By the Advanced Numbers: Clemson

Comparing and contrasting the various statistical matchups between the Hokies and Tigers.

With 1:16 left in the ACC Championship Game, Virginia Tech faced a 4th-and-6 from the Clemson 23-yard-line, down by only 7 points. Few expected the Hokies to even be playing in the game before the season started, but there they were, knocking on the door with less than 100 seconds to go. But instead of moving the chains or sticking it in, Cordrea Tankersley intercepted Jerod Evans to seal a 42-35 win, and championship, for the Tigers.

Justin Fuente would ultimately post 10 wins in his first season in Blacksburg, and multiple offensive records would be broken. And a 7-point loss to a Clemson team that would go on to throttle Ohio State and then defeat Alabama in the playoffs would be seen as a surprising sign of the rising Hokies.

In 2017 a 7-point gap between Virginia Tech and Clemson isn't a surprise, it's the expectation.

Where the Season Stands

Virginia Tech is currently 4-0, but has only faced an FCS team and FBS teams currently rated 47th, 122nd, and 104th by S&P+. Clemson is rated 6th. The actual and predicted score difference and odds of winning each game are:

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

12-0...still in play. The odds of an undefeated regular season and plausible playoff berth have now risen to 1.64%. Additionally, the odds of defeating Virginia remained the same this week, while the odds of defeating every other remaining opponent on the schedule increased over last week.

Rankings and Computer Predictions

The computer rankings and predictions for each team:

While the computers aren't sure yet what to make of Virginia Tech, rating them anywhere from 2nd to 43rd, there is universal agreement that Clemson remains an elite team. The worst computer rating for Clemson, 8th, is higher than all but a few computer ratings for the Hokies. The odds of a 7-point underdog winning are 30.1%. However, as can be seen above, S&P+ projects an even higher 35.4% chance of Virginia Tech winning.

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

The Tigers are rated slightly better than the Hokies in both offense and defense. Both teams are among the elite in the country on the defensive side of the ball. Both feature exceptional defensive lines and less-than-exceptional offensive lines, don't expect either quarterback to be afforded much time to sit in the pocket.

Who To Watch Out For

Clemson and Florida State remaining the undisputed leaders of attracting top recruits in the ACC, and the Tigers are loaded with elite talent:

  1. Clemson is third in the country in sacks with 17, and DT's Christian Wilkins (2.5) and Dexter Lawrence (1.5) anchor the line. But statistically, DL Austin Bryant has produced the most sacks with 5 on the season already.
  2. Freshman RB Travis Etienne is 2nd in the country with a 12.70 ypc average; Etienne is a home run threat every time he touches the ball and will be dangerous if the Clemson o-line is able to create lanes for him.
  3. Clemson currently ranks 80th in the country in kickoff return average. However, they face Joey Slye who is first in the country in touchback percentage at 96.67%. The lone return came on a squib kick. No FBS team has scored more touchdowns than Joey Slye has touchbacks.

Statistical Key to the Game

I have faith that the Hokies' defense will get to QB Kelly Bryant regularly and limit Clemson's ability to keep the chains moving, but Travis Etienne worries me. However, I'm mostly concerned about the Tech offense and whether or not they can effectively scheme around a defensive line that will almost certainly push around the Tech offensive line. Not getting put into holes that are difficult to get out of against an elite defense will be critical for both teams, so I think the team that limits tackles for loss will have a huge advantage in this one.

Statistical Prediction

One of the great things about the Hokies under Fuente is the confidence that they can win any game, even if they fall behind or struggle early. Five years ago this would look like a potentially embarrassing blowout, but no longer — I suspect even a loss with be a competitive one. However, I'm not about to start predicting losses around here, and I think Virginia Tech's defensive line is able to create more disruption than Clemson's, and Tech frustrates a Clemson offense that rarely finds any rhythm in the game. Josh Jackson isn't a hero, but does enough to get the job done and Virginia Tech finds itself back in the top 10 with national media jumping on the hype train.

Virginia Tech 24, Clemson 20

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


May it be so! Go Hokies!

Hokie in West Africa...sadly, I can't jump up and down hard enough for it to be felt in Lane

And yet we had the second highest chance to defeat OSU out of all of their opponents.

Thanks for the write up...the odds of winning are always interesting to see. If I were to rearrange them from most likely a win to least likely it would be:

Boston College (really bad)
Virginia (really bad, but don't know it)
Pittsburgh (Narduzzi bad)
UNC (basketball school bad)
Miami (decent, but I think we match up well)
Duke (underrated, well-coached, good QB)
GT (I hate them, will always be a toss-up)
Clemson (gotta keep the faith)

I would call Miami, Duke, and GT toss-ups, and UNC, Pitt, UVA, and BC as W's. We shouldn't beat Clemson, but we will.

When is the Miami correction going to happen or are they actually pretty good this year?

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

They've only played two games so their rating is still 80% preseason projection...give it time.

It feels dirty, but I'll be rooting for Duke to win tonight

No feeling dirty about rooting for Duke Football against anybody but us. They have a quality coach who runs a good program.

Just a suggestion: would it be possible to overlay the previous week's odds of winning onto the line graph showing them for the current week? Would be interesting to see how each game changes from week-to-week.

I got you fam

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)..

No FBS team has scored more touchdowns than Joey Slye has touchbacks.

What a stat.

I look forward to this piece week to week. Thanks

I'm most worried that we will dig ourselves a hole early, like we do, and won't be able to fully come back, aka 2016 ACCCG

I just sit on my couch and b*tch. - HokieChemE2016

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

Damn. Leg for Yul Brenner. Pharoah was a pimp!

Now, Cole, when you shift the gear and that little needle on the tach goes into the red and reads 9000 RPMs, that's bad!

If we play smart, the win is extremely likely. I think it will come down to who misses an assignment... and if we don't miss field goals.

I still say the statistical key to the game is number of plays! If the Hokies can sustain drives with chunk plays, we can wear down their D-Line and keep take their potentially explosive run game out play. If Bryant HAS to pass to beat us, they are in trouble.

Odds of beating them twice?


-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.

As long as we beat them in the second game we play them this year, I will be fine with whichever way it goes on Saturday.

Ut Prosim Ad Dei Gloriam

Gotta say a lot of the predictions here were spot on. Too bad we did blow assignments and miss fg's

Also how are we bigger dogs to Miami than Clemson???

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

Havn't you heard? Miami is bak /s

And now it's time to show the world
That victory is ours tonight