By the (Advanced) Numbers: Arkansas

Can the Hokies take advantage of a weak Arkansas defense to capture its first 10-win season since 2011?

Whether completely deserved or not, the SEC has earned an aura of superiority over the last decade. Even though that perception was built on a long string of national championships from several elite teams, the respect extends throughout the conference. So while Arkansas may not be competing to win the SEC West most years, they can still be seen as a powerful squad and the SEC faithful would tell you its middling 7-5 record is just a result of the "SEC grind".

In short, beating Arkansas would be a pretty great cap to a pretty great season, and would be one more proclamation to the country that Virginia Tech is back. In case ten wins wouldn't send that message clearly enough.

Where the Season Stands

Virginia Tech is currently 9-4 and one win away from the 10-win season that was once the standard in Blacksburg. The actual and predicted score difference and odds of winning each game are:


Rankings and Computer Predictions

The computer rankings and predictions for each team:

Virginia Tech has clearly been the stronger team this season, and virtually every computer predicts a Hokies victory. The odds of a 7-point favorite winning are 69.9%.

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

While the offenses have similar overall ratings, the difference in overall team strength is clearly due to Bud Foster having the superior unit.

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?

The Razorbacks' rush defense may be setup to give Sam Rogers one last great memory playing in maroon and orange. Additionally, the Hokies have an enormous advantage on passing downs and should be able to dig out of holes regularly.

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

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

The Hokies are an efficient offense that avoids three-and-outs, and face an Arkansas defense that is...not particularly good at anything.

The Virginia Tech offense is closest in personality to:

  1. Nevada
  2. Temple
  3. Ole Miss

The Arkansas defense is closest in personality to:

  1. Charlotte
  2. Middle Tennessee
  3. Bowling Green

When Arkansas Has the Ball

Again, examine pass-run comparisons first:

The Razorbacks are a favorable matchup for the Hokies, with their strengths feeding right into Tech's strengths.

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

As for personality traits:

Again, personality-wise the Razorbacks' strengths (avoiding three-and-outs and turnovers) play right into the Hokies' defensive strengths.

The Virginia Tech defense is closest in personality to:

  1. Temple
  2. Boston College
  3. Clemson

The Arkansas offense is closest in personality to:

  1. Texas
  2. Tennessee
  3. Ole Miss

Special Teams

First we look at the Hokies' kicking units:

So Tech is good at kickoffs, and bad at returning them.

When the Razorbacks kick:

Arkansas features one of the best punting units in the country.

Who To Watch Out For

Arkansas is not full of marquee names but has plenty of talent:

  1. RB Rawleigh Williams III has rushed for over 1,300 yards on the season at 5.7 YPC.
  2. P Toby Baker averages 44.6 yards per punt. #puntingiswinning
  3. KR Deon Stewart only averages 20 YPR, but that's just fine because over 78% of Joey Slye's kicks are touchbacks anyway (3rd nationally).

Statistical Key to the Game

This is a good matchup on paper for Virginia Tech's defense, so I'm putting it on the offense to go out and win this game. The Arkansas pass defense isn't special, and its rush defense is even worse. If the Hokies are able to find success on the ground — 6 YPC or more — they should win the Belk Bowl easily.

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
Pitt .48 - .65 24.4 - 29.1 33:17 - 26:43
Duke .30 - .28 22.8- 23.1 30:02 - 29:58
Georgia Tech .25 - .46 26.9 - 22.2 24:05 - 35:55
Notre Dame .33 - .31 25.9 - 23.4 32:45 - 27:15
Virginia .64 - .15 24.4 - 22.2 32:42 - 27:18
Clemson .49 - .56 26.9 - 22.5 31:52 - 28:08

I will not value time of possession.

Statistical Prediction

The Hokies enter the game pretty healthy for this time of season, and confidence has to be high in the locker room. The feeling of the Hokies falling flat against OOC Power 5 competition seems to be gone from Blacksburg, and I think the team will be ready to prove themselves against SEC competition even if it's not an elite team.

Virginia Tech 42, Arkansas 24

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

Comments

This will be another chance for Virginia Tech to break the "we make bad defenses look good" mental block that years of middling to putrid offense, even dating back through the good years at times helped instill in our impressionable brains.

I hope your prediction is right and this is a game that we can be in control of throughout, giving our blood pressure a good rest.

we can be in control of throughout

Yes, I think those TOP misses will prove to be outliers.

___

-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.

Both offenses are similar to Ole Miss. not sure who this favors more.

___

-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.

I think on your third plot you have the "hokies win"/"opponent wins" text swapped...

I don't care what the stats say, i'm def very concerned with our DL / LB play against a power football / possession team that Brett has and always has had at his stops around the country.

This will NOT be a blowout as the projection suggests. If we win it'll be a squeaker - i'm thinking 34-31 for the good guys. Else I can see this being a big bad loss for us.

i'm def very concerned with our DL / LB play against a power football / possession team that Brett has

Especially with Mihota out.

The opponent OL stat above seems to indicate this is not a power run team.

Seems to indicate they umm.... They're the Scott Loeffler offense of power running

"I regret nothing. The end." - Ron Swanson

That's my point - I don't care what the stats say (regarding how good they are), their identity is that of a power football team, and outside of a BC team that has less talent than my old HS team (insert joke about breaking UMD here), we haven't done well against those traditionally. We honestly were lucky against Pitt this year when Canada stopped doing his bread / butter Conner runs against us for three series.

Despite Bielama's typical approach, Arkansas has been terrible as a power rushing team. They've gotten by with above-average qb play (which passes for elite in the SEC qb wasteland)

I think you have a typo. You have us beating Clemson in TOP, but we lost the game. Can't be right /s

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

The odds of a 7-point favorite winning are 69.9%.

Nice.

I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

I stopped reading after 69% chance of winning, giggity

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

Beating a SEC team is always a good thing.

So we've finally achieved the goal of replicating the Temple football program.

You misspelled "bak"

We put the K in Kwality