By the (Advanced) Numbers: The Quarterback of Notre Dame

The Hokies are primed to face their stiffest test thus far of the season.

Last column I indicated contests against Duke and Notre Dame would tell fans more about the 2018 Hokies than prior games. If the 31-14 win over the Blue Devils is any indication, Virginia Tech is a very good team that suffered a single massive lapse. However, it would be naive to draw too many conclusions from one game. Now Virginia Tech must prepare for the second, a game against an even better team with legitimate playoff aspirations.

Will Virginia Tech build on the momentum from the Duke game? Or will the Hokies get exposed as another mediocre ACC team, distant from the national conversation?

Where the Season Stands

Virginia Tech is currently 3-1. The actual and predicted score difference and odds of winning each game are:

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

My what a difference a week makes! The rightful world order has been restored, with the Hokies a healthy favorite against Virginia and most of their remaining opponents. Also, a continued bowl streak is now much more likely than it appeared 7 days ago, although booking an additional game December 1st would be very helpful in ensuring that.

Rankings and Computer Predictions

The computer rankings and predictions for each team:

Computers are (not surprisingly) still fairly unsure of the Hokies, but a lot more sure than last week. They are, however, much more certain that the Fighting Irish are a very good team. The odds of a 5.5-point underdog winning is 34.0%.

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

As expected, Tech's good offensive output against a good Duke defense kept the Hokies' offense rating at its highest in years. The Virginia Tech defense rating climbed up, but remains well behind the excellent Notre Dame unit. This will be a very challenging test for Ryan Willis, and perhaps the best gauge yet of how good the Hokies can be.

Special Teams

No one has informed Brian Kelly there is a third phase to the game apparently, as his highly-talented team has thus far only put together the S&P+ 53rd-rated special teams unit in the country.

Not only did James Shibest get the memo, but he actually wrote it, and will hand-deliver it Saturday evening. He will try to improve on the Hokies' rating as it currently sits in an insufficiently dominant second place nationally.

Virginia Tech Leads the Nation In...

Given the availability of so many statistical ratings, at any point in time Virginia Tech is probably leading the nation in something, right?

This week in "Virginia Tech Leads the Nation In...", I present the Oscar Bradburn-led punting unit and their nation-leading 90.9% punt success rate. Out of 22 punts this season, only one has gone for a touchback and four have been returned for an average return of 0.0 yards. Much is made of punting average, but it takes a unit to be successful and prevent long punts from resulting in long returns — the Hokies' unit is not just good, but best in the country so far.

Who To Watch Out For

Year after year, the Fighting Irish recruit well and can be counted on to sign anywhere from 4-8 blue chip recruits a season. Some of those who have stood out thus far in 2018:

  1. Sr DL Jerry Tillery leads the nation with 7 sacks for a total loss of 45 yards.
  2. Jr DB Julian Love is No. 2 nationally with 10 pass break-ups.
  3. Jr QB Ian Book ranks 7th nationally in passer rating (181.2) and third in completion % (74.3), to go with 7 TD's and 0 INT's.

Statistical Key to the Game

It's hard to decide whether to feel more threatened by Ian Book or the really dominant defense. It comes down to whether it is easier to believe the Hokies would win in a shootout, or in a slugfest. If I had to guess which unit has a chance to overperform relative to rating, I'll go with the defense and thus the statistical key will lie in stopping Book and the Irish offense.

For this contest I'll go with explosive plays by the Notre Dame offense — hold them to 3 plays or less of 20+ yards, and the chances of a wild party in Blacksburg Saturday night go up significantly.

Statistical Prediction

Given the last two Virginia Tech games, it feels like anything is possible this season. Book is mobile enough to cause problems, but then again a Hokies' 3-man front stymied a capable Duke air attack. This game could easily go off the rails, but I don't think it does. I believe the Duke wine is more representative of the Hokies than that other game we won't talk about.

Virginia Tech 24, Notre Dame 20

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


Virginia Tech 24, Notre Dame 20

Virginia Tech 24, Notre Dame 20

To anyone that doesn't pick VT and support my irrational hope

Something happened during the second bye week after hurricane Florence. And suddenly the hype train became the Irrational Hope train. Anyhow, I'm on board full steam ahead!

Mihota is getting healthier.
Gaines wants to PLAY!!
Ricky Walker is gonna be Ricky MF'n WALKER
Belmar and Garbutt are stepping up.

I'm excited to see our guys tested against a good offensive line and passing attack. Saturday in Blacksburg is gonna be hype!

So Gaines wants to play?

this could be his Brett Favre moment!!!

Overheard as Duke assistant coaches took elevator down from press box: “Guys, they stopped the run with a three-man front.” - David Teel Tweet 2018

"If I had to guess which unit has a chance to overperform relative to rating, I'll go with the defense"
YES. And, our Defense needs to score. Turnover and Touchdown. Often that's how we win games. Momentum and a quick 6!!!


We need a touchdown from defense or special teams. Must limit big plays on defense and try to keep everything in front of us. Our big players need to make big plays in a big game. Willis needs to be able to run the ball and make proper reads to keep their defense honest. We must take care of the football on offense. Get the H backs and tight ends involved in the passing game to keep their linebackers and safeties from crashing downhill. Bring out the pop pass and the wheel route to check their aggressiveness. Play football. Feed off the crowd. Welcome to the Terror Dome.

Virginia Tech 24, Notre Dame 20


I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

I have never been more hyped for a game. idk if its Notre Dame or what but my god I can not wait. EXIT LIGHT ENTER NIGHT!


I keep waffling back and forth. Before the FSU game I had this weird confidence in the team. I keep going back between that feeling and an unnerved feeling where I think we're gonna hang tough but it's going to start getting ugly with about 10 minutes left in the 3rd Q.

I'm just glad to see everything balancing out and see us favored over the rest of the ACC schedule, save for Miami. But I would really like to see the team that lost to ODU show up and ruin NDs playoff hopes. Just absolutely drag them through the dirt.

I don't even know what to expect anymore. A win would be excellent though.

"What are you going to do, stab me? - Quote from Man Stabbed

The last two consequetive nights i have dreamed about this ND.

The first dream was more realistic. VT goes up early by 10 and ND storms back in the fourth to go up by 4. VT breaks a big play and is downed at the 1 yard line, but fails to punch it in as time expires. Heartbreaking.

Last night, my dream went off the goddamn rails. The game was 89-89 going into overtime and ND scored 55 OT points to win it.

So i keep dreaming that we will lose. Good thing is that i almost exclusicvely dream about the craziest impossible shit so that is good evidence that we are gonna win this game.

ND scored 55 OT points

Tbf, i was fleeing from underwater zombies while OT was happening, so I cant explain that.

I think you need to see a psychologist psychiatrist

EDIT: I'm dumb

"What are you going to do, stab me? - Quote from Man Stabbed

Nah man, my dreams are exciting af. Seriously. I go to sleep and have to survive a zombie apocalypse. Or survive Jurassic Park alone. Or escape from aliens.

It's always a good, and confusing, time.

Maybe I do need a psychiatrist....

8 overtimes? Could happen.


I take it this means they were...consequential?

I was listening to the radio in Raleigh yesterday and they were talking about our game, and specifically our season so far. They had Woody Durham on for his weekly segment, which is always a great listen, and he was very blunt saying "Virginia Tech is a very good team that was young enough to think it could go on vacation to Norfolk and walk out with a win against a team that believed it could win its Super Bowl." And then he listed off a half dozen times he could remember teams having similar games, even ones you wouldn't normally think of (like Georgia Tech losing to Kansas "in front of about 3,000 people" to open the season right after they won the ACC). All teams need to be smacked in the mouth sometimes, and this was ours. He stressed it was a mistake to think we'll play that bad again anytime soon.

The win against Duke helped course correct where we are. Beat ND and I think it'll be easy to overlook the ODU game as a fluke blip on the radar. Saturday is the true benchmark test for this program.

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

Sports radio in Raleigh is pretty decent. I really like Woody Durham. And his dad was so fun to listen to, even if it was for UNC basketball games.

Get Angry, Bud!

Except for Lauren Brownlow. I like her as a person, but she has too many baity hot takes, and I don't know WHY she's an AP voter. Like seriously, her ballots are real head scratchers.

That Duke Wine will get after you. Math says we will win so I will take it...

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"


I'll admit it, I'm scared. I remember before the 2011 Clemson game where Dabo said Lane was just another stadium and I though "hah we'll show him." Clemson went on to kick our butts 23-3.

I love a loud, packed, and ferocious Lane as much as anyone but I just don't know how much influence we can actually make. A few false starts or a delay of game might kill a couple offensive drives, best case their so much noise a miscommunication results in a turnover. I just don't know if the offense will be able to move the ball against the ND def or if our DBs will be able to stop their big WRs.

Pull yourself together H2OkiePokie. Don't be scared.



I wish I could but I've walked out of Lane too many times after big losses with no voice and a feeling of despair. It won't stop me from doing it all over again just trying to ground my expectations.

We have to turn it around with a big home win eventually, why not start Saturday?!

Every Hokie fan will give their all, I have no doubt!

And yes WE do make a difference! Just ask Duke how loud we were in their stadium!

"Take care of the little things and the big things will come."

Joel, you are either slipping or the numbers are not pulled together this early in the season, but what happened to all of the rushing and passing breakdowns? I always like to compare what I think our team's biggest strength and weakness to the week's opponent.

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

The S&P+ rankings don't have the advanced breakdowns until week 7.

What he said! For FSU I used the 2017 final numbers, but then there's nothing after that. They should be available starting week 8 and will have the full run-down then.

That of course doesn't mean I'm not slipping...

Oh so the S&P rankings do what the AP and Coaches Poll should do and not try to rank teams until the 5th-ish game of the season.

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

No, they still rank them... they just don't release "advanced statistical profiles" of each team until week 7.

Actually it does exist, just weighted with preseason projections. And as a bonus it also uses preseason projections as a component of a team's ranking through the entire year (as most advanced stats systems do)

I just had a premonition about this game. Brian Kelly outsmarts himself and decides to start Brandon Winbush at quarterback of Notre Dame. Wimbush runs for 150 yards in a losing effort, falling to VT 34-24.
Afterwards Hokies rejoice and a vocal segment of the fanbase complains that Bud can't stop mobile QBs.
Book it.