hokies have generated 2628 and 2716 yards in passing and rushing respectively. And those numbers come from contests within a weaker conference. One caveat: the Hokies' contest against Boise State does make their non-conference schedule notably more challenging.

Now, let's turn to some individual elements within the Cardinal. Heisman candidate and quarterback Andrew Luck finished second to Cam Newton of Auburn for the trophy. Luck has broken the school's season record of touchdown passes with 28. He has completed ~70% of his passes this season, while throwing for 3051 yards. Standing at 6'4" and weighing in at 235 lbs., the Junior quarterback is no picnic to tackle. His offense has allowed only five sacks (of him) on the season. Luck has a lot of depth in his receiver core, but one clearly stands out from the rest. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin has caught for 824 yards and nine touchdowns this season. The Senior receiver will surely give trouble to Virginia Tech's corners. Other receivers, Ryan Whalen, Chris Owusu, Coby Fleener, Stepfan Taylor, and Griff Whalen each have 200+ yards in receiving, so Luck has other options if the Hokies can cover Baldwin. On the ground, Stanford really only has one go-to guy in Stephan Taylor. Taylor has amassed an 1023 yards in rushing this season. Luck himself holds the next most rushing yardage with 438. Anthony Wilkerson, the Freshman second string running back, has 409 yards on the season.

(Side Note--Here are some horrendous Andrew Luck puns from which I restrained myself from using in this post: "With Luck on their side", "When the Hokie defense blitzes, Luck will run out", "a quarterback standing 6'4" gives them all the Luck they need", "If the quarterback gets injured, they will be out of Luck." Well, I guess I didn't really restrain myself if I just used them, but you had fair warning to skip this part!)

On the Hokie injury front, Linebacker Lyndell Gibson injured his shoulder during the ACC championship game against Florida State. He underwent surgery and will take the next 6-8 months to recover. Redshirt fresham Tariq Edwards will take his place. This will add inexperience to the defensive squad that has spent most of this year maturing, and maturing quite well I might add. However, this could add a weak link to the chain, but I can only roughly speculate.

Overall, I think the biggest determining factors will lie in how well the Hokies defend the secondary. Standford's offense hasn't seen a ground defense quite like that of Bud Foster's, and I think they'll stop the Stanford run for the most part. But Stanford has a very deep and experienced receiver core that will probably have a few tricks up its sleeve for the Virginia Tech corners and safeties. Going the other direction, the only running game Stanford has faced that could measure up to that of Virginia Tech is Oregon, who rushed for 388 yards against the Cardinal. One or more of Ryan Williams, Darren Eveans, and David Wilson will in all likelihood make big gains on the ground. As for the Hokies' passing game, the Cardinal have also not faced anything like Tyrod Taylor combined with the Virginia Tech receiving core, with lots of experience of its own. While the Stanford defense without question will have strategized and drilled on how to contain Taylor, planning to do so makes for one thing while actually executing it with success makes for another. Taylor's passing game is not gong to go quietly in his last game in a Virginia Tech jersey.

And that brings me to my next point. Sadly, this game marks the last of Tyrod Taylor playing for the Hokies. Our program has
had the fortune of having some of the most dynamic and fun to watch quarterbacks. Michael Vick dazzled the college football world, Bryan Randall exceeded all expectations, and now Tyrod Taylor has given us quite a show as well. I remember the first game he took a snap, when he relieved Sean Glennon in the midst of suffering a shellacking against LSU. Through much of the seasons during which he split the spotlight with Glennon, he seemingly had a two-step thought process: (1) look for a pass and (2) when that fails, rush. That thought process has its limits, and while with it he showed athletic ability, it doesn't necessarily make for elite quarterbacking. I roughly place the time at which Taylor made a significant transition around the second quarter of the game against Nebraska of the 2009 season. He began to adopt the thought process of (1a) look for a pass, (1b) scrample to give the receivers time to make an opportunity for a pass, and (2) when those fail, rush. The insertion of step 1b is a big difference maker and has propelled Taylor into the realm of the best quarterback to come through Hokie football, especially considering that he played four years opposed to Vick playing two. And of course its also worth noting the breath of fresh air in a team leader that did not have the off field conduct issues of some of his predecessors. Tyrod Taylor, Hokie football shall miss and always remember you.

The numbers and statistics seem to give Stanford the edge, but I think there's a few other factors that could swing the pendulum in the Hokies' direction. While the Cardinal have made a big stride as a program this season, they have done so at a time when the Pac 10's typical power house, USC, is in the midst of an off season and dealing with the PR fallout from a scandal. USC's play in past seasons has elevated that of the entire conference. So the competition to get to this bowl is probably not as stiff as years past. Also, this will make for Harbaugh's first appearance at a BCS bowl game as a head coach, and it will be opposite BCS bowl veteran Frank Beamer. Stanford has some strong momentum, but the only conference champion they have met handed them a 21 point loss. The Hokies have strong momentum of their own, testament to their ACC dominance after a two-loss season opening. The statistics paint a very good picture for Stanford, but the differentiator doesn't always lie within the numbers. Let's hope that's the case on January 3!


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Prayers are Being Answered?!?

My Christmas prayers have a chance of being answered - Maryland just bought out Ralph Friedgen's contract for the final year of his deal! Now if this isn't a sign that Maryland made the wrong move with their athletic director, I have no idea what is. Friedgen just won the ACC Coach of the Year award (and it really could only have been him or Beamer) by taking a team that had no business doing so and winning 8 games and being one win away from playing for the ACC title.

The reason he got let go is because they lost their offensive coordinator in James Franklin (the Maryland AD hated the "coach-in-waiting" idea anyway), and I bet there was a disagreement on who Friedgen would bring in as replacement. He's asked to step down, he says no, and they buyout his contract. This new athletic director has been itching to put his stamp on the program since he got there, and here's his chance.

The reason my prayers could be answered is because Friedgen and Beamer are great friends. Friedgen isn't the best recruiter but he is one helluva good coach (obviously) and would make an AMAZING offensive coordinator. Oh PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE replace Bryan Stinespring with Friedgen as offensive coordinator and move Stiney to recruiting coordinator. We need a movement among the Superfans to make this happen before some other program snaps Friedgen up. If this change was made we would ALL have a Merry Christmas.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Stiney Who Stole Christmas

There are many fans of Virginia Tech who look at the results of the offense this season and feel relieved. They are probably thinking, "Coach Stinespring has finally turned the corner here". Let me tell you up front - I am not one of those fans. I want to take a look at the season as a whole, and why I still stand by the statement that Virginia Tech will not win a national championship with Coach Stinespring as the offensive coordinator.

First, let's take a look at an example from our friends at Texas. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis has been with head coach Mack Brown for 12 seasons. In that time, Texas won three Big 12 championships, a national title and played in another national title game (JUST last season!). This year, the Texas defense was 7th in the country. And yet the Longhorns went 5-7 and didn't make a bowl game. Why? Because their offense was 59th best in the country. You might sound shocked when you read that, fellow Superfan, because that probably doesn't sound that bad to you.

This season the Longhorns had a brand-new QB who wasn't as good as the hype had built him up to be and he was playing behind an awful offensive line. It's not like their offense was the 100th best in the country or worse, as we had to live with for years at Tech. And more than that, watching the games, it was obvious that the playcalling was still lively. There were a lot of dropped passes and badly thrown balls to open receivers, but the play had created open receivers! And turnovers, oh my heavens the turnovers. Texas was 116th in the nation in turnover margin, giving the ball away 30 TIMES!!! Yes I would put a small portion of the turnovers on the offensive coordinator, but considering Texas had finished no worse than 49th in turnover margin the past 5 seasons, I don't think that is a hallmark of a Greg Davis-coached offense. And the difference between the Hokies winning the ACC when we had awful offense and the Longhorns missing a bowl game when they had an average offense is due to those turnovers and the Big 12 being a tougher football conference than the ACC.

And the reason that 59th in the country (which is mathematically in the exact middle) is because there were years when we Hokie fans would have KILLED for the 59th best offense in the country. So what did Texas and Coach Mack Brown do in this situation? They forced Greg Davis out. I thought this was uncalled for. After all, in 2008 Texas beat Oklahoma 45-35 and one Texas beat reporter labeled it the best offensive game Davis ever called (better even than the 2005 national title win) and that he would go down as the greatest offensive mind in school history.

But the bottom line is that Texas doesn't have a phony empty national title trophy case like we do in Blacksburg. It should tell you all you need to know about the "real" expectations of the athletic director and fan base that Greg Davis was let go after Texas was one year removed from playing for the national title (and might have had two titles if Colt McCoy hadn't gotten hurt in the 1st quarter of that game).

Now is there a happy medium? Sure. I think it was premature to can Davis just as I think it has been far too long overdue to demote Coach Stinespring. But the point is that you can clearly see the difference in true program expectations. Just look at our fan base. We are so happy to have won the ACC title, and we'll be happy with that every year. It's why Coach Stinespring has been able to stay; despite horrific offensive performances in 2006-2009, the Hokies were winning and competing for ACC titles because of their defense and that's all the fan base and athletic director TRULY expect, empty trophy case notwithstanding.

But let's take a closer look at this season and see why I am still convinced that the Hokies can't win a title with Stinespring at the helm. First of all, credit where credit is due: Coach Stinespring had a few very inventive play calls this year. The TD pass against NC State where LT Andrew Lanier split out wide was a great call. The fake option pass to Danny Coale against Miami was a great call. The fake WR screen, spin around screen to the RB on the other side is kind of a neat call. Yes, the playcalling in general was vastly improved over the absolute train wreck of the past few years. But all of this pretty stuff is just lipstick on a pig.

In the final analysis, many of the successful plays this season, and even in the ACC Championship game boiled down to the amazing athletes on offense making amazing plays. How many times did Tyrod Taylor make a miracle out of nothing this year? So many times that it boggles the mind. I can think of countless times where the first two reads weren't there, so Taylor had to make two or three people miss, move around and find a receiver on a broken play. Why aren't the first two reads open most of the time? S Mario Edwards from Georgia Tech (a former Hokie) said it very well after the loss to the Hokies in Blacksburg:

“We had a good game plan,” said Edwards, who finished with 10 tackles. “We had to key on their tendencies a lot and their tendencies were based a lot on their formations."

The opposing defenses are usually able to read what the Hokies are doing before the snap of the ball and then adjust accordingly. And when Stinespring tries to outmaneuver the defense, he doesn't do it with a playcall adjustment, he does it by using a player counter to "tendency". For example, David Wilson on a power run up the middle, or Darren Evans on the option pitch to the wide side of the field. Stiney probably thinks these are going to confuse the defense, but in reality it just misuses the talents of the players that he has.

Danny Coale is a perfect example of this. All season long (in fact all career long), Danny Coale has been the guy with the best hands on the team. He is just super dependable and makes tough catches whenever called upon. He is quick enough and physically tough enough to work the slot and middle of the field, to the point where I believe there's a spot in the NFL for him (Wes Welker anybody?) But nobody is going to mistake Danny Coale for an explosive player. Yet how many times is the WR screen run for Coale? A lot less later in the season thank goodness, but for most of the year, he was the guy getting that ball. When you have Dyrell Roberts and Marcus Davis on your team, what is Danny Coale doing catching that pass?

You may think I'm nitpicking, especially considering the offensive results this season, but this is important so I'll ask you to listen close - to win the big title, it's not good enough to beat opponents when you have the talent advantage. The Hokies on offense this year had more talent than any defense they faced except for Miami and Boise State. And the advantage against Miami was that the Canes' defense was very (and strangely) undisciplined.

I am completely cutting out the JMU game. I actually don't hang that loss on Stinespring because the entire team was so deflated after losing to Boise State (that loss was 90% Stinespring's fault in my opinion). So minus JMU, to take players like VT had on offense and beat the teams they were supposed to beat is not the sign of a top offensive coordinator. Like our friends over here have outlined in great detail, Coach Stinespring accomplished what almost any coordinator in a Division I-A program would have done with this offense. In order to take the next step, you have to line up against a program of equivalent talent and WIN the game. The Hokie talent is at a level where they can compete in those games, but with the current coordinator, they will very rarely win them, and you have to win one or two of those in any given season that you expect to compete for a national championship.

I hope we see a step forward on offense against Stanford in the Orange Bowl, as I consider them a worthy adversary, but I am not holding my breath. And while nothing related to the world of college football could possibly make me happier than to be proven wrong about my assertions on Stinespring, next year or any year, I just don't see it happening. In fact, I think a year like this past 2010 season means that Stiney will be in Blacksburg for as long as Coach Beamer is. Oh well. Since there's nothing I can do about that, it's time to get fired up for the Orange Bowl!!!!


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Between Now and the Orange Bowl

Here at TSF, we are still celebrating the fact that the Hokies won the the ACC title. It's a great feeling and now we have a month before the Orange Bowl so I just wanted to let you know that we will be using this time to get some items off our chest that usually build up during the season.

We will be discussing offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, the BCS (which is such a complete joke at this point), the rule change related to personal foul calls for hits above the shoulder and anything else that there isn't really time to address during the course of the hectic season.

So check back in with us before it's Orange Bowl preview time and we'll serve up some of these dishes. I'll start with my take on Stinespring and what this season has done to influence it (special thanks to the guys at for serving as inspiration to write this), which I'll post later this week. I have to get it written before the next Hokie basketball game on Sunday, since watching those guys play is enough to just about kill me. Until then, and as always,

GO HOKIES!!!!!!!


Monday, December 06, 2010

TSF Pre-Bowls Poll

Doing things right since 1975, Auburn and Oregon topped the TSF poll since week 8 and lookie lookie who's going to the BCS Championship Game.

1 Auburn (2) 74
2 Oregon (1) 73
3 TCU 68
4 Stanford 67
5 Wisconsin 60
6 Boise State 57
7 Ohio State 56
8 Michigan St 52
8 Nevada 52
10 Virginia Tech 47
11 Arkansas 46
12 Oklahoma 44
13 LSU 42
14 Missouri 36
15 Oklahoma State 35
16 Alabama 29
17 Nebraska 26
18 Texas A&M 25
19 Utah 23
20 Florida St 14
20 South Carolina 14
22 West Virginia 13
23 Hawai'i 8
23 Maryland 8
25 Arizona 3

Sunday, December 05, 2010

3 Key Plays - ACC Title Game VT vs. FSU

1) After giving up a score on the opening drive by the opposing offense and having the Hokie opening offensive drive stall once again, it looked like VT was headed for yet another disastrous first quarter. Trailing 3-0, the Hokie defense took the field against the Seminoles and on the 2nd play of the ensuing drive, Bruce Taylor went into full extension to just get a fingertip on backup QB E.J. Manuel's pass to a cutting receiver. The ball tipped out in front of Hokie LB Jeron Gouviea-Winslow, who had a remarkably fast reaction, snagged the ball out of the air just before it hit the ground, and turned to dash into the end zone. This put the Hokies up 7-3 and changed the entire complexion of the game on several fronts. The Hokies wouldn't trail again, and it also cost them the services of superstar young LB Bruce Taylor who injured his shoulder on the play. Fortunately, former walk-on Jack Tyler would come in and perform very admirably in Taylor's place, which - considering the stage and situation - was absolutely remarkable. It makes me feel a lot better about MLB if Barquell Rivers can't return to form from that devastating quad injury.

2) At the 8:30 mark of the 2nd quarter, the Hokies had a 21-10 lead and the Hokie offense was looking unstoppable. Florida State faced a 3rd and 6 from their own 38 yd line and if they were stopped here, the Hokies might have just blown the game wide open. Unfortunately, young DB Kyle Fuller - who has had one of the all-time great true freshman seasons in VT's history on the defensive side of the ball - had a terrible night. And having already been burned twice in the game so far, Fuller played WAY too far off his receiver and a poor pass by FSU's Manuel was still caught by WR Willie Haulsted for a 14 yd play and a first down. This set-up another deep pass play to burn Fuller yet again later on the drive where the 'Noles would score to make it 21-17 and tighten everything up again before halftime. HUGE play and I was so sick when they converted it.

3) With 6:55 left to go in the game, the Hokies had a 41-26 lead, but it was still only a two score game. On trotted K Chris Hazley who has had an All-American type of season by hitting 19 FG's in a row this year after missing his very first try of the season. Despite having an extra point blocked after the Hokies' previous TD (due to a terrible hold by Brian Saunders), Hazley stepped up and in slick field conditions, knocked through a 43 yd FG to make it 44-26 and basically ice the game. If he had missed, the 'Noles would have had decent field position and time to try a comeback but instead, it was 20 FG's in a row for Hazley and an ACC title for the Hokies.

Congrats to VT for making my wildest dreams come true after they were down 0-2.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

ACCCG - What Does a Bobby Bowden-less FSU Mean for the Hokies?

Two teams with very different paths to Charlotte, NC will battle on Saturday. You see, one will fly north and the other south.

The Hokies began the year with a disappoi... blah blah... Boise State... blah blah Boise State Part Deux (a.k.a. James Madison). The fact is the Hokies dominated ACC play to achieve what no one has done since 2000: [insert U-word here] in regular season conference play. Coincidently, the team that did it in 2000 was Florida State -- their opponent in Saturday's game from lovely Charlotte, NC. The Hokies have done so well that we SuperFans have them close to the top ten in our weekly poll. Now, you our dear readers and I all know that MadJay, Iceman, and myself take the following sentiment to heart from Spencer Hall over at Everyday Should Be Saturday, "THAT PLAY WAS TERRIBLE EVEN IF IT DID SCORE A TOUCHDOWN" as we berate Bryan Stinespring over and over.

But in all fairness, this is an amazing accomplishment after that start of the season that shall not be named. Not to break your spirit any further but be prepared to enter your fallout shelter/tornado bunker for the start of next season. The Hokies play lovely Appalachian State to start the season. Why is that an issue you might ask? Well, App State was the last FCS team to defeat a ranked FBS team: Meeeeeeechigan. Guess what Corso will be talking about ad nauseum...

The Seminoles had a different path to the ACCCG (say that three times fast). Florida State too had great expectations. Coming into the season, they were the media darlings to win the ACC. Jimbo Fisher officially took over the reins as they quietly (okay Ann Bowden made sure it was loudly) shoved Bobby Bowden out the door. Fisher had virtually been running the team last year so it wasn't going to be a big issue anyway. The team was coming back strong and were ranked relatively high (17th) going into the big game against then number 10 Oklahoma. While the loss to the Sooners was a set back the Seminoles bounced back and beat up on BYU and four more teams thereafter.

The real setback for Florida State came when they lost, in succession, to the two schools with North Carolina in their names. It created competition and one of those crazy matrixed situation that they hire consultants from NASA to figure out where if team A wins and team B loses but all of team C visits their grandmothers then Desmond Howard head will explode, but if...

In the end, they defeated Maryland and Maryland defeated NC State, giving the Seminoles the Atlantic Division title. They ended the regular season with a resounding pummeling of the reeling Florida Gators.

As to the matchup, the Hokies, historically don't do so good against the Seminoles. Overall, the Hokies are 11-22-1 againgst Florida State. 2007 marked the first and only time (so far) head coach Frank Beamer had beaten them and has a record of 1-8 against them. You have to go back to 1975 to find the time before that to find a Hokie victory. This, mystically enough, was also the year before Bobby Bowden took the helm in Tallahassee. So the question becomes: Was it a Bowden curse, or Florida State in general? We'll see as they take the field Saturday night.

The battle begins with its leaders. In this case, ACC Player of the Year Tyrod Taylor and Florida State Christian Ponder.

Taylor's improvement continued all season. His maturation has been amazing through the year. His scrambling to throw attitude vs. scrambling to run attitude has defenses frozen and this will be key to holding sack happy defensive end Brandon Jenkins at bay. Jenkins comes into the game with the third best sack total in the country with 12 sacks. Joining him is Markus White with 7.5 sacks of his own. The o-line will have their work cut out for them as they try and fend the these guys off. The Seminoles lead the nation with 43 total sacks.

On the other end, the preseason Heisman-hype for Ponder is long gone. Ponder was faced with an elbow injury that plagued him for almost half of the season and bruised ribs that kept him sidelined for the Clemson game. And yet he's been able to produce. He finished third in passing efficiency in the ACC behind Taylor and UNC's T.J. Yates and sixth in total offense per game (ACC) at 201.4 yards. The scary part is that he might be close if not at 100 percent for Saturday's game.

If the Hokies can't get to him -- Stephen Friday and Bruce Taylor lead the team with 7.5 and 6.0 sacks respectively for the season -- the secondary will have their work cut out for them.

Davon Morgan knows what it means to face a Ponder style quarterback. NC State's Russell Wilson was able to march down the field with ease as he passed for 362 yards on 21 of 49.

"[We have to] move around, give the quarterback some things to look at, some different looks, and just try to stay ahead of him," said Morgan when asked how they'd deal with Ponder.

The key for Morgan and the rest of the secondary is to stick to their assignments and find Ponder's throwing lanes. Thankfully, we have Jayron Hosley. Hosley has a nation leading 8 interceptions on the year. Combined with Morgan and Rock Carmichael and others, the Hokies are second in the nation with 20 interceptions. Speaking of Carmichael, as of Tuesday, Carmichael said "It's looking pretty good" that he might play on Saturday.

Here's a quick look at the statistical numbers for each offense.

Total yards per game 52nd (390.8) 38th (408.5)
Pass yards per game 67th (228.6) 78th (209.2)
Rush yards per game 35th (177.4) 17th (211.4)
Points per game 37th (31.7) 21st (34.8)

Well the numbers don't lie, just like the Interwebs and Bernie Madoff never lie. Sure the Hokies score more points and sure they have more rushing yards. Any team with 753 All-Star running backs would have tons of rushing yards. The thing I get most from these numbers is that we can just ignore these numbers.

A few key matchups that I think will be significant.

Firstly, Defensive Tackle John Graves vs Offensive Guard Rodney Hudson. Hudson is a beast in the trenches. If Graves can work his way around him, it will open up the lanes for the Hokie pass rush and/or close the lanes for the Seminoles backfield.

Secondly, the Hokie secondary vs. the Seminole receivers. Ponder (and EJ Manuel) have had a balance of four recievers with over 400-yards on the year. Bert Reed leads the bunch followed by Willie Haulstead, Taiwan Easterling and Rodney Smith.

Lastly, I want to address the red zone. Earlier this season, the Hokies were more than predictable in the 20-yards between them and the end zone. Once there, the first play call was almost always run. Early on, it led to only a 50% touchdown rate. The issues were pointed out by the media, the coaches acknowledged it, and all of a sudden the offense was mixing it up. The result: 75% of the 20 trips to the red zone in October resulted in touchdowns. Only one of those trips did not produce points. The trend continued in November with 17 of 19 trips producing points with 12 touchdowns.

Saturday night is going to be exciting. Break out the nachos and tasty beverages. It's likely we'll see a low scoring grudge match as two amazing defenses match up against very good offenses led by intelligent experienced senior quarterbacks. I don't think either team will be able to maintain the 30+ points against each other. The only way I could see that is if either offense gets turnover help from their respective defenses.

Either way, GO HOKIES! Beat Minnesota tonight, FSU on Saturday, and UVA on Sunday [WBBALL, FBALL, MBBALL]!