By the (Advanced) Numbers: Pitt of Despair

Will Justin Fuente break the spell that plagued the Hokies at Heinz Field under Frank Beamer?

[Mark Umansky]

Dominating Miami makes a lot of things feel better, doesn't it?

Now Virginia Tech's attention turns to Pitt, a team for which all ratings, records, and on-paper talent don't seem to apply. When Pitt is the better team they beat Virginia Tech. When Pitt is the lesser team they beat Virginia Tech. It doesn't really matter. They don't have their own stadium; their fans don't come to games; they think the team has much greater historical significance than it does; and they beat Virginia Tech.

Will Justin Fuente break the cycle, or will the Pitt of Despair continue?

Where the Hokies' Season Stands

Virginia Tech is currently 5-2. The actual and predicted score difference and odds of winning each game are:

Needless to say, Pitt is the biggest remaining obstacle although a later upset it certainly possible.

The odds of each possible regular season win total are now:

If that was posted in August it would have been well received. In 10,000 simulations the Hokies won at least two more games every single time. A win at Pitt would make a 10-win season quite likely, as well as a berth in the ACC Championship Game. Unfortunately a win at Pitt is a mythical creature as likely to be seen as a unicorn or a winning season in Charlottesville.

Rankings and Computer Predictions

The computer rankings and predictions for each team:

Whoa whoa whoa. There is a computer rating that ranks Virginia Tech as the No. 2 team in the country. It is called Nutshell and in Massey's comparison it is the least accurate system, but I for one now think it is a wonderful system and have ever since five minutes ago. The odds of a 3.5-point favorite winning are 60.4%.

Next is a look at any overall offensive or defensive advantages:

Pitt has a very good offense, but does not feature a particularly stout defense. The Hokies' middling offense is the team's best in years and the defense is very, very good.

When Virginia Tech Has the Ball

Here is an explanation of S&P+ ratings, and FEI ratings. All statistics are now opponent-adjusted.

Who has the advantage in the passing and rushing game when the Tech offense has the ball?

To satisfy curiosity, those outliers on defense are Michigan, Michigan, Michigan, and Michigan. Back to this game, the Hokies continue to not impress rushing or on standard downs, and to be good at passing and very good on passing downs. The Panthers' defense is mediocre across the board.

Offensive and defensive line performance are compared using Football Outsiders' metrics:

The Hokies' unit has not performed well in most categories and is particularly weak at power success rate; the Panthers' unit on the other hand is very good at stopping the run but not particularly good at preventing power success. Who wins the short yardage game will be interesting.

Now let's take a look at the FEI personality traits of the Hokie offense versus the Panther defense:

The Tech offense does not stand out in any personality metrics, but the Pitt defense seems to give up touchdowns on a high percentage of drives, indicating this game may be feast or famine for Evans and company.

The No. 52 Virginia Tech offense is closest in personality to:

  1. TCU
  2. Tulsa
  3. Temple

The No. 99 Pittsburgh defense is closest in personality to:

  1. Old Dominion
  2. Texas
  3. Rutgers

When Pittsburgh Has the Ball

Again, examine pass-run comparisons first:

Pitt is above average in all categories, while Virginia Tech is excellent across the board — especially against the pass.

Offensive and defensive line performance are again compared using Football Outsiders' metrics:

On 3rd- or 4th-and-short don't even think about it, Pitt.

As for personality traits:

This is a difficult matchup that will be interesting to watch play out...both teams are very good in all categories except for drives that end in turnovers. That has been the Achilles heel of the Panthers, but the Hokies have not been particularly great at creating them.

The No. 15 Virginia Tech defense is closest in personality to:

  1. Clemson
  2. Ohio State
  3. Louisville (defense guys, not offense)

The No. 18 Pittsburgh offense is closest in personality to:

  1. Oregon
  2. Texas
  3. Boise State

Special Teams

First a look at the Hokies' kicking units:

The Hokies have been great at kicking off, and not very good at returning kicks; then great at returning punts, but not so great at punting. But on balance the team has been very good at winning field position.

When the Panthers kick:

Pitt only really stands out at returning kickoffs, but that may be meaningless given Joey Slye's propensity to just kick it out of the back of the end zone.

Who To Watch Out For

  1. Home run threat WR Jester Weah averages over 21 yards per catch on the season.
  2. Senior Ejuan Price is third in the country with nearly 2 tackles for loss (1.86) per game.
  3. Quadree Henderson may lead the country in kickoff return average at 35.94 yards, but it won't matter because Joey Slye remains No. 1 in the country with a 65.29-yard kickoff average.

Statistical Key to the Game

To keep Pitt from putting up too many points, creating turnovers will be key to this game when Virginia Tech is on defense. The Panthers feature a very good offense that will be difficult to shut down entirely, but they are turnover prone and the Hokies need to take advantage. Thus turnover margin is the statistical key to the game.

The Stats that Define Virginia Tech's Season

Revisiting my column from this summer on the stats that will define the season, here is how the Hokies performed thus far (each listed as VT - Opponent):

Opponent PPP Pace (sec/play) ToP
Liberty .40 - .21 22.7 - 25.5 33:42 - 26:18
Tennessee .33 - .71 26.1 - 26.1 31:44 - 28:16
Boston College .64 - 0 27.5 - 26.1 35:15 - 24:45
East Carolina .79 - .25 26.5 - 26.0 30:03 - 29:57
UNC .41 - .05 28.9 - 19.4 39:59 - 20:01
Syracuse .24 - .31 22.2 - 20.1 26:35 - 33:25
Miami .55 - .21 26.4 - 23.5 29:28 - 30:32

I will not value time of possession.

Statistical Prediction

Well, it is the Pitt of Despair so really the question is how much the Hokies will lose by. There is the distinct possibility that the Panthers are able to pound the run game to avoid turnovers and wear down Tech's defense, and it is unlikely the Hokies' DL will be able to disrupt Pitt's OL like they did Miami's.

So Pitt will almost certainly win the game, right? Nah.

Virginia Tech 30, Pittsburgh 24

As always a thanks to Football Outsiders, cfbstats.com, and Minitab Statistical Software.

Comments

I have to ask... who is that one outlier at the top of Offensive Sack Rate?

That would be Troy (of course!), who has only given up a single sack all season.

Why do you think our odds of getting to 7 wins are so bad?
/s

Most likely outcome is 10 wins, even after losing to Syracuse. That would be hard to predict preseason, unless that was your one "let down" game.

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-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

The Pit of Despair, don't even....achhh... Don't even think about trying to escape.

Let's see what kind of curse breaking power Fuente has

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
“I served in the United States Navy"

KCCO

There's a problem with the upvote button, it only lets me give one leg....

Here's hoping we take the scoreboard to 50.

"And then the real chess match began." - Justin Fuente

Great another horrible defense. For whatever reason we always seem to do horrible against horrible defenses. A tough defense and we play at least decent. But a horrible defense we for some reason make them look like an NFL caliber defense.

I agree that turnovers will be the key to the game because, historically, our offense is going to need every opportunity they can get.

If you don't want to recruit clowns, don't run a clown show.

"I want to punch people from UVA right in the neck." - Colin Cowherd

horrible secondary *

Known to be a Human Carcinogen.

To be fair, ECU and Syracuse are the only horrible defenses we've faced, and we put up 54 against one of those teams. The next worst is UNC who is actually a respectable 49th (they have a solid pass defense) and we put 34 on them.

If it happened once, it happens every time. Kinda like how Bud Foster can't stop a running QB except for all the times he has.

Any sample size greater than 1 is proof that statistics always lie.

One thing this does not account for is that the horrible defenses (Syracuse and Pitt) have some time to fix the holes in their defense.

Also, the harder to quantify "Get-up-for-a-conference-game" factor for both teams.
1) Having a chance to screw and ACC team
2) Beat a ranked team for the first time in awhile

The Dude Abides

The biggest issue is a loss to Pitt could derail us mentally and because of it, we might pick up another loss down the line

Hokies, Local Soccer, AFC Ajax, Ravens

but hey, 8-4 isn't such a bad season..especially considering most of us would have been happy with that mark before the season started....and nobody was predicting VT to win more than 7 games anyway

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

I want our lines to be Andre here

"Jerod Evans had more moves on that run than Bayer has aspirin!"

-Mike Burnop, 9/24/2016

Unfortunately a win at Pitt is a mythical creature as likely to be seen as a unicorn or a winning season in Charlottesville.

I'm going to have to go with a win at Pitt first out of these three, but really tough call on the other two. Might want to re-check your math on that comparison. Some mythical creatures are more common than others.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

Maybe even it up with "...a unicorn or a fan in Scott Stadium"?

I was going to say "or E$PN not asking So What's a Hokie anyway?"

Unfortunately a win at Pitt is a mythical creature as likely to be seen as a unicorn or a winning season in Charlottesville.

Nonsense, we've had 6 winning seasons in Charlottesville since 2005.

In fact, I'd say that winning seasons in Charlottesville are more common than winning seasons in Blacksburg. Usually only a team or two have winning seasons every year in Blacksburg (though slightly more in the last few years).

What did I learn today?

From those comparisons, we're playing Texas this week. As long as the team comes into this game focused and looking to prove what happened in Syracuse wasn't the norm, I think we'll be ok.

Don't let this comment take away from the fact that Arkansas blew a 24 point 2nd half lead in the Belk Bowl.
Don't let the Belk Bowl take away from the fact that Matt Ryan blew a 25 point 2nd half lead in the Super Bowl.

And our offense is most similar to TCU? It's almost like the offenses are related somehow!

How does Pitt rank for TOP? That is the most important statistic after all.

{11 year old watching games last weekend}

11 -- What's time of possession?
me -- How long a team has had the ball on offense.
11 -- But if you score quickly, why does that matter?
me -- Exactly.
11 -- That's stupid, they should stop showing us that. Who cares.

{parenting mic drop}

Why did you name your kid 11??

Never mind, clearly you name your kids after the number of wins achieved the season they were born.

Or maybe you were a huge Adibi fan...

Ya know, when a man works hard his entire life enduring hundreds of ladies, many of whom he does not even remember you'd like to think that at the end of the day he will be given a lot of money, without having had to earn it.

Or his kid has crazy, paranormal powers and "Stranger Things" is actually a documentary about his life.

True story, they got the inspiration for that entire show after watching the 2007 and 2008 Virginia Tech football seasons....

Don't let this comment take away from the fact that Arkansas blew a 24 point 2nd half lead in the Belk Bowl.
Don't let the Belk Bowl take away from the fact that Matt Ryan blew a 25 point 2nd half lead in the Super Bowl.

Cory Moore may have created the terror dome, but Xavier Addibi is the scariest player to wear maroon and orange he could huant opposing offenses with one look

He said give to me Roscoe

I have this exact jersey (except #2), and i wish we'd go back to this. Very clean and slick design.

Loved this uni, I still rock the 4 from this one quiet often..."Eddie, Eddie, Eddie!"

Yep, I still got my Eddie Royal jersey too.

Now finish up them taters; I'm gonna go fondle my sweaters.

I will see your Eddie Royal, and raise you my Lee Suggs jersey.

I see your Lee Suggs and raise you my Marcus Vick Al Clark jersey

Don't let this comment take away from the fact that Arkansas blew a 24 point 2nd half lead in the Belk Bowl.
Don't let the Belk Bowl take away from the fact that Matt Ryan blew a 25 point 2nd half lead in the Super Bowl.

True story: I have been on the other end of one of those looks. I used to live above Xavier and one night we played rock band a little too late. He was actually really nice for it being 1:15am.

So, your sayin that the scars have healed and therapy was successful?

Take the shortest route to the ball and arrive in bad humor.

Part of the reason that I can't stop wearing the #7 Ron Mexico jersey is the fact that the version of the jersey is too awesome

The Dude Abides

And if you don't score quickly...

The correct answer when you get down to it is "it depends".

___

-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

Wow i didnt realize how dominant michigan is defensively right now

Taylor, looking desperately throws it deep..HAS A MAN OPEN DANNY COALE WITH A CATCH ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE FIVE!!!!....hes still open

Still couldn't stop Danny Coale from catching that ball though.

It's a little insane. And although those numbers are opponent adjusted, I'd still like to see them go up against a legitimately good offense.

yeah no offense to the badgers but outside of ohio state they haven't been world beaters on that side of the ball and even in that game they struggled to stick it in. They'll have their shots later this season, unfortunately it might not be until the OSU game

Taylor, looking desperately throws it deep..HAS A MAN OPEN DANNY COALE WITH A CATCH ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE FIVE!!!!....hes still open

Little shocked at how good our defense is projected in 3 and 4th and short after the beating that Syracuse gave us on those downs.

The rules now so ridiculously favor offenses that a team can be terrible defensively on occasion and still be much better than most other defenses.

I'm about the least "sabermetrics"-y, numbers guy I know - I don't even play fantasy. But I enjoy the heck out of these. Thanks Joel!

One amazing stat - truly surprising - is that we've been outpaced in every game except Liberty (and, amazingly, tied Tennessee - do you see that often?). I know it's because it's new for us, but it feels like we've got the throttle wide open out there.

I suppose we've slowed it down in the 2nd half of a few of these games, though, to milk clock. Are teams who've played in close games the highest ranked pace-wise? Or teams who have constantly played from behind? The highest-scoring teams?

Real fun to dork out on. Thanks again.

You're the only ones that I can talk to about this, you guys.

I haven't pulled any specific numbers, but VT has built sizable leads and killed clock.

S&P+ has an adjusted pace rating, which doesn't include the non-competitive portion of games, and has VT rated as the 19th-fastest playing offense in the country. http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/ncaaoff

the non-competitive portion of games

So did they throw out three whole contests?

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-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

Alright, g-d it, who's that actor and what's the movie? I *hate* the fact that I have to ask that, I'm usually on point with movies and actors but I'm drawing a blank today.

Haters gonna hate, potatoes gonna potate, and hetzers gonna hetz

Zach Effron - Neighbors

Outspoken team cake advocate. Hates terrapins. Resident Macho Man Gif Poster. Distant cousin to Dork Magic.

Robert DeNiro... and isn't that Taxi Driver?

Don't let this comment take away from the fact that Arkansas blew a 24 point 2nd half lead in the Belk Bowl.
Don't let the Belk Bowl take away from the fact that Matt Ryan blew a 25 point 2nd half lead in the Super Bowl.

Pretty sure I'm right.

Outspoken team cake advocate. Hates terrapins. Resident Macho Man Gif Poster. Distant cousin to Dork Magic.

NerdMagic =

"That move was slicker than a peeled onion in a bowl of snot." -Mike Burnop

Son of a.....damnit I knew I recognized the face I just couldn't place it. Ugh.....I'm gonna go over to the corner of shame now

Haters gonna hate, potatoes gonna potate, and hetzers gonna hetz

Travis Bickle... He'll get after ya.

Lookin' at YOU, Pitt. LLLLLLET'S GOOOOO

You're the only ones that I can talk to about this, you guys.

Wait, they said what about us?

Don't let this comment take away from the fact that Arkansas blew a 24 point 2nd half lead in the Belk Bowl.
Don't let the Belk Bowl take away from the fact that Matt Ryan blew a 25 point 2nd half lead in the Super Bowl.

is your gif backwards? looks off...

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

Now finish up them taters; I'm gonna go fondle my sweaters.

Louisville, with the offense they have shown and having a defense similar to ours is a little scary.

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about