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
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:
- Ole Miss
The Arkansas defense is closest in personality to:
- Middle Tennessee
- 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:
- Boston College
The Arkansas offense is closest in personality to:
- Ole Miss
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:
- RB Rawleigh Williams III has rushed for over 1,300 yards on the season at 5.7 YPC.
- P Toby Baker averages 44.6 yards per punt. #puntingiswinning
- 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):
|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.
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.