Bill Connelly's ACC Coastal Preview 2020

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Virginia Tech

Coach: Justin Fuente (33-20, fifth year)
2019: 8-5 (5-3 in ACC), 38th in SP+
2020 projection: 8-4 (5-3), 31st
Five best returning players: LB Rayshard Ashby, NB Chamarri Conner, LT Christian Darrisaw, QB Hendon Hooker, CB Caleb Farley

Was your quarterback good? Y/N

Was your quarterback healthy? Y/N

It's too simplistic to boil a coach's entire tenure down to those two questions, but damned if it doesn't tell a lot of the story sometimes.

How well quarterback Hendon Hooker plays might define Virginia Tech's season.
Fuente's four-year Virginia Tech tenure, told through these questions:

2016: Juco transfer Jerod Evans thrives, throwing for 3,552 yards and 29 touchdowns and rushing for 1,008 non-sack rushing yards and 12 more scores. Tech wins 10 games in Fuente's debut, takes the ACC Coastal title and nearly upsets Clemson in the conference title game.

2017: Evans goes pro a year earlier than anyone expects, and Josh Jackson enters the starting lineup earlier than planned. He starts well but fades late; Tech does, too, starting 7-1 and finishing 2-3.

2018: Jackson produces a 170.4 passer rating during a 2-0 start but is lost for the season with a knee injury in the third game. The Hokies lose six of eight, and while they eke out bowl eligibility, they finish under .500 for the first time in 26 years.

2019: Jackson transfers, and successor Ryan Willis starts out at the helm. Tech starts 2-2 and gets rocked by Duke, however. Hooker takes over, and in his first six healthy games, Tech goes 6-0. The Hokies lose to Virginia and Kentucky to end the season but score 30 points in both games.

Fuente enters 2020 under a decent amount of pressure. In large part because of QB instability, he's gone just 14-12 the past two seasons, and now he has to break in a new defensive coordinator (Justin Hamilton) following the retirement of the legendary Bud Foster. But Fuente's recent history suggests that, if Hooker is as good as he looked last season, and if he can remain in the lineup, Tech will contend in the Coastal. Tech averaged 36 points per game with Hooker behind center, brings back its entire offensive line (including potential all-conference left tackle Darrisaw) and three of its top four receivers, and welcomes running back transfers Khalil Herbert (Kansas) and Raheem Blackshear (Rutgers) to a group that includes high-efficiency sophomore Keshawn King.

We don't know how much Hamilton, a fast-rising coach, will attempt to change from Foster's structure, but we know he inherits playmakers in linebacker Ashby (17 tackles for loss, 25 run stuffs), nickel Conner (10 TFLs, 9 passes defensed) and cornerbacks Jermaine Waller and Farley (combined: seven interceptions, 22 breakups). Every defensive tackle in the rotation returns, and Fuente added prolific Youngstown State end Justus Reed (19 TFLs, 12.5 sacks) as a grad transfer. Tech, 39th in defensive SP+, was dramatically all-or-nothing on defense -- seventh in marginal efficiency, 110th in marginal explosiveness. This group should assure plenty more nothings to go with the alls.

Tech will have a chance to to start quickly, with five of its first seven opponents projected 58th or worse. But how the Hokies finish, and how well Hooker plays and/or stays on the field, might define the season

Emphasis mine. I think those polarizing defensive numbers tell the story of our defense last year. Obviously an enormous improvement, but still extremely susceptible to boom/bust type plays.

Overall, Bill C thinks that it will be a 3 horse race between UNC, Miami, and VT.

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Comments

Not sure he is wrong on the three horse race. I can't see Pitt, Duke, GT, or UVA having sustained success with their turnover from last year.

I agree as well. I think we will have some coastal chaos as always, but I expect those three to finish at the top.

Definitely agree those are the three best teams, but can't really dismiss UVA as the defending champs

Both UVA and Pitt will surprise someone even if they don't have enough horses to come out on top at the end of the year.

It's Time to go to Work

They're both good enough to win if they have a good day.

So I assume he either thinks Hooker isnt good or won't be healthy with the record he predicts. Knowing how much more effective the O was with healthy Hooker, it must be health he doesnt have faith in. I dont either if I am honest. But, I have great confidence in the backup options this year.

"If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"

How effective the O is with a healthy hooker.... I giggled.

Won't be the first time people prayed for a healthy Hooker.

Or an effective O, or is it an efficient O. How about an explosive O? We all want one of those.

"Don't go to, go through"

The O is bangin' with Hooker

"If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"

The O bangs better when the Hooker is healthy, err'body knows that

Will be easier to reach a good O with a healthy Hooker.

I think you're misunderstanding how SP+ works - read this... Bill C doesn't make predictions around a single player; he plugs everything into a spreadsheet and that spreadsheet predicts that we'll be the 38th best team and finish 8-4.

His commentary is his best shot at saying why the numbers are the way they are. He's saying that the defense, if similar to last year, will lose us games by giving up big plays. His numbers do not account for a new coach.

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I do. I also dont trust it for a preseason predictor even though it has proven to be a pretty accurate in-season measure. Stats can't predict growth, development, and new talent. But besides all that, he talked an awful lot about the qb if he didnt think the position had a large part in where the team will land.

"If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"

Bill C would be the first to agree with you - Spend some time diving into his stuff, especially from SBNation and Football outsiders; he's probably the most level headed media member in college football. Anytime he puts out a preview like this, he's saying 'This is what the numbers tell us, and here's how they can be wrong.' He also recognizes that his preseason predictions are pretty shaky, whereas by season's end, his algorithm is usually around 50% accurate when betting against the spread.

Anyways, if he were to summarize his comments about VT, he would say "the numbers suggest VT will be a top 40 team and finish 8-4. If the QB takes a big step forward, and/or the defense improves under the new DC, it could be better than that.'

Also, to address this

Stats can't predict growth, development, and new talent.

Not perfectly, but Bill C does measure the quality of returning snaps, and factors that into his projections. He also factors in 4-year recruiting ranking. His numbers (which he recognizes are far from perfect) have gone >50% during the season against the spread.

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his algorithm is usually around 50% accurate when betting against the spread.

Wait. Shouldn't it be a lot better than 50%?

Joffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, the Hound, Jeff Jagodzinski, Paul Johnson, Pat Narduzzi.

When betting against the spread. A "very good" algorithmic picker against the spread wins around 52-54% of the time, IIRC. It's very accurate for just picking games straight up.

I thought fifty percent would be the expected outcome if you just picked randomly because the line is set to split the betting equally. I don't know how much above fifty you need to be to be effective. But unless your volume is pretty big, you aren't going to do very well at anything close to fifty percent. In fact you will probably lose overall because of ties. I don't gamble, so I am assuming you lose on ties.

Doesn't matter if it's cake or pie as long as it's chocolate.

It depends on the spread. If you the spread is 3 points, and the favorite wins by 3, then its a 'push,' and you get your money back. But when the spread is 2.5, its a tough bet.

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So, how do the bookies make money? There has to be some hidden vigorish that gives them a cut.

Doesn't matter if it's cake or pie as long as it's chocolate.

you usually have to bet 110 to win 100

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

So, if you bet 10 times and win 50%, you have bet $1100 and you collect $1000? You lose $100. If my math is correct, you have to win 55% of your bets to break even.

Doesn't matter if it's cake or pie as long as it's chocolate.

Probably a good reason not to gamble.

Yeah, I'm still missing something. It seems like 50% would be expected from randomly picking outcomes over an increasing period of time.

Joffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, the Hound, Jeff Jagodzinski, Paul Johnson, Pat Narduzzi.

That's because you shouldn't blindly follow an algorithm. But, if the algorithm gets you to even before you add your own input, that's fantastic. Last year Bill was tracking all the games where the Vegas spread was more than 3 points off from his spread and in those games his system way over performed. (I don't remember the actual %age)

That makes a lot more sense. Thanks for the explanation.

Joffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, the Hound, Jeff Jagodzinski, Paul Johnson, Pat Narduzzi.

This.

For example, the algorithm I follow was 69.7% against the spread in upsets, 55.9% when picking the same winner as Vegas but by fewer points, etc.

If you bet every game, it's down to 53.2%.

Note: These are 2018 numbers, I can't find totals for 2019 at the moment.

Vegas essentially wants equal money bet, not necessarily an equal 50/50 chance at winning. So a coin flip should not yield 50% winning, although it could. Vegas always wins, remember that.

"If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"

One thing I find interesting is that it's pretty difficult to adjust for the potential impact of transfers. For example, If we get a double digit sack performance from Justus Reed that probably means our defense takes a huge step forward.

On the other side, I think D'Eriq King could be a major difference maker in this race. Miami had good pieces last year with incredibly inconsistent QB play. A playmaker like King could make a world of difference for them.

Overall, I expect the highest quality Coastal race in many years.

Edit: I think we totally cook UVA next season as well.

I want LOLUVa to be a smoldering crater when we're done with them next year. I want the score to look like a basketball blowout win.

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 dont think i've ever processed that there's a universe where JJ stays healthy and Ryan Willis never starts a game for us

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

If that happens, 2018 probably goes a little better, but not significantly so. (The Defense straight up couldn't get stops vs. Pitt, GT, or Miami in the second half). JJ probably stays in place for 2019 (and maybe 2020) and we never get to see how good Hooker is.

Depends on what JJ's ceiling was. Hooker definitely had more upside from the start, while Jackson was a bit more limited in athleticism.

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

Here's my Coastal preview of any given year:

Smart!

With our coaching turnover on D and lack of turnover on O I would be ecstatic with 8-4 assuming the whole season is played...

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"

KCCO

Someone bookmark this one for later.

It's Time to go to Work

Tech, 39th in defensive SP+, was dramatically all-or-nothing on defense -- seventh in marginal efficiency, 110th in marginal explosiveness. This group should assure plenty more nothings to go with the alls.

I think this does tell a lot of the story.

I have a lot of faith in JHam, but it will be his first year and he'll have some serious challenges.

8 or more wins, and notch a win over Miami or UNC, and I'll be pretty happy.

"I don't know what a Hokie is, but God is one of them. Go Virginia Tech." -Lee

In that case, then everybody should be happy.

Seeing UNC as #16 in the SP+ projections is scary.

Seeing us at 39 was... sobering.

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Sam Howell downright scares me. I hope he hits a sophomore slump, at least against us. If not, I don't see any way they don't win the Coastal. I still have zero faith in Miami to put a good product out at quarterback given their offensive line situation. King is more suited to run for his life every play than their last few quarterbacks, but it's still not an ideal situation. Pitt has a chance to be in the top three with their defense. Paris Ford will likely be a first round draft pick when he decides to enter the draft. Duke is kind of an unknown to me. I think they will do better than 5-7 with Chase Brice. I hope we kick their shit in, though, to avenge last year's loss. The fake punt in the fourth quarter rubbed me the wrong way, as well. UVA's defense could give us trouble, but I think their offense is going to be the worst in the conference, not just the division. I think he was giving too much credit to their offensive line. They're not good. Their defense will likely get them bowl eligible, but I think it will be at 6-6.

As far as we go, I'm reluctantly confident. Hooker will be the starter unless Burmeister has something we don't know about. He was the starter last year, and no one had any practice time to develop. I'm hoping the running game doesn't take a step back with Kill being gone. This defense should certainly be the best since 2017. I'm curious to see how they use Dax and Tisdale. There were some instances last year where Dax played mike and Tisdale played backer on third down. I would like to see more of that.

The season hinges on the UNC game, in my opinion. It's about halfway through the season, and whoever wins will have the inside track to the ACC Championship with the tiebreaker. I definitely think we lose to Pitt because Heinz Field. There is probably one more random loss in there. If UNC were to just lose one more, though, we would make the championship game.

Marshall University graduate.
Virginia Tech fanatic.
Formerly known as JWillHokieAlum.

The 3 games that we will probably be projected to lose if played will be PSU, UNC and Miami, and then throw in that we typically lose a game we shouldn't and 8-4 is very reasonable, I'd put the ceiling at 10-2 and the floor at 7-5 with the assumption that all 12 games get played

1-0 every week