By the (Advanced) Numbers: Hokie-Pokie Bowl

The computer rankings have the Virginia Tech-Oklahoma State matchup as a closer contest than Vegas.

The Camping World Bowl provides the Hokies an opportunity to beat a ranked team on a national stage, an opportunity that only comes around occasionally. Right or wrong, big bowl game wins result in much higher expectations for the next season and a convincing win over Oklahoma State could propel the team to a top 15 ranking to start 2018. A big loss, however, would have the opposite effect.

Getting that big victory will be a huge challenge, especially for Bud Foster and the Lunch Pail Defense. That unit faces one of the top offenses in the country, and a lethal passing attack. Obviously Tech's defense will need to keep Mason Rudolph in check, but what are the prospects for the offense to take away the spotlight? Or for a big special teams play?

Where the Season Stands

Virginia Tech finished the regular season 9-3. The actual and predicted score difference and odds of winning each game are:

10 wins is certainly an arbitrary mark of success, but it's still an impressive one. At the end of the regular season, only 17 teams had already reached this mark; another 13 have reached it or have a chance to reach it via conference championship games or bowl games. So while a narrow loss to Oklahoma State would not reduce the Hokies' rating, a 10-3 final record would certainly feel like an exclamation point on a pretty successful season for a very young team.

Rankings and Computer Predictions

The computer rankings and predictions for each team:

Computers actually see this as a closer matchup than Las Vegas, which is interesting considering the loss of Cam Phillips did not pull the spread back fact, since opening it has moved considerably towards the Hokies. Oh, and that computer that thinks VT is the 49th best team in the country? It is NCAA Game Simulator, literally the least accurate computer in the Massey Computer comparisons. The odds of a 4.5-point underdog winning is 36.8%.

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

Oklahoma State's offense isn't above average or good or even great — it is unquestionably elite, expected to score 41.7 points against an average team (VT is not an average team on defense). Fortunately for the Hokies, the Pokes' defense is fairly pedestrian, as the Hokies will certainly need to score some points to win this one.

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?

There's no question that the Hokies' offense is not exactly intimidating, and the run game has been below average all season. While the passing game has offered some hope, veteran WR Cam Phillips — Tech's all-time leader in receiving yards (3,027) and receptions (236) — will not be playing (sports hernia surgery). It's up to a group of mostly freshman to carry the receiving corps. If a player like Sean Savoy doesn't step up big time, the team could be in trouble.

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 Cowboys' defense:

The highlights for Tech's offense have been avoiding 3-and-outs (first down rate), and not turning the ball over. Josh Jackson has received his fair share of criticism, but for a little perspective, consider that only one freshman has a higher QB rating: Jake Fromm, who led Georgia into the playoffs. 45 quarterbacks have thrown more interceptions. He has two fumbles on the entire season. If none of the other QB's on the roster next season are any better, Tech is in pretty good hands.

The Virginia Tech offense is closest in personality to:

  1. Utah
  2. Temple
  3. Middle Tennessee

The Oklahoma State defense is closest in personality to:

  1. Georgia Tech
  2. Georgia State
  3. Texas A&M

When Oklahoma State Has the Ball

Again, examine pass-run comparisons first:

This is the matchup to watch: the elite Oklahoma State offense against the elite Virginia Tech defense. There is no question that the Cowboys like to turn to Rudolph to create boatloads of passing yards, but this opens up a very good rushing attack as well.

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

As for personality traits:

Those personalities couldn't be much more aligned. The Cowboys excel at everything except turnovers, and the Hokies excel at...everything but turnovers.

The Virginia Tech defense is closest in personality to:

  1. Penn State
  2. Auburn
  3. Washington

The Oklahoma State offense is closest in personality to:

  1. Central Florida
  2. Army
  3. Memphis

Special Teams

First we look at the Hokie's kicking units:

When James Shibest was hired to join Justin Fuente in Blacksburg, I pointed out how successful he had been at Memphis and suggested the team would soon return to elite special teams. While field goal kicking and punting have been pedestrian this season, the team has excelled at everything else to the extent that as a unit they rank No. 8 in FEI's special teams rating.

When the Cowboys kick:

Want hope for a game-changing play that could spark a Hokies' victory? I present the 124th rated unit.

Who To Watch Out For

No need to watch out for players on the defensive side of the ball with what OSU brings on offense:

  1. Rudolph is a production machine behind center: 1st in the nation in yards at 4,553 and YPG at 379.4, 3rd in QB rating at 170.01, 3rd in YPA at 10.0, and 5th in touchdowns with 36. The good news is he's only accounted for 56 rushes for 29 yards on the season.
  2. All those passes have to go somewhere: WR James Washington leads the nation with 118.6 YPG and is 7th with 12 touchdowns.
  3. RB Justice Hill still gets the ball 20 times a game, and is 17th nationally at 112.25 YPG.

Statistical Key to the Game

It would be very surprising for Rudolph to not pile up some yards in this game. While I think the Hokies' offense will be improved over how they played to close the season, I don't believe they can win a shootout. To prevent one, the Hokies will need to force turnovers; get 2 and they have a decent chance, and with 3, Tech probably leaves Orlando with a win.

Statistical Prediction

While the matchup of Foster's defense against the Cowboys' offense is not a good one, I think the unit can at least keep the Pokes' O in check by creating disruption on the line and generating a turnover or two. I believe the Hokies' young receivers and Dalton Keene will step up in this game. The time off between the Virginia win and kickoff provided an opportunity for Jackson to heal his body and potentially return to early-season form. A big special teams play ends up being a difference maker, and Tech wins a thriller for win No. 10.

Virginia Tech 30, Oklahoma State 27

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


The Oklahoma State offense is closest in personality to:

Central Florida

How does that happen?

"Hey Bud, you wont have to hold the opponent to 17 points anymore."

AI doesn't watch the football game

I feed off of nightmares

Seems a little weird, right? The personality comparisons look at the FEI personality traits like explosiveness, first down rate, and turnover rate. Usually these feel about right if you watch both teams. In this case, however, you have two teams accomplishing very similar things on offense despite one throwing a bunch and the other almost exclusively running!

There is nothing more Virginia Tech than our Offense S&P compared to our Defense S&P, good grief haha.

There's one computer out there that HATES Tech.

Amateur superstar and idiot extraordinaire.

What would our average look like if we threw out the NCAA Game simulator?

Never Forget #1 Overall Seed UVA 54, #64 UMBC 74

SG1 Sims has one up on youtube

For those interested in the final score, it was 13-12 OK ST with the win.

Edit: Now if I were to play the simulation it would be 112-0 with us giving a donut.

Let's Go


If we hold Oklahoma State to 13 and our offense only scores 12 on that defense, I will be 2013 Duke game levels of angry at our offense.

Dam I got tickets to the Camping World Bowl.....

"Hey Bud, you wont have to hold the opponent to 17 points anymore."

There are a LOT of computers in there, so it only drops it from 19.41 to 19.15.

Keene has 10 catches for 167 yards. That's a curious choice for game changer from the data guy.

Keene also had 4 catches the one game Cam Philips was most limited, BC. With Cam out again, Keene has a chance to step up.

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

What RealDiehl said...looking to turn more to TE help in his absence.

Gotta agree with the assessment. If we don't get any turnovers and some great STs play I don't know how we come out with a win.

Afraid our offense may just let the defense get too exhausted after a while and OkSt pulls away late. I see that as being most probable. However, if the front 7 can keep Rudolph from getting comfortable we may have a chance.

But without turnovers and Special teams I think we lose this one. Just not enough experience and firepower on offense to keep up.

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

From :

Home record 6 155/252 2544 424 18 86
Away record 6 149/219 2164 360.7 17 81
vs AP ranked 8 95/161 1438 179.8 13 86
vs. Conference 9 231/367 3486 387.3 24 86

The numbers look a lot different when they played a ranked team - half the average yards and TD's.
There is a reason they are only favored by 4.5 despite the elite statistical offense.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

I think our D gets more than one pick/turnover. And a big key will be: can our O capitalize on the opportunity(ies) the D and ST gives us?

the Hokies will need to force turnovers; get 2 and they have a decent chance, and with 3, Tech probably leaves Orlando with a win.

The caveat I'd add is that we need to capitalize with points on the turnovers we get. At least 13 points off of turnovers is what my gut says we'll need.

Click here to destroy wall.

If we hold Oklahoma State, the #3 scoring offense in the country, to 27 points, I will be very proud of Foster's work.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

How many yards/points/favorite stat before we hold dcwilson40 accountable?

If we hold them to at least 20% less than their season averages (basically, fewer than 37 points and 461 yards), I say the accountability checks can begin.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

Adjusted for opponent, Oklahoma State's offense scores 41.7 points per game. Virginia Tech's defense (again opponent-adjusted) gives up 17.1. If you split the difference, you'd expect about 29.4 points so I don't think 27 would be anything unexpected or unusual.

Now if you're looking for a surprise, that 30 up there might be a bit of a stretch...

Aaand, OSU puts up 30 points. Dayum, Joel

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)..

This is a good april fools. Our O scoring 23 without Cam? If you believe that I have some lovely waterfront property to sell you...

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"


The twist in this whole thing is that, without Cam, whom do they cover as the first checkdown?
They're DB corps is not as good or as evenly talented as an average ACC backfield.

This is going to be great for the ACC.

I like the way you think Mr. Helper.

"Hey Bud, you wont have to hold the opponent to 17 points anymore."

Against BC Cam had one catch for 11 yards before leaving the game in the first quarter and the team scored 23 points. Boston College has the #35 S&P+ defense and Oklahoma State has the #70 one (4.4 points per game worse).

I think Stro has a big day on both defense and special teams.

I think Stro has needs to have a big day on both defense and special teams.


A pick six and a punt return for a TD will go a long way to masking our offensive shortcomings.

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)..

I started watching Babylon 5 a month or two ago and have been waiting for a chance to use this clip, now seems like as good as any: