Six Pick: Week Twelve

Welcome everyone to Week 12, or as the SEC likes to call it, SoCon week. It's up to the rest of college football to shoulder the weight. ::GULP:: Buckle up, I feel another unbeaten succumbing to the pressure.

I know I mention GameDay a lot, but this week it's different. It's GameDawn. I love when the ESPN crew heads to Eugene. The broadcast starts out pitch black, then dawn pushes through the morning crowd, all the while throughout the morning the atmosphere is absolutely nuts. Autzen Stadium is on my very short list of stadiums to visit. I sure hope when I do it's on GameDawn. So tune in and enjoy the unique vibe of Pacific Northwest fans. They are all powered by the combo of weed, alcohol, and Red Bull.

Saturday, 11/17/2012

USC -3.5 at UCLA 3:00 pm FOX
for the Victory Bell at the Rose Bowl

Damn, I should have invented this at Tech

A Little Sweet with the Sour: Florida State Film Review

Before I start this week, I want to take a moment to thank BilldozerVT. All season, he has labored following many a painful football game to upload the game film that we use for analysis. Without his effort, this column would have degenerated into wandering nonsensical thoughts with the occasional reference to some seminal moment in my childhood, like Tim Krumrie's leg snapping in the second 49ers-Bengals Super Bowl or Don Mattingly's seven game home run streak. Please join me in thanking him.

Any hope the Hokies had of getting back into the ACC Coastal Division race evaporated into the cold Blacksburg sky on Thursday night. Perhaps, for the first time all season we saw what should have been for the 2012 Hokies. We saw a dominant defensive front that decimated the Florida State rushing offense, one of the top in the country. We saw an offense that flashed the skills of an elite quarterback, vertical passing, and a read oriented running game that opened holes on occasion with more guile than muscle. We saw a team that should be contending for an ACC title, but instead finds itself meandering its way through the worst season since I bought my first Nirvana cassette tape.

Hope for a Change: Tony Franklin '13

Many things symbolize Virginia Tech football, including a lunchpail mentality on defense, but the offense is devoid of its own identity. It's overly complex, conservatively predictable, and lacking in execution. Tech's had the same leadership on offense for the past 10 years and it feels as if a different approach is needed in order to consistently win the big games that have eluded the program. The staff have been learning on the job, some for a decade, and they haven't been held accountable for a subpar product. The struggles this year can't be attributed exclusively to just the offensive staff, but this year would be a good time to re-evaluate the philosophy and direction of the offense.

State of the Offense

Tech's offense incorporates a lot of different concepts and ideas from around the country, but execution has been sacrificed for complexity. The result: jack of all schemes, but not the master of one. The college game sets limits to how much time teams can practice. So what might work in the NFL, multiple formations and packages, doesn't in college. The offense usually picks mid-season after it's simplified, but it's bloated and stagnant towards the beginning of the season, and for the bowl game. Additionally, conservative tendencies lead to predictable play calling.

Gut Reactions: Florida State

I wanted to write and post something Friday morning after I re-watched the game, but a noon checkout, ride up I-81, and a couple of runs to the train station delayed things. A warning, these are really high level thoughts, and nothing particularly intuitive. I had a 45 minute call with French while I was on the interstate, and to put it mildly, I'm really looking forward to reading his film review.

I thought that was a very entertaining football game that was defined by good football plays more than mistakes. Statistically, FSU is a top-3 team nationally, their roster is stocked with 4- and 5-star talent, and Tech hung with them the entire game. After watching Thursday, then again Friday morning, I couldn't help to think that if we played with that much intensity all season, we would have no more than two losses right now.

I thought Logan Thomas played a gutsy game. Pass protection was an issue, and he took a bunch of hits. However, he never seemed timid in the pocket, and he looked for contact running downfield. He made NFL throws, like the ones leading up to and including the touchdown toss to Corey Fuller. However, some of his decision making left me with my hands up and mouth open. His ceiling is high. This is really subjective, but he looked like more of a leader on the sideline, talking to the offensive players, keeping their heads in the game. We need him to own the team next season.

Six Pick: Week Eleven

Welcome to Week 11 and the home stretch. The season has flown by, even if Tech has 3 seasons worth of losses. This will be brief and hastily put together Six Pick due to me being extremely busy in my personal life. However, I am not so busy that I can't make a trip to Blacksburg and back later this week. Go Hokies. I know this season has been a disappointment, but don't give up on this team or this sport, it always can't be our year. Celebrate others success, unless it's the dirty neers or hoos or Canes or Noles or Vols or ... never mind, watch to see if everything burns.

I have little to add this week, so I thought an offering to the Football Gods would suffice. At first I was thinking of offering a VT cheerleader or coed, then I thought about #ALLMAROONEVERYTHING, but the Gods don't want physical beauty, they want heart and something real, that signifies Virginia Tech football. The Lunchpail. To current students, this must a thing only seen on tshirts or foamed hats, but not so long ago, this meant something. Here is hoping it means something again, very soon.

Saturday, 11/10/2012

Northwestern at Michigan -10.5 12:00 pm ESPN

A Night Game in Lane

Editor's Note: Edited and bumped to the front. Let's sack up and blow our lungs out in the Terror Dome tomorrow night.

After the loss to Miami, I didn’t know what to write about. There was no ACC championship hope, no ten win season. Everything was gone. I was planning on writing about how a big matchup against Florida State could help us get to 10 wins; how we were going to be playing in Charlotte; how this was a big Thursday night matchup against FSU. All of that is gone. Pretty much all hopes for this season are gone. People have given up, and rightfully so. So why am I writing? I’m writing because I remembered we still have a Thursday night game in Lane Stadium.

Adventures on Whiskey Lane: Episode Ten

This week on Adventures on Whiskey Lane, Kevin returns after a brief hurricane hiatus and chats with Brian briefly about Miami and Florida State. With the season winding down and only pride to play for, both guys discuss future prospects for Tech, both this season and next. Plus, what podcast at this point of the season would be complete without coaching change chatter? Brian provides some exclusive insight on what could happen.

All of that and more on Episode 10 (!) of AOWL.

MP3 Download link:

Moving Forward to an Uncertain Future

A public service announcement for Frank Beamer and Jim Weaver: The moment you placed the empty national championship trophy case in your facility, the stakes were raised. No longer was the status quo, as unlikely as it is for a program in the heart of rural Virginia with no history of being nationally relevant, acceptable. A conference championship like 1995, a season remembered by older Hokie fans like me as a magical season, now means a guffaw and "I don't want to fly to Miami." The bar is higher, and you moved it with that trophy case. Unfortunately, this program is trending in the wrong direction. Virginia Tech used to win with a dominant defense, great special teams, and a ball control offense that played like a bully and limited mistakes. Offenses are catching up to the defense. Special teams have been in shambles for several seasons. The offense lacks any identity, other than being the team that struggling defenses circle on their schedule to get back on track.

Florida State Football Primer, Photo Edition


The Seminoles march into Blacksburg ranked #10 in the nation, boasting the number three scoring offense, defense, and best total defense in the nation. STOP ME IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS BEFORE.

The 'Noles only blemish this season was a loss at NC State, where their potent offense was shut out the entire second half.

Dating back to the Hokies first season in the ACC (2004), Tech has scored 12 touchdowns against the Seminoles, approximately all by Danny Coale.

Rationalizing our Mediocrity

Over different points of the season, we've suggested reasons on this site for Tech's struggles. A few in no particular order are: injuries to an already inexperienced secondary, offensive coaches struggling to grasp a foreign scheme seemingly over their heads, said scheme putting players in a position to fail, a randomly generated tailback rotation, and loafing among others. But what do any of us here really know.

The coaches are trying to figure out this mystery too, and some of them sound as baffled as we are.

Coaches have mentioned failed execution as being the biggest reason for the offense's -- and really the team's -- struggles this season. But they're having a tough time putting their finger on why that's the case. "You can't," O'Cain said. "If you did, you'd get it corrected right now and it'd be over. Sometimes the ball bounces right and sometimes it doesn't. And if you start saying, well it's this or this or this or this, then it sounds like you're making excuses."

Gut Reactions: Miami

I was going to write something last night, but I decided to go to bed after reading the following stats.

  • Tech out gained Miami by 74 yards (421-347), and ran 24 more plays.
  • Tech held the ball almost ten minutes more than Miami (34:21-25:49).
  • Miami converted only 1 of 12 attempts on third down.
  • Tech lost by 18 points.

Statistically dominating everywhere but the scoreboard has become and unwelcome trend. In order to get a better understanding of why we lost, I re-watched the game this morning. (The beatings will continue until morale improves, right?)

I thought the defense followed up their spectacular effort at Clemson with another terrific performance. Two special teams miscues left them to defend a short field in the first quarter, and they couldn't keep Miami out of the end zone. However, they forced 6 three-and-outs that the offense couldn't take advantage of. They dominated the second-half allowing just 10 points, 3 of which came in garbage time. It wasn't vintage Virginia Tech defense, but it was more than enough for a win.

I thought the d-line controlled the line of scrimmage. Even though they were unable to sack Morris they kept rather consistent pressure on him. Exum was targeted all night, and outside of being turned around in the end zone because of a terrific throw by Morris, and later biting on a double move, he really held his own.

It was an extremely sloppy game.

It's All About The U

Update: Use this as the open thread for the game tonight. See you guys on the flip side. Go Hokies! --Joe

Tonight's game against Miami will likely decide the ACC Coastal. In the ACC era, Tech's been a terrific road team. Coming into the season the Hokies held the record for consecutive true road games won (juking the stats a bit, but still impressive). However, this season they haven't won a game away from Lane.

I traveled to Pitt and Cincinnati. Both stadiums were missing something. People for sure, but also that familiar but indescribable ambience swirling around a college football game. Something like a cocktail of noise, sweat, and excitement splashed on your face as soon as you look down at the field from your seat. Either way, good teams are able to focus solely on taking care of business. Tech couldn't at the beginning of the year, can they do so tonight in another poorly attended college game shoehorned into a pro stadium?

Miami Football Primer, Photo Edition

It has been quite an eventful two weeks, has it not? First and foremost, my thoughts go out to everyone in the Northeast dealing with Sandy. This one's for you.

Appropriately, Hokies-Canes falls the day after Halloween; this season has been scary for both teams, who each sit at 4-4. Bet I know what Kellen Winslow will be this year...

Not only is Halloween this week, but we are also reaching the climax of election season for the Presidential race. Interestingly, POTUS spoke at the University of Miami earlier this month.

Six Pick: Week Ten

Welcome to the start of November football. So much for this weekend being the best weekend of the season, too much chaos and unpredictability this year. That's not to say there are bad games, far from it. Regardless, college football has officially entered put up or shut up time, where dreams are achieved or crushed. It's more than just who has the biggest package in the SEC West, or which program really is the class of the Pac 12. Who wants to win the ACC Coastal, the Big Ten Losers division, or play spoiler to the Irish? The season hasn't shaken out as expected, who's to say more surprises aren't coming?

A couple weeks back I mentioned how I enjoyed the increased college football coverage Fox has. However, it would be nice if the networks didn't have the top 3 teams playing in games at the same time. Poor K-State is going to get crushed in the ratings going head up against Oregon/USC and Bama/LSU. The Wildcats would have drawn more viewers at the 3:30 ABC time slot and enjoyed the benefits of being the best game on at that time. I'll quit my bitching now and make sure the remote is close by. Tracking this week's ESPN Gameday location has them returning to the SEC and heading to Baton Rouge. It's deserved and I can't think of a place I'd rather be on Saturday. I can almost smell the smoked pork and corn dogs.

Thursday, 11/1/2012

An ACC Halloween

Ryan and I started talking about Halloween, candy, and the ACC at midnight. Bad things happened and they follow.

Once in a while, Tom O'Brien enjoys a caramel cube. The bland taste reminds him of American values. And there's just enough sugar to necessitate the need for an evening jog (running is showing off), but not enough to consider him "high" on anything. He hands out dental floss.

Wake Forest gets a ten-dollar bill, because, "Take it, get the hell off my porch, and I don't ever wanna see you around here again."

Much like FSU, pumpkin flavor is back in September–October. Everybody raves how it's in everything they're eating and drinking, but by November no one gives a shit and they just want it out of their life.

Randy Edsall seems like the kind of asshole who turns his porch light off and doesn't give out candy, so Maryland gets egged. They try to return fire, but don't have a quarterback to do so.

Virginia Tech is best represented by a Krackel Bar. Each season it looks promising on the outside, but once you bite in, there's no substance.

Beamer forces O'Cain and Stinespring try to trick-or-treat in a two-man horse costume, but they can't get out of the door. He encourages them, "You're just a couple of steps away".

Adventures on Whiskey Lane: Episode Nine

This week Brian goes solo due to Hurricane Sandy. He interviews Tech Assistant Director of Broadcasting Andrew Allegretta, where they talk heavily about the state of the ACC and what the additions of Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame will do for the conference.

Brian then does a quick breakdown of the upcoming Miami game.

All that and more, on this episode of Adventures on Whiskey Lane.

MP3 Download link:

Q&A with State of the U

This week I exchanged questions with the Miami blog State of the U. They talk about the misnomer of "the U's culture", Al Golden's rebuilding process, and the general inconsistencies that come with playing such a young lineup.

TKP: Okay, before I get into specifics I want to ask about all of the stuff that happened last summer. Miami is pretty much the poster child of the dreaded report "Charles Robinson sighted on campus". Ironically, the reported infractions didn't really surprised that many people (including myself), because it seemed to fit in with "The U"'s culture. Has there a been a noticeable change in the way this team acts and performs on and off the field under Al Golden?

Here Comes the Screen (Analysis)

It's the most feared word in the Virginia Tech offensive playbook: SCREEN! As tensions mount from O'Cainspring's tactics and the team's struggles, I took it upon myself to do research screen plays and their success rates.

So with Hurricane Sandy hammering the East Coast, I decided to increase the bleakness and watch the game film provided on the site and account for every screen run this year and analyze the stats by player, quarter, down, distance, formation, and yards gained. Then everything was analyzed again for only ACC games.

The entire chart is available below to peruse, but I came up with 39 deliberate screen plays. These are defined as a play where either a running back or wide receiver have blockers set up and is the primary target of the pass. Dump-offs and outlet passes that are thrown behind the line of scrimmage do not count.

Hurricane A' Coming: Winds of Change for the Hokies Defense

On the eve of a critical Thursday night matchup with the Miami Hurricanes, questions about the Hokie offense abound. While any changes to the offensive coaching staff, and a corresponding change in philosophy, will not take place until the offseason, we have seen a radical change in Bud Foster's defensive approach that has resulted in a significantly improved pass rush and run defense over the past two weeks. That continued success will be critical to any hopes of victory against a depleted, yet talented Hurricanes offense.

A quick comparison of film from the Pitt and UNC games versus the Duke and Clemson games demonstrates two significant changes in Bud Foster's philosophy.

A New Spin on an Old Trick: 4-4 and Stopping the Run

The first was a return to the old 90's 4-4 alignment, but adjusted to fit three and four wide receiver sets. It was utilized to shore up a previously porous run defense.

Statistics on Predictability, Part 2

As a follow-up to last week's post on predictability of our offense, a couple of commenters mentioned that a better comparison might be to the best teams in the country rather than all teams (since we aspire to be one of the best and most years are). In this post we'll compare the behavior seen by VT with that of the top twenty offenses in the country as ranked at