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2011 Virginia Tech Football: What to Watch vs. Wake Forest

A quick aside: A lot of the stats you see quoted here, or at least the raw data for them, comes from the outstanding site October is pledge drive month over there and I highly recommend donating to help keep that site going. It's a worthwhile cause.

Injuries continue to mount for Virginia Tech's front seven. Outside linebacker Jeron Gouveia-Winslow is out for the rest of the year, meaning NO TWEEDY IT'S WHIP is now your starter. As much as other schools will rag on Wake Forest for its undersized defensive front, the Hokies are now about to start a 189-pound linebacker (Tweedy), a 219-pound defensive end (Tyrel Wilson) and a 253-pound defensive tackle (Corey Marshall).

So, defending the run might be interesting. And while the Hokies are banged up on the line, Wake Forest running back Josh Harris is also nursing a hamstring injury. My guess is Harris plays. A lot has been made about how many yards he put up against the Hokies last year, enough that I think the Hokies step up and limit his effectiveness. Unfortunately, Harris is no longer the only thing Tech has to worry about against the Deacs.

Virginia Tech Offense vs. Wake Forest Defense

  • The Hokies are going to get the chance to go up against another 3-4 defense. They were able to run for nearly 500 yards combined against Appalachian State and East Carolina's 3-4 defenses, but Wake brings to the table a much better front seven.
  • Nose guard Nikita Whitlock isn't going to single-handedly keep Tech from running between the tackles, but he uses his agility well like John Graves did while he was at Tech and is tough to block. Tristan Doty and Zach Thompson are good against the run from the defensive end spots, but I'm not too worried about them in pass rush.
  • The guys I do worry about if Tech gets into passing downs are Joey Ehrmann and Kyle Wilber, the outside linebackers. Wilber played DE until the Deacs switched to the 3-4 I think he's Wake's best defensive player. 
  • Where Wake is vastly improved this year is against the pass. Last year, the Deacs gave up 7.3 yards per attempt. Through five games, that's down to 5.8 in 2011. And part of what led to their upset of FSU last year was the four interceptions the Deac defense collected.
  • What the Hokies have to do is establish the run early and allow the momentum from last week's performance against Miami to continue by giving Logan Thomas some short, easy throws to get in rhythm on the road. His passer rating on the road is over 50 points lower than when he's at home so getting him in rhythm and keeping him comfortable are the keys.
  • The other big key is getting into manageable third downs. That was something Tech did very well against Miami and something that needs to continue against a Wake defense that is allowing FBS opponents to convert on 37 percent of third downs.

Virginia Tech Defense vs. Wake Forest Offense

  • Because of the injuries, I get the feeling the Hokies are going to do a lot of bending in this game. How much breaking they do will probably determine the outcome. Wake is second in the ACC in overall red zone conversions at 89 percent. However, they only score touchdowns on 48 percent of their trips, which is 11th in the league.
  • On defense, Tech is second in the ACC, allowing points on only 69 percent of red zone attempts. However, they're 11th in touchdown percentage at 62 percent.
  • The story last year for Wake's offense was the large number of big plays they had. Nearly every Wake play seemed to either go for no or negative yards or go over 10+. This year I see the Deacs sustaining more drives mainly because of the development of their quarterback Tanner Price. Price took his lumps as a freshman and now, behind an experienced offensive line, he's thriving.
  • Last year, Wake ran the ball over 150 more times than they threw it, and that was on a 3-9 team that needed to throw to try and come back late in games. This year, they've only run 11 more times than they've passed. That shows the trust Price has earned from his coaches between last year and this year.
  • The key for Tech will be eliminating those big plays from last year, forcing Wake Forest into long yardage situations and getting pressure on Price, who has been sacked 12 times in five games.
  • Time of possession is usually a meaningless stat, but the Hokies' defense was gassed at the end of the game against Miami. Hopefully the Tech offense can sustain drives and keep an under-manned, under-sized Hokie defense on the sidelines for most of the game.

Watch the Box Score

  • Wake Forest YPC
  • Turnovers
  • Virginia Tech 3rd Down %
  • Wake Forest Red Zone %

Virginia Tech Players to Watch

  • 4 - David Wilson, Jr., RB
  • 7 - Marcus Davis, Jr., WR
  • 28 - Alonzo Tweedy, Jr, LB
  • 42 - J.R. Collins, So., DE

Wake Forest Players to Watch

  • 2 - Chris Givens, Jr., WR
  • 10 - Tanner Price, So., QB
  • 97 - Kyle Wilber, Sr., LB
  • 6 - Kenny Okoro, Jr., CB

Final Score

Virginia Tech 28, Wake Forest 26