The Hokies have three games to go in the 2009 regular season and even though they come against arguable the three worst teams in the ACC (Maryland, NC State and Virginia), two of those three are on the road and one is a rivalry game.
While Tech is likely to win out and finish the regular season at 9-3, it's entirely possible the Hokies could drop another game and end any possibility of continuing their streak of 10-win seasons.The Offense
There are plenty of critics of Bryan Stinespring out there and his playcalling is still suspect at times. But you can't overlook the fact that this offense is much improved over last year. Tyrod Taylor is quarterback now, instead of just a playmaker under center. The wide receivers have progressed more than I thought they would, especially Danny Coale and Ryan Williams is a certified star.
Despite the last three games, the Hokies are still miles better in the red zone than they have been in recent years. They've scored touchdowns on 53 percent of their red zone possessions (nearly 59 percent in conference games). Last year, Tech got in the end zone on 46 percent of their trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
The concern for me is the recent injuries on the offensive line that could completely submarine this progress. Center Beau Warren has an MCL strain that forced Michael Via into action Thursday. We also saw Greg Nosal in at guard. In addition to these injuries, Ed Wang has been pretty bad at tackle in recent weeks. If the offensive line doesn't get itself in gear, it's not going to matter what plays Stinespring calls or what Taylor and Williams do with them.
Barring an epic fail from the O-line, Tech should be able to put up plenty of points against Maryland and NC State. But don't sleep on Virginia's defense. It's been solid in stretches this season.
It would be an understatement to say this year's defense has been a disappointment. Guys we hoped would step up haven't, young talent hasn't developed as quickly as we'd like and we haven't gotten the key stops we've needed.
Kam Chancellor still isn't a free safety, the linebackers are still young and Jason Worilds is still one of the best if not the best defensive end in the ACC. No one's been a big surprise yet this season, but Antoine Hopkins and Demetrius Taylor look like they're improving by the drive.
The way they stepped up and shut down ECU gives us hope that they can do the same over the next three games. They should be able to stop Maryland (which didn't do a whole lot on offense after Chris Turner went down) and Virginia. However, NC State could be a problem. The Wolfpack may not be able to stop anybody, but they can definitely light up a scoreboard.
Virginia Tech hasn't been able to have a year where it has a good defense and good offense in the same year since 1999. Imagine if Tech had a stingy defense in this season or in 2003. Or, imagine if it had this year's offense in either of the last two seasons.
The only one of Tech's goals left in reach is keeping the 10-win streak alive. The Hokies should have a chance to reach that goal in the bowl game. However, with the inconsistency we've seen out of both the offense and defense, I think we should be worried about one of the units laying an egg in any of the next three games and Tech ending the regular season at 8-4.
Random Questions for Debate
- How angry would Iowa fans be with its OC if it was 7-3? How happy would we be with ours if we were 8-1. The point is, Iowa and Tech have similar teams. But Iowa isn't hanging Ken O'Keefe in effigy (yet) because of a few breaks. Stinespring is a few breaks away from this team still controlling its own destiny in the ACC.
- Is it just me, or do this year's Maroon and Orange Effect shirts smell bad? It's like they used a different substance for the press-ons.
- Which of the next three are we most in danger of losing and why?