By the (Advanced) Numbers: A Ramblin' Wreck

The Hokies are primed to face the Yellow Jackets in primetime.

The Hokies got away with a game against North Carolina that it had no business winning. There was a post-game win expectancy of only 25% given the statistics for each team. The Tar Heels had 9 scoring opportunities to Virginia Tech's 4, and 150 more yards on 4 less plays. The teams each had the same number of turnovers. And yet the Hokies came away with the win.

Take it and hope the Hokies play well enough to earn a win Thursday night.

Where the Season Stands

Virginia Tech is currently 4-2 (3-0 ACC). The actual and predicted score difference and odds of winning each game are:

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

In the absence of a replacement game for East Carolina, the Hokies maintain about an 85% chance of continuing the bowl streak. While it may seem urgent to schedule a game, keep in mind that as poorly as the team has performed for much of the season, they are 3-0 in conference — all away games — and somehow still in the thick of winning the division...meaning the weekend after Thanksgiving needs to remain open for the time being.

Virginia Tech Leads the Nation In...

Kickoff efficiency (100%). The team is averaging 64.95 yards per kickoff (No. 2 nationally) and has a 94.59% touchback percentage (No. 1 nationally). The two returned kicks went for a total of 45 yards.

Rankings and Computer Predictions

The computer rankings and predictions for each team:

Computers generally agree Virginia Tech should be favored, but most do not give the team much of a margin. The odds of a 3.5-point favorite winning is 60.4%.

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

This matchup isn't exactly GameDay material, but is a Thursday night game in Lane Stadium and will get hyped nonetheless. The biggest difference from prior Techmo Bowls is, this year, it is the Virginia Tech offense that will likely have to be the star to pull off the win.

When Virginia Tech Has the Ball

Here is an explanation of S&P+ ratings, and FEI ratings. Most statistics are now opponent-adjusted.

Who has the advantage in the passing and rushing game when the Virginia Tech offense has the ball?

While not stellar in any categories, the Hokies have been a little better in the passing game than rushing. Georgia Tech's defense is not particularly good, but has been especially bad on passing downs and is potentially a good matchup for the better Tech.

What style offense do the Hokies use and what style will they face?

Virginia Tech has been a fairly explosive offense, and has been middle-of-the-pack on run rate and pace. Georgia Tech, however, has been fairly good at preventing explosive plays. Additionally, their line has been poor at creating havoc (sacks and TFLs).

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

When Georgia Tech Has the Ball

Again, examine pass-run comparisons first:

Surprise! Georgia Tech has a good offense, especially rushing, but is not very good when forced into passing situations.

What style offense do the Yellow Jackets use and what style will they face in the Hokies defense?

Georgia Tech is not particularly explosiveness, and obviously is run-heavy and average-paced. They face a Virginia Tech defense, however, that rates dead last in the nation in allowing explosive plays.

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

Special Teams

The Hokies are rated the 10th best special teams unit in the nation, while the Yellow Jackets are rated 105th. This gap could result in a potential game-changing play given how closely rated the two teams are. Virginia Tech is led by their top-ranked kickoff unit, featuring a 100% efficiency rating.

Who To Watch Out For

I don't actually research this for the Georgia Tech game each year. I just look up the stats for the QB and the leading tailback, and figure if I've heard of anyone else they're probably good too:

  1. QB Tobias Oliver (R-FR, 6-2, 182) is 25th nationally in rushing average (6.95 YPC, third among QBs). He attempted 9 passes this season.
  2. QB TaQuon Marshall (SR, 5-10, 185) leads Georgia Tech with 9 rushing touchdowns.
  3. B-Back Jordan Mason (R-FR, 6-1, 212) rushes for 6.84 YPC, No. 28 nationally.

Statistical Key to the Game

The Hokies' defense absolutely has to find a way to stop giving up huge gains to have any chance at salvaging an even mediocre season. Facing the Yellow Jackets' offense is already a frustrating proposition due to its methodical nature. It chips away a few yards at a time and down the field it goes. Those runs that break for huge gains are even more painful. It's hard to imagine that not happening given that stopping it involves flawless execution on assignments: a glaring weakness for the Hokies.

Somehow manage to keep the Bees to three or fewer plays of 20+ yards, and Virginia Tech can sneak another win this week.

Statistical Prediction

It is just really difficult to imagine the Yellow Jackets not scoring significant points in this one on explosive plays, but after a whole article on objective measures here is where I prefer to turn into an irrational optimist. Vinny Mihota is allegedly healthier, and Ricky Walker is still Ricky Walker, ready to disrupt the interior of the line and disrupt plays. The extra time helps the team prepare and improve on some of the earlier flaws shown this season.

Virginia Tech 30, Georgia Tech 28

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


Great article, but doesn't instill much confidence.
This had always been a game that proves difficult. Or defensive secondary had to tighten up and play tight coverage. GT seems to love to go to the long pass from the option. Our secondary MUST stay disciplined!

Willis has to look to other receivers besides Hazelton, (Corn needs to) even going to a west coast offense to open the run game. That work be a new twist that may disrupt GT!

It will definitely be a nail biter, on a big stage. We have to keep ahead of the surging UVA, too.

Eternal optimist! I like it. Let's swat the bees, boys, and keep this gravy train putt'n along towards Charlotte.

If it ain't orange, it better be maroon...and if it ain't maroon, it better be soon!

Here's another stat of the week. We're 3-0 against CPJ's Georgia Tech teams coming off of a Saturday-Bye-Thursday rest.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

Let's make it so!

Not looking forward to this one, going to be rough. lotsa bourbon and beer stocked up...

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"

hopefully you put that PTO request for Friday off in at work a while ago...

teleworking tomorrow, still supposed to logon by 6ish though...

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"

Man, I hate playing Georgia Tech.

"That's Houdini!"

- Jon Laaser 9/24/2016

I love playing gt when we win.
I want to love this game.
I want to love this game.
I want to love this game.


Ut Prosim Ad Dei Gloriam

You clearly left off the shots of bourbon taken between each line of this post

I am not sure what to do with my hands now

I know it seems almost obligatory to post on TKP, but I am not a bourbon (nor whiskey) drinker. I just want to the HOKIES to win.

Ut Prosim Ad Dei Gloriam

If you don't drink bourbon do you at least drink Yuengling? As long as you are not a Brie and Chianti kind of guy I think your drink of preference will find a crowd here.

I am not sure what to do with my hands now

I don't like beer either (it would be cheaper if I did). I would mention liking red wine, margaritas, Amaretto, Chambord, and Cointreau, but that may sound like I am UVA snob.

Ut Prosim Ad Dei Gloriam

Liking (good) beer can also be really bad for your wallet. Some craft breweries in Richmond charge $1/oz

2 or 3 parts Vodka and 1 part Amaretto, one of my favorites.

Never tried it, but I am intrigued. There may be a trip to the VA ABC store in my (near) future.

Ut Prosim Ad Dei Gloriam

I drink it on the rocks. Goes down way too easy leading to over indulgence.

I'm confused. Your username implies an enjoyment of homebrew, yet you talk of Yuengling as if it's a good beer. It's a hair better than mediocre.

There is a large group of tailgaters with an undying love for and an apparently endless supply of Yuengling that also happen to frequent this site. This was my homage to them. I myself find it to be a better alternative for the AB-Inbev offerings, but lacking the body and malt profile I would expect for the style. It is definitely toned down for the masses.

I am not sure what to do with my hands now

The Black & Tan isn't all that bad. It's not like a good schwarzbier by any means. But, it's not bad.

I drink natty light. How does that make you feel?

Tyrod did it Mikey, Tyrod did it!!


I will drink Coors or Miller if I am planning to be day drinking in the heat, but there are too many great beers to be drinking The American Light Lagers exclusively.

I am not sure what to do with my hands now

Hey stats guys- where do I find the probability of win chart that progresses throughout the game? I want to know what our prob win % was before the UNC fumble. I know it didn't feel good from my couch...

"It's always great to beat UVA, that makes us all smarter and better looking for a couple days".

ESPN has this in the app and on their website for each game.

Here's the VT-UNC game.

Looks like they had about a 75% chance of winning after the fumble.

I always find these fun to look at especially with comeback wins.

Here's ours from the Belk Bowl:

And my favorite, from aTm and UCLA last year:

Somehow manage to keep the Bees to three or fewer plays of 20+ yards, and Virginia Tech can sneak another win this week.

This doesn't seem possible. When I first read this I thought I read "plays of 50+ yards" and thought that was reasonable. Seeing the defense dead last in explosive plays killed my optimism for this one. Also the GT OL landing in the top 10% for sack rate is a total paper tiger since they drop back to throw 10% as often as most teams. Get points and make GT's undersized OL pass-block for more than 3 seconds and feast on sack lunches!

On a side note: I really like the Offensive and Defensive Style charts as a replacement for the special teams stats. I think they are more meaningful toward predicting what we will see on gameday. Good choice!

I am not sure what to do with my hands now

French once described the GT offense as "Death by a thousand cuts". I have not heard a more fitting description. I hate this game every year.

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

I liken it to playing Super Mario Brothers as a tiny Mario. One mistake and you're dead.

Interestingly, the turnover margin between VT and GT is not that much different. We are 0.83 positive turnovers per game. GT is 0.57 positive. I thought one thing that could save us was turnovers. I just viewed GT as turnover-prone. But that is not the case.

If we don't throw the ball all over this GT defense I will be livid. Their defense is not good, and their pass defense is downright awful.

I feel like I've heard this every year for a while now. And yet....

I've learned two things:
1. No matter how good or bad either team is, it's always a close game.
2. Justin Fuente can't beat option teams.

Expect a close, heart breaking loss. And our overly conservative offensive approach will piss you off. I genuinely hope I'm wrong. However, I'm also fairly certain that I'll be right, unfortunately. Until Fuente proves otherwise, I will always expect his teams to be frustratingly conservative against option teams leading to stupid losses.


I can't believe I'm saying this but I'd rather play ecu than gt. It is always the most frustrating game to watch and in recent years they haven't been anything close to a quality opponent (except that they are a P5 team) so we get roasted for losing to them with little to gain for beating them. Now I'm actually curious about the last time they were ranked when playing us.

I'd probably do a complete 180 and actually enjoy playing them if they got rid of pj and his offense

Virginia Tech School of Architecture Class of 2014
Fan of Hokies, Ravens, NY Giants, Orioles

We just need to get them out of our head. They are not that good this year, and we are consistently better than them. Duke beat them by two touchdowns and held them to 14 points. We beat Duke pretty handily at their house. I know transitive properties don't work, but why can't we translate this success? Pitt held them under 20 and won. Clemson beat them by 4 touchdowns. Why do they give us such fits and seem to be average at best to everyone else? I say we just take care of business. Sometimes I feel we get too cute, even on defense, against them. If the teams we're better than beat them regularly, we should to.

VT Marketing Class of 2009
Current Roanoke-Hokie
Go Hokies!

I watched the Clemson GT game closely, as I live in Clemson country. Clemson stacked the box and consistently played a pressure defense. They left their corners alone in man-to-man and dared GT to throw the ball. Safeties consistently shut down outside runs. Their corners were good enough to play this style and GT did not burn them in the air. My feeling is you are going to see a lot more passing here from GT. If our safeties sneak up and sell out on the run, I am very concerned that our corners cannot handle it and will get smoked.

The big difference between Clemson and us is that Clemson has very capable corners who can stand alone on an island. We do not.

The big difference between Clemson and us is that their DL has 265 and 280lb DE's and a 315 and 350lb DT who are as fast or faster than our DL. They absolutely wreck the the GT OL on almost every play and make everything so much easier.

Our defenses are actually extremely similar in concept minus the way we cross key with our DL, and we always task our safeties to play the alleys and make open field tackles against the run as well.

I think Clemson has better corners than we do, but they aren't elite man cover guys. AJ Terrell played almost exclusively as a Tampa 2 corner or played safety in high school and it shows when he is tasked with man coverage. Clemson has had consistent secondary issues for years, but their front 7, especially their DL have masked it for the most part over the years. We haven't had that same luxury.

There must come a point where the defense matures. If you look at the films in some of the earlier games, many players were lost in space. Safeties out of position. Taking wrong angles on running plays. Misplaying leverage. Failing to play gap formations properly. Chasing misdirection plays. Drifting into no-mans land and on zone coverages. And even completely blowing coverages. I have seen the D-line and the linebackers mature. The secondary has been much slower to mature (and arguably they have the more complex assignments).

If the D matures enough this game to play assignment football and prevent break-out plays, we can win. Otherwise, it is going to be a shoot-out on which offense can score more.

While our d gives up big plays, the d line has been one of the most efficient in the country, according to football outsiders. If they can keep the draw shut down and the linebackers clean to scrape on pitches, we'll be in great position to win.

I'm actually feeling cautiously optimistic that we match up well against GT. Our rush defense is the strength of the defense. We might see a replay of last year where they get all their points off of tricky long pass plays again. Which is what it is.

On the other side I'm hoping we buck the trend of underperforming against their bad defense. For all it's weaknesses, our offense can spread the field better than before, so hopefully that's all we were missing the prior
2 years.

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