There are many "sexy" stats that we talk about in the world of CFB, especially here on TKP, that go a long way in helping us understand why a team is or isn't successful. None more important that how many points you score and how many points you give up. Those two have gone in our favor over the past four weeks, and hopefully that trend continues on Saturday night.
But there are many other little things that go largely unnoticed throughout the season, things that can really set teams up for success despite being outmanned on a given Saturday. Our game against Clemson will be one of those moments where we find our team outmanned, especially as it relates to depth.
Clemson will be the most talented team we face during the regular season and it will take a tremendous, maybe flawless, effort to pull off the upset. Fortunately enough, Justin Fuente has gotten this team back to some of its roots (insert Beamer Ball here) that I think will keep us in the game on Saturday evening. Take a look below at some of the unheralded stats that I think have set this team up for success each of the last 4 weeks:
1. Penalties: Virginia Tech has committed 16 penalties through 4 games for a total of 138 yards, good for 34.5 yards per game. Remember those drive killing penalties over the last few years?
2. Kick Return Yards: Our average starting field position when deciding to return a kickoff is the 26.7 yard line. I know that doesn't sound that great, but consider the past few years when we tended to run the ball out of the end zone only to return it to the 15 or 20 yard line. All those yards add up, and it's certainly easier to drive the ball 74 yards than it is 85 yards.
3. Punting and Kickoff: Oscar Bradburn has been, in my opinion, one of the most valuable players on this 2017 squad. He is averaging 41.8 yards per punt (good for 26th in the nation), but that stat doesn't tell the entire story. Of the 19 times he has punted, only 2 have found their way into the end zone for touchbacks. Add to that, our punt coverage unit has only given up a grand total of 1 return yard. That's right folks, a single return yard through 4 games. The coverage has certainly been good, but that is also aided by the way Bradburn has been kicking the ball. The kid has been a beast on special teams.
Between what Bradburn has been able to to punting and what Joey Slye has been able to do with the kickoffs, opposing offenses are forced to drive 3/4 the length of the field, or more, on most possessions. Based on my calculations, our opponents starting field position is the 23.1 yard line. What these units are doing is forcing opponents to really earn their points.
How many times have we seen our beloved Hokie Defense forced to defend a short field in the past because of a botched Special Teams play or turnover. Which brings me to #4...
4. Turnover margin: We are +5 in this category. I know that JJ isn't seeing all of his open receivers and that he is delivering the deep ball a tad late and/or not quite deep enough, but the kid is protecting the football. He and Cam each have one turnover, but these types of things aren't the norm like they were early last season. Think about where we were at this point last season (we had given the ball up 10 times through 4 games).
And lastly, to bring it all full circle...
5. Scoring Defense: I know we tend to get all bent out of shape when we see opposing offenses (insert WVU or ECU 1st half here) driving down the field or making a big play. But Bud's group has given up only 41 points through 4 games this season. I know the schedule hasn't been robust, but we did face a high powered Big12 WVU team to begin the season. Sure, we gave up a bunch of yards, but Bud concedes that in this modern era of spread football. His unit has been able to lock down the red zone. Of the 8 times Bud's unit has been in the red zone, they have given up 0 rushing TD's, 3 passing TD's and 2 FGs. If a team does drive the length of the field on the Virginia Tech defense, and Clemson will, things tighten up considerably in the red zone.
I don't know what the final score will be on Saturday evening, but I don know the Hokies will be facing a very talented team. There will be plays and drives that Clemson simply wins because they are better. But if the Hokies continue to control the things they can control, I think they can give themselves a fighter's chance.
All stats compiled from: http://www.ncaa.com/stats/football/fbs/current/team/28