Virginia Tech's game against East Carolina Saturday is a prime example of why statisticians like our friend Bill Connelly and the rest of the guys at Football Outsiders love the Hokies. The stats the Hokies put up look good in various efficiency indexes and lead them to be toward the top of FO's preseason rankings.
If football were played on paper, Tech would be among the nation's elite. It's produced very efficient defenses (and believe it or not, offenses) the past few years. But it's what you can't see on a box score that often costs the Hokies and nearly cost them this week against East Carolina.
The numbers in the box score for Virginia Tech are impressive. They had nearly three-times (!) as many yards as the Pirates, had nine more first downs and got into the red zone five times to ECU's one. But dig a little deeper and Tech's impressive game begins to unravel.
First and foremost were the 92 yards worth of penalties the Hokies racked up. Nearly all of them were legitimate and were due to sloppy play and mental mistakes. Tech also cashed in only three of their five red zone chances with an end zone interception and a missed field goal to show on the other two.
What statisticians can't include in their calculations is preparation, execution and what a team's mentality is coming into a game. ECU was ready to play Saturday and I'm not sure the Hokies were. The penalties indicate they weren't and the inconsistency from the offensive line was another indication.
This Hokies team has a lot of potential but it's still a ways off from meeting it. In recent years by the time the Hokies realize this they've put a number in the loss column. Fortunately they have the luxury of being undefeated and knowing what they need to work before they face the toughest parts of their schedule.