Guys, the Virginia Tech Hokies scored 57 straight points against an FBS team last week. 57 straight! It's the kind of offensive output even the Stinespring truthers couldn't imagine. And now Old Dominion comes to town, a squad who was steamrolled by North Carolina last week.
While we daydream about another offensive explosion, it's important to realize a few things. One, this is the most important game of the ODU's season. Many of those guys grew up in Virginia, know Tech very well, and finally have a shot to take on one of the big boys in the commonwealth. And as someone who grew up on the peninsula and has many Facebook friends who are Monarch alums, I can confidently say they are riled up for a trip to Blacksburg.
And two, everyone is already looking ahead to Clemson. No matter how many times Justin Fuente says that his players aren't looking past ODU, they're definitely looking past ODU. We all are. Fans are clamoring for College GameDay to come to Blacksburg, ESPN has already announced an eight o'clock kick on national television, and Dabo Swinney is TOTALLY NOT LOOKING AHEAD, OKAY YOU GUYS?
But remember, the game next week means nothing if Tech falls flat. This Saturday Lane Stadium will be sold out, the offense will be humming, and the Edmunds brothers will be hunting for blood.
On to the (fake) lines!
Over/Under 100.5 receiving yards for Cam Phillips.
Brian: It can't keep happening, right? Opponents giving a 10-yard cushion and just letting Phillips and Jackson play catch for 60 minutes? Some combination of pass rush and double coverage will eventually bring these numbers back to earth, but until then is there any reason to assume his production dips?
This stretch is one of the most impressive things we've seen a Hokie receiver do in recent memory. Through three games, Cam has 27 catches, 417 yards, and five TDs. Only two other Tech players have put together a similar run. Phillips' former running mate Isaiah Ford ended 2015 by putting up a 26/503/3, including a 227-yard outing against Tulsa that I once described as "a Corleone." But in terms of pure impressiveness, nothing tops the three-game stretch from Andre Davis in 1999. Davis put up 431 yards against West Virginia, Temple, and Boston College, which is nice until you realize that it came on just 14 CATCHES. That means Davis averaged 30 yards a catch for the entire month of November '99.
All these spread offenses are nice, but sometimes things are more fun when you have an amazing quarterback and one really fast receiver. I'll take the over for Cam, the over for number of Vick/Davis highlights I'm about to watch, and over for the number of minutes it'll take me to walk this erection off.
Pierson: Uh, did you pay attention to Saturday's game where 58% of Josh Jackson's completions went to Mr. Phillips? It's difficult to ignore the rapport that the two have developed in a single off-season. When Jackson needs a completion, he always seems to be looking Cam's way. Whether it's a 10-yard out or curl, Phillips is right where the redshirt freshman quarterback needs him to be.
Through three games, Phillips is averaging 139 yards per game, good for #2 nationally. Old Dominion's pass defense is #79 in the nation, giving up 255 yards per game to FBS teams. That ranks the Monarchs well ahead of both West Virginia and East Carolina, but they aren't exactly shutting down opposing passing attacks.
Consider this: Through three games, Cam has accounted for 49.3% of Virginia Tech's receiving yards. 49.3% of 255 yards is 125.7 yards, which is greater than 100.5. #Math. I'll take the over.
Who has more: Virginia Tech total touchdowns or Brian Marcolini and Pierson Booher total in-game beers?
Brian: You may think that this is an easy over for Pierson and I, but let's think it through a bit. Last week, Tech ran up eight touchdowns against ECU. In Norfolk, a decent-but-not-great UNC squad hit the end zone seven times against the Monarchs. So the potential for points is there for the Hokies.
On the flip side, let's look at the halfwit portion of this wager. Pierson's a stand up citizen, a parent, and a responsible adult. I'm in a grad school program that never takes a day off, making drinking in the middle of the day nearly impossible. Do you think we'd actually do enough to hold up our end of this drinking-based wager?
Oh you do?
Yeah, you're probably right.
Pierson: This is our first football season with a toddler, which — as some of you know — complicates the football watching experience. Watching games was easy last fall when our son was only a few months old. All you had to do was keep it cool when they were awake and keep it quiet when they were asleep. By the end of the season, I had perfected the celebratory silent-jump-from-the-couch-to-power-stance-fist-pumping move. During the Delaware game, all my son wanted to do was read Sandra Boynton books and build towers out of Mega Blocks.
I realize I have now lost 65% of our audience.
So last week — with some help from President of TheKeyPlay's A/V Club, Mr. Billy Berlin — my wife and I watched the game on delay after our son went to sleep for the night. That's right, I said it. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I kind of liked it. It was a little weird having to ignore the internet for 4 hours and certainly won't become a regular thing, but it was really nice to squeeze in an abbreviated power hour and then enjoy watching the beat down in Greenville.
So will we be doing the same thing this weekend against ODU? Maybe. It's easy to do when the intrigue is non-existent. During ACC play, I don't think I can stomach not knowing what is going on with the Hokies. In short, there's a high probability that this game will be watched on delay, which means beers will be had. Even if Tech scores a bevy of touchdowns, I'm hoping I still come out on top on my own. Since this is a combined stat, there's no way we lose. Brian and Pierson in a landslide.
Over/Under 2.5 number of times you'll have to restart the ESPN app to properly watch the game.
Brian: Confession: while the Delaware game was having trouble streaming, I freaked out with the rest of Twitter. We were all complaining about the lack of responsibility ESPN had for putting our game in a place where we couldn't consistently watch it. But when the general response was "quit the app and reopen it" I have to admit: I didn't know the apps could be restarted on an Apple TV.
So there I was, a 26-year-old millennial who loves technology and all the advancements that come with it, frantically Googling how to quit an app on a device I had owned for over a year. I'm dumb, and I think this time around it'll work just fine. But either way, let's hope this is the last time we'll have to deal with ACC Network Extra in 2017.
Pierson: HARD OVER. Out of all of the Roku and Apple TV apps I have used, ESPN's is consistently the worst. You would think that the Worldwide Leader would be able to provide a decent web platform, considering how rapidly they're shedding cable subscribers. But it's always been garbage and that will surely never change.
I remember watching the VT-BC game 10 years ago — back when it was ESPN3 — and staring at the screen as the feed buffered for 3-5 minutes with one minute to play in the fourth quarter. While cursing at my laptop, I vividly remember staring at the bottom line that displays the time elapsed vs. time remaining and seeing it extend an additional 10%. I damn near had a heart attack. I knew then and there that something had gone terribly, terribly wrong in Blacksburg. It made watching what soon transpired even more gut wrenching.
I hate the ESPN app and how perfectly it reflects the company's arrogance to invest so little in their product. And I hate how dependent we are on it to watch the team we love. On the bright side, all of the times I will need to restart the app should give me plenty of time to hit the over on in-game beers consumed.
Does Virginia Tech have a non-offensive touchdown?
Brian: ODU is starting a 17-year-old, true freshman quarterback. On the road. Against a defense that wants to keep sharpening its tools before a gigantic matchup against Clemson. It has all the makings of a Greg Stroman pick-six from forty yards out, as a dejected youngster walks bewilderedly back to his sideline.
That being said, I doubt we see anything crazy from Foster and company, considering he has to save some stuff for the biggest game Lane Stadium's seen in a decade. So it's unlikely we see anything other than the offense put up points on Saturday. But just for kicks, here are my top five guys most likely to find the end zone against the Monarchs:
- Greg Stroman: This one's easy. Not only could he take back an interception, but he'll have plenty of chances in the return game.
- Andrew Motuapuaka: Did you know that Motuapuaka has scored at least one touchdown in each of his seasons in Blacksburg? He ran a fumbled kick return back against Western Michigan as a freshman, had a pick-six and a fumble return as a sophomore, and ran a Connor Brewer fumble 70-yards for a score against UVA last year.
- Tremaine Edmunds: Tremaine is everywhere. Blitzing off the edge, covering tight ends in space, sticking running backs near the line of scrimmage. He doesn't just creative big plays (see the sack against Delaware), but he also finds himself near the ball a ton.
- James Clark: Okay, so the kick return hype train may have gotten a little out of control after one great runback against West Virginia. But it only takes one seam for Clark to take a kickoff to the house. The only problem is, he'll have far fewer chances than Stroman or anyone on defense.
- Tim Settle: Is this wishful thinking? Yes. Is it likely? No. But could you imagine the heart attack we'd all have if big Tim ran a fumble back, and became an instant Piesman contender?
Pierson: ODU is -3 in turnover margin, while the Hokies are +5 on the year. The Old Dominion offense isn't exactly lighting the world on fire this season, ranking 112th nationally in total offense with 322.3 yards per game. Bud Foster's group will be licking their chops against an offense that has struggled to find success against teams like Albany and UMass.
One week out from a monumental showdown with Clemson, I wouldn't expect to see any complicated schemes from the Hokies defense. Given the talent gap between the two programs, so long as the Hokies don't sleepwalk through Saturday while dreaming about their primetime matchup with the Tigers, they should be able to create some chaos against the Monarchs. ODU is not a complete train wreck on special teams, but Greg Stroman and James Clark have the talent to take one to the house at any time. I'll say yes, the Hokies score a non-offensive touchdown this weekend.
First quarter spread: Virginia Tech -7.5
Brian: Through three games, the Hokies have a combined first quarter score of 17-17. Yes, all of the points allowed came in one sloppy start against ECU, but that doesn't change the fact that Jackson and the offense have had criminally slow starts. It's okay to look back at last week's conquest in Greenville and think about the 57 straight points, but those first 15 minutes weren't fun to watch. The same goes for the Delaware game, where the touchdown didn't even come on offense. I'll take the Monarchs +7.5 through a quarter, only because I haven't seen a hot start from Jackson and crew yet.
Pierson: Brian stole my thunder. I was all prepared to talk about how the Hokies have sputtered out of the gate in each of their first three games, but Brian was just too quick at the keyboard for me. For brevity's sake, I will give Brian a respectful tip of the cap and take the Monarchs +7.5 as well.
PROVE US WRONG, OFFENSE! (Or just save that first quarter magic for another week and shock the world!)
Matchup Over/Under: 57 points
Brian: This doesn't seem like enough points, which isn't a phrase commonly found in regular Hokie vernacular. Tech ran it up against ECU, and now faces an Old Dominion group who gave up 53 to UNC at home? Sign me up for a 49-17 solid win for the good guys.
Pierson: My turn in the confessional. I vastly underestimated this offense's ability to rack up points last week. I felt reasonably confident that this year's ECU defense was sub-par. I felt reasonably confident that the Hokies would cruise to victory. But 57 straight points? No way. So here we are, one week later, trying to figure out whether the Tech offense is that good or the ECU defense is that bad. It's likely a combination of both, but some consistency sure would settle down my blood pressure.
As we all have discussed since the West Virginia game, this offense is far from perfect and short on depth. But when the players and the play callers are clicking, they can really shine. One week away from a monumental clash with the defending national champions, I wouldn't expect much panache from either side of the football. This will likely be one last vanilla game plan aimed at earning a win and finishing the game healthy. With the offense riding high and looking to redeem themselves in front of the home crowd, I'm expecting some fireworks. I'll take the over.
Spread: Virginia Tech (-26.5)
Brian: There are two things that bother me about this line: the fact that ODU is going to try to chuck it deep with their young QB (adding to the likelihood of a blown assignment), and that Fuente may try to get Jackson and most of the starters out of the game as quickly as possible. As I said above, I think they'll cover, but it wouldn't shock me to see ODU get a touchdown or two late in the fourth quarter to grab a backdoor cover.
Pierson: 26.5 points is nothing to sneeze at, but this line feels low to me. Maybe I'm still riding the high from last week's virtuoso performance from the Hokies. But doesn't it feel good??? I don't need a stinkin' betting line harshing my mellow. I'll take the Hokies and lay the points.
Disclaimer: Some of these are real betting lines, but many of them are fake and none of this is real advice that should be taken seriously.