By the (Advanced) Numbers: Hokies Travel to Dance with the Devils

Virginia Tech faces No. 22 Duke under the lights at Wallace Wade Stadium.

After last week's BT(A)N, multiple commenters felt the numbers had it wrong and there was no way Virginia Tech should be an underdog to Boston College. I would argue that was probably true, but there is a small sample size early in the season and in time it would work itself out. Then Boston College put up a poor performance and for a few hours I thought that one game would validate that Eagles had no business being favored over the Hokies.

I'm guessing no one is going to make the same point this week.

Now the Hokies travel to Duke, a team with a not particularly difficult schedule to this point, but is 4-0 and won each game by double-digits.

Where the Season Stands

Virginia Tech is currently...give me a minute to gather myself...2-1. The actual and predicted score difference and odds of winning each game are:

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

Bowl eligibility, a seeming certainty a mere week ago, is now far from it. But of course that evaluation is based on a small sample size with one huge outlier, so let's see how things look after the next two weeks.

Also, I told you the Boston College odds would work themselves out. Feel better now? No? Why not?

Rankings and Computer Predictions

The computer rankings and predictions for each team:

What could possibly explain computers having a hard time figuring out the Hokies? They might beat Duke. Or lose by 40. The odds of a 5-point underdog winning is 35.4%.

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

After the Hokies gave up 49 points and 631 yards to the Monarchs, it would seem that a mediocre defense is actually what is giving the Blue Devils the advantage over Tech. That should actually provide some sense of relief — Bud Foster can likely field a decent unit, even after the ousting of Trevon Hill. While a top ten defense is highly unlikely, it is also not likely that the Hokies are really the 72nd best defense moving forward. And the Tech offense — which I'll remind readers this is opponent-adjusted — is actually pretty good. Tech hopes Willis is not much of a step down from Jackson.

Special Teams

Virginia Tech currently has the No. 4 S&P+ special teams unit in the nation, but Duke is not far behind at 11th.

It does not seem to get much attention but James Shibest is dominating with BeamerBall.

Who To Watch Out For

Duke isn't a decent team because of dynamic playmakers but rather really good fundamental coaching. But there are still players to watch out for Saturday, including:

  1. Ben Humphreys (No. 1 total team tackles, 32) and Joe Giles-Harris (No. 3 total team tackles, 27) form a talented LB tandem.
  2. RB Brittain Brown has 11 rushes of 10-plus yards (T-No. 25).
  3. QB Quentin Harris has thrown 6 TDs and 0 INTs, but is only completing 49.2% of passes.

Statistical Key to the Game

The defense needs to show up and limit the Duke offense, and the Hokies offense cannot take a big step back. As of right now, I believe Ryan Willis ends up being more of a side step at quarterback, and is able to leverage Damon Hazleton and his No. 2 yards per catch rate (25.73). The key will be the other side of the ball...Foster needs to get his unit to respond big time and hold the Duke offense to under 2.5 points per drive to give Tech a chance.

Statistical Prediction

Some of the fears surrounding the defense prior to the season were realized last week, but ODU doesn't define the unit's entire season. I think they bounce back, not as anything elite, but good enough to let an above average offense take care of business. The Hokies get their season back on track with a much-needed win over the Blue Devils and move to 2-0 in the ACC.

Virginia Tech 31, Duke 27

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


Great always.
Yes! We bounce back. We have talent on D - we all know we're much better than what was displayed last week. Momentum can not be measured through statistical analysis. No momentum last week...spirits were low, obviously tons of frustration during the game. The D comes back.


Great write up, as always. I expect our boys will be fired up with an edge this week. Big win for the good guys.

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

I like you, statistical outlier computer ranking!

In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

Excellent work as always, Joel.

The computers bear out the idea that we actually have no idea what's going on with this team.

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

They are accurate by being inaccurate.

Better be careful throwing out stats in support of JJ. The Leal-sters are ever present.

But crazy how much these numbers calibrate with more info, even with the outliers. I still think we get to 8 wins, and it starts this week.

They were on Twitter for sure...the funny thing is I'm not an overly-enthusiastic JJ supporter and see flaws that others see too. Mostly I just want to point out that there appears to be some development, and if anyone else clearly gave the team a better chance to win Fuente would be starting them.

there's a 53% chance we beat UVA. UVA and BC are toss up games....I never thought I'd see that day

Duke's Harris is terribly inaccurate on short routes but very good on deep balls. He was flat out poor against NC-Central on short throws/ dump offs. We need to help our DB's and get the ball out of his hands while keeping him in check (limiting scramble yards)

Guessing Bud brings pressure every down in some fashion

'Its easy to grin, when your ship comes in, and you've got the stock market beat,
but the man worthwhile, is the man who can smile, when his shorts are too tight in the seat'

I hope you're 100% correct in your final score prediction! Any kind of a W will do this week.

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

ooof, only 53% chance to beat da hoos?

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"


Our odds of beating Boston College actually increased compared to last week from 32.7% to 50%. I know that Boston College played horribly last week, but do the computers actually think that VT significantly outperformed BC?

Honestly, it's probably a combination of a number of things. BC's "best" win to date was against Wake, who got demolished by a Notre Dame team that had been quite unimpressive until that point. And on the other hand, FSU finally found some footing and blew past an NIU team that is almost certainly a lot better than Samford, making our win against FSU look a bit better and their win over Wake looking much less impressive.

Are we solely reliant on turnovers for us to win games? +5 against FSU, +1 W&M, -1 ODU. I get that turnovers are a very strong indicator of who will win, but I fear these our are only chance in all these now predicted toss ups. And after the coverage and assignment issues Saturday we don't look to be likely for many more given how out of position we played on defense

We have to be able to run it, and throw it -Beamer

Every fool loves the sound of his own rattle.

Computer projections on how our team will perform the rest of the year.

I get that we'll score more points, but will we win TOP?

We put the K in Kwality

Why can't I downvote comments more than once on this site?!

Man some of these graphs looked a lot more fun last week

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

Edit: Wrong Thread

i don't care what our records are, GT to me will always be a 50/50 game. they will always play their best game of the season against us, and they will always connect on clutch passes against us.

All will be made clear tomorrow. Hopefully the defense will have an attitude and redeem themselves. GO HOKIES!

Man I hope the team has moved on and is ready. I still feel hungover from the ODU game and I didn't even watch it.

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

The Duke LBs terrify me. I can see them making our offense one-dimensional and Willis throwing 3 INTs trying to force the ball down the field. I hope CornFu has the misdirection plays all squared away with the Jimmy's and Joes to scheme the Duke LBs out of the play.

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