News With Commentary by TSL Staff

Tuesday, November 2, 2004
by Chris James, TechSideline.com

Hokies Still Playing Great D

After another dogfight with Georgia Tech on Thursday night in Atlanta, Virginia Tech continues be ranked among the nationís leaders in many of the major defensive categories. The Hokies have played good defense all year long, and continued their strong play against the Yellow Jackets, especially in the second half.

The most important defensive stat is, of course, scoring defense. The Hokies lead the ACC in scoring defense and are ranked 5th nationally, yielding only 12.63 points per game. Wisconsin leads the nation, only giving up 8.5 points per game.

In total defense, Tech is 7th nationally and 2nd in the ACC, giving up 275.38 yards per game. NC State continues to hold the ACC lead in this category, giving up 238.13 yards per game.

Rushing defense hasnít quite been as dominating for the Hokies this year, but they still hold solid marks in this category. Tech ranks 37th nationally and 5th in the ACC in rushing defense, yielding 120.25 yards per game on the ground. Not a bad stat, considering the Hokies have faced LenDale White, Reggie Bush, T.A. McClendon, Kay-Jay Harris, Chris Barclay and P.J. Daniels on the season. The best stat of all is that none of those running backs has reached the century mark against the HokiesÖthatís a pretty amazing feat.

Perhaps the most impressive defensive stat of the season for Tech is Pass Efficiency Defense. The Hokies rank 4th nationally and 1st in the ACC in the category. Thatís a pretty big improvement from the 2003 season, when the Hokies got torched through the air in the final two games of the season against UVA and Cal, when they gave up a combined 59-of-81 (72.8%) for 752 yards, 4 TDs and 1 INT.

Statistically, the Hokies are playing great defense. In 2003, the Hokies played great statistical defense through the first two months of the season as well. The big difference between 2003 and 2004 is that Tech just looks better on defense this year. Nobody is getting blown off the ball, for the most part the team is playing disciplined football, and the competition has been outstanding thus far. In 2003, the Hokies padded their defensive stats against inferior competition, but if you looked at that defense hard in the early part of the season, at times they didnít look good. You could tell there were some weaknesses. The 2004 version has looked great against everybody they have played.

The ACC Race

The ACC race is tighter than it has ever been heading into the month of November. And guess what? Florida State isnít in first place! Indeed, among the three schools currently tied for first place in the ACC, two of them are conference newcomers, Miami and Virginia Tech. The ĎCanes and Hokies are tied at the top with Virginia, all three teams boasting 3-1 records in conference play. Two teams, Florida State and North Carolina follow up the top 3 with 3-2 records in conference play. Those two are followed by four teams with 3 losses in conference play: Georgia Tech, NC State and Clemson all stand at 3-3 in ACC play, while Maryland is 2-3. Every single one of the teams listed above has a chance to make a bowl game in 2004, so itís going to be a battle to the finish in the month of November.

As it stands now, only 4 teams are likely to stand a chance to take home part of the ACC crown: Miami, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Florida State. Letís take a look at the schedule of each remaining team:

The ACC Race

Team

Current Record

Remaining ACC Schedule

Miami

6-1 (3-1)

Clemson, at Virginia, Wake, Virginia Tech

Virginia

6-1 (3-1)

Maryland, Miami, at Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech

6-2 (3-1)

at UNC, Maryland, Virginia, at Miami

Florida State

6-2 (4-2)

Duke, at NC State

Take a look at that schedule. Nobody, with the exception of Florida Stateís matchup with Duke, plays a team that canít beat them. There are some very likely wins for some of the teams, such as Miamiís games against Clemson and Wake, but nothing is certain.

Looking at the schedule, Miami may have the advantage just because they are Miami and have the most talent, and also because they only have one remaining road game. Granted, that road game is against Virginia, and it will be by far the biggest home game of the season for the Cavaliers.

One possibility is a 4-way tie for the ACC crown. First of all, for that to happen, Florida State must win out. While certainly not a given, I would argue that there is a high probability. Second of all, Virginia Tech must defeat North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia, then fall to Miami in the season finale. Thatís going to be tough, but itís possible. Virginia must defeat Miami, and lose to Virginia Tech. Miami has to lose to Virginia, but defeat all other opponents. While it might be a longshot, there is the possibility that all four teams could finish 6-2 in the ACC and all share the ACC title.

For the Hokies to win the title outright, they are going to have to win out. There is no getting around that fact. If the Hokies win out, they will be the undisputed ACC champions, because they will have beaten Miami and Virginia. If the Hokies drop a game down the road, they still have a chance at a share of the crown. Drop two games, and Tech is out of it, but a good bowl game (on the East Coast!) will be certain.

Iím not going to venture an opinion of how the ACC race will play out, but I can guarantee you that the best of the 2004 ACC season is yet to come.

Hokies and Heels set for Noon Kickoff on ESPN2

The Virginia Tech-North Carolina game schedule for this Saturday, November 6th has been scheduled for a noon kickoff. The game will be shown nationally on ESPN2. Pam Ward will handle the play-by-play for the contest, and Mike Tomczak will serve as the color commentator. Dave Ryan will cover the game from the sideline.

This will mark the first time during the 2004 season that the Hokies have played a game on ESPN2. Tech holds an 11-3 mark all time in games broadcast on ESPN2.

And speaking of the Tar Heels, how about that win over Miami on Saturday night? How many of you honestly predicted that UNC would shred the Miami defense for 279 yards on the ground and 545 yards of total offense? I sure didnít. UNC has been an inconsistent and at times poor team in 2004, but they stood toe to toe with the mighty Hurricanes this past weekend.

The UNC offense is rockiní and rolliní behind senior quarterback Darian Durant, but to be blunt, the Miami defense looked flat out pathetic. Their front four was getting blown off the ball by the UNC offensive line, the defense as a whole played undisciplined football, and their tackling made the 2003 Virginia Tech defense look like the old Pittsburgh Steelersí Steel Curtain.

The Miami coaching staff didnít help matters either. Durant ripped the Miami zone defense apart, and the ĎCanes never made any adjustments. It was reminiscent of the VT-UVA game last year, when Heath Miller rung up catch after catch on the Hokies, and VT never made any adjustments. The Hokies always seem to find a way to move the football on Miami, so if Larry Coker doesnít get his defense straightened out soon, the December 4th contest in the Orange Bowl could be a lot closer than anyone would have imagined at the beginning of the season.



          

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