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Virginia Tech Hokies vs the Volunteers: Previewing the Battle of Bristol

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The Big Preview of the Hokies vs. the Vols. Don't believe the hype, Tech's got a real chance to win this game. They've seen our D, but it's much better this year. They haven't seen our O; and that'll be the difference maker.

This needs to happen often on Saturday
This needs to happen often on Saturday
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

I am not particularly sure as to why or how they thought burying a football field in the middle of a racetrack would be a great idea.  The seats are impossibly far away, and the view for the fans will be like stocking the man cave with a 13 inch LCD store brand TV.   The field quality is in question as well.  So we got here, about to tee up a kickoff in the largest venue a football game was played in.  Let us hope that there are Hokie superlatives attached to the end result, regardless of the lack of proximity to the fans.  Joshua took a look at the coming game back on August 24th.  Nothing much has changed.

Remember my mentioning that Worsham Field is a bit tight for the crews, staff, and other sideline dwellers?  Well I guess the Bristol Motor Speedway solves that problem, if you don't mind standing on a banked racetrack.  Well enough of the lead in, my opinion of the choice of the venue and the conditions of the meeting (I like the traditional home/away structure.) doesn't much matter in the grander scheme of big money NCAA dollars and cents.

What we do know is that Tennessee is coming off of a pretty disappointing year for them.  Though 9-4 isn't something that Hokies would complain about much; the problem with their 2015 season was that their four losses were to SEC Teams; Alabama, Florida, and Arkansas with another non-conference loss to the Sooners.  Their 2014 Season looked like ours at 7-6, and their 2013 season was a sub .500 5-7.  That last one is just something that you do not see for a big SEC challenger.  The difference maker to the Volunteers has been the hiring of Butch Jones to run the program, and pull it out of the post Lane Kiffin Wander in the Wilderness Era.

Since he was hired late in 2012 from Cincinnati, Jones has steadily rebuilt the Volunteers into a team that is right on the cusp of challenging the top teams in the SEC.  But his record still currently stands at 21-17. That's probably why they signed on for this interesting non-conference game with Virginia Tech.  One can never be completely sure of the schedulers motivations in the past, but choosing to beat up a cupcake mid-major team for a second game is the usual choice.  Tech doesn't intend on being Tennessee's "cupcake",  though the Vol "talk" sounds that way.  We really need to remember that the first-game big non-conference match-up has seen truly sad results; one win in five attempts.  Are the Vols putting themselves at the same level as OSU, USC, Alabama, or Boise State?  I don't know but I do know that the Hokies don't and OSU found out that the Gobbler can bite.

So, here we are.  Tech has a brand new head coach, an offense that no one really has seen in action, and a defensive coordinator that has already beaten the Volunteers once before in the 2009 Chik-fil-a Bowl, for which we handed them a post season loss 37-14 which was revenge of sorts for our loss at the 1994 Gator Bowl (23-45).   Prior to that unfortunate bowl match-up, Tennessee and Virginia Tech hadn't played each other since 1937.   And we only met twice during the Leather Helmet era.  Everything before 1920 was a brand and rule set of football that we'd barely recognize, today.

1937       Sat., Oct 2, 1937                Knoxville, Tenn.                L, 0-27   NA

1933       Sat., Sep 30, 1933             Knoxville, Tenn.                L, 0-27   NA

1911       Sat., Nov 11, 1911            Blacksburg, Va. W, 36-11              NA

1899       Fri., Oct 27, 1899               Knoxville, Tenn.                W, 5-0   NA

1897       Thu., Nov 25, 1897           Roanoke, Va.     L, 0-18   NA

1896       Sat., Nov 14, 1896            Knoxville, Tenn.                L, 4-6     NA

Well that was the limited "then" and this is the daunting "now".  The Vols bring back a capable team that is SEC deep with talent, and a Quarterback, Joshua Dobbs, who ended 2015 with the following stat line:

Name

GS-GP

Eff

Comp-Att-Int

Pct

Yds

TD

Long

Avg/game

Joshua Dobbs

13-13

127.0

205-344-5

59.6

2291

15

75

176.2

They also return a serious one two three punch of running backs that include Dobbs (running QB's being Bud Foster's bane for more than a few seasons, now:

RUSHING

GP-GS

Att

Gain

Loss

Net

Avg

TD

Long

Avg/G

Jalen Hurd

13-13

277

1353

65

1288

4.6

12

48

99.1

Alvin Kamara

13-1

107

710

12

698

6.5

7

63

53.7

Joshua Dobbs

13-13

146

855

184

671

4.6

11

62

51.6

On defense the Vols are returning several players with solid experience through the Jones years.  Defensive Backs Emmanuel Moseley, Malik Foreman, and Cameron Sutton will probably start.  Tennessee returns a young-ish defensive line with a few seniors and juniors with solid game experience.  Their first half against Appalachian State was most probably not indicative of their effort for this game.  We can expect to see their second half performance from the start.

We know about Tech, Gobbler Country has pounded the rosters, and we've discussed the depth charts to death. We are waiting to see if a new depth chart is published with updates from the results of the Liberty game.  Jawhar has taken us to class to see if we can get a hint of what's in store on offense.  His piece on the hot plays from the Liberty game is super.

The Hokies have a real chance to win this football game.  I do not bite off on the SEC preseason hype.  Yes the top teams in the SEC are nearly professional quality, if that's controversial to say, you know that it's the first thought on everyone's mind when the subject of college football conferences is discussed.  The reality is that the Hokies must deal with the following Challenges:

  • The Offense must quickly sort itself out, and run as hard and as fast as Coach Fuente drives it.
  • They need to spread out, and spread the ball around, both on the ground and in the air.
  • Tech must play nearly error free football on both sides of the ball. (Well error free, but we are all human, right?)
  • It's imperative that the Hokies run offensive plays and keep the ball on the field. Of course this is also tempered by the reality that scoring touchdowns with every possession also equals a measure of time. Remember it's points per minute of possession. The team that scores more often more times wins.
  • The Defense must stop the running QB, and stuff the run. That means the Defensive Line needs to get solid pressure and penetration on every play. It must also do its best to take advantage of broken plays and miscues.
  • The Defensive Backfield is going to be challenged, especially under the zone and between the seams.
  • Joey needs to fix is right hash curse, because his foot might make the difference.

In Short, we need to keep the Volunteer offense off of the football field as much as possible, mostly by controlling the ball and driving on offense.  The best defense is always that your d is sitting on the bench for most of the game.

Virginia Tech has a real chance to win this football game.  The Volunteers have had a decent but middling record for the Jones era.  As was noted, three of their 4 losses were to 3 top tier SEC teams, and one top tier non-conference team.  That's not justification to brag or strut about.

The last time that these teams met, Tech, an underdog, walked away with a convincing win.  We CAN do it again.

GO HOKIES!!!!