The Story of this Game Might Just be the Weather
Thankfully no weather service is predicting the weather insanity of the Purdue game, but almost everyone, including our go to Weather Underground is predicting a wet and cool situation for the game on Saturday. It’s looking a whole lot like a “late” (because it’s only a month into Fall) season mountain drizzle at a modest mid-60’s temperature and light winds. Frankly, that benefits the Hokies because wet sloppy conditions always benefit a running offense with a short-range passing attack - when they do pass.
Don’t cough and hack about the phrase “running attack”, either. No, the Hokies still can’t run inside very well. The offensive line just hasn’t been able to control the “A” Gap zone enough to squeeze through with any regularity, but with Kyron Drones behind center, Tech seems to have developed a sort of outside and off-tackle capability that peer teams can have some difficulty stopping effectively. A refocus of the passing attack and some more downfield patterns would be helpful to that effort, but we aren’t going to go into innovative strategies, here. Bill Walsh could sit right next to the OC’s ear and talk West Coast theory and be dismissed for being annoying.
Wake is Struggling and Inconsistent - as much as the Hokies are
The Deacs are currently 3-2 with a bye week in their back pockets. Before you get all sad about things, two of those wins were FCS Elon, and ODU. The third was a relative romp over Vanderbilt. Vandy is the the near perennial cupcake of the SEC and has even more struggles this year, so none of those wins are particularly impressive.
Wake’s losses are probably even more frustrating to them, because... Well, loses are always frustrating when they come from the likes of Georgia Tech, but the stone reality is that Clemson, even struggling this season, was nearly a win for the DDs. Yes, Dabo’s gang is not working out particularly well this season, but Wake would have had a serious head of steam coming off of a win against them. As it stands, Clemson salvaged the game, but Wake still gained a few points on the “risk to the Hokies” scale.
Wake Forest’s offense is not particularly bad, and it’s not particularly good. Yahoo Sports ranks them at 113th in average offense for the season. They have a quarterback, Mitch Griffis, can throw the ball but is prone to tossing it to the wrong helmet. He’s got 6 picks for the year, and he’s been sacked 22 times. He has thrown 9 touchdown passes, but Wake’s only managed four rushing touchdowns for the first half of the year. At this point, I am not sure that’s a particularly good thing for them. It certainly is a seam that maybe Coaches Marve and Pry can figure out how to exploit.
The Deac’s rushing attack is also sort of middling. They do spread the load between three running backs; Demond Claiborne, Justice Ellison, and Tate Carney. Claiborne has managed three TDs across the schedule but has had only one 100+ yard effort and that was against Vanderbilt. Ellison has appeared in 4 games, with his best being against Georgia Tech in a losing effort. Carney has appeared in three games, with Vandy as his only big showing. Quarterback Griffis can run and has done so but it’s been mostly for scrambles and escapes.
The Wake passing attack is a bit better off than their running effort. They spread the ball around pretty well between their top four receivers; Jahmal Banks, Taylor Morin, Wesley Grimes, and Ke’Shawn Williams. Banks is really the primary receiver with 32 receptions for 331 yards and three touchdowns. Morin and Grimes are not far behind him with two TDs each and respectable catch and yardage totals. Ke’Shawn Williams also presents a threat as a returner.
The challenge to the Hokies will be getting pressure on Griffis, and get him to make mistakes. With a relatively balanced attack appearance, though, Tech is going to have to get the struggling linebacker corps getting their run fits correct, and allowing Marve to dial up some blitzes and rundogs to limit the Wake offense. They need to do to Griffis what they did to Jurkovec.
The Reality for the Hokies is on the Ground
Tech is just going to have to take advantage of the sloppy conditions, make sure that the Gatorade is strong to keep the cramps down, and run the ball outside on offense. Wake Forest’s defense is not inconsequential. It’s going to be important for the Hokies to make sure that they keep the Deacs guessing and challenge the outside and quick downfield routes that take advantage of Drones’s outside speed to either open passes in the flats or runs off the edge.
We are beginning to sound like a broken record... (For the young folks who don’t know about vinyl records, a nick in a tack caused the record to skip back into the same track, over and over.) This team needs to change the record because the skips are ruining the song. There is little or no way to change up the content function of the plays. That’s an offseason thing. What can be done is to alter the plays being called, and when. Drones still needs to have the confidence to be cut loose to get out of a dead pocket and take good decisions on either getting the ball to his first open read or getting down the field on his own wheels.
Attacking Pitt, which has a much better defense than Wake’s, off the edges and challenging them under the zone and in the seams might be a good approach for this game, too. Again, Wake’s defense isn’t Nardo’s but it is competent. Hopefully, Bowen isn’t going to open up the play book to the “infinite variations of the ‘A’ Gap Blast” section and try to pound the ball up the middle. He’s also advised to use the ‘bubble’ screen routes sparingly and only when it’s obvious that the defense that he’s going to intermediate routes. There is a necessary balance, and he’s not hit that concept yet. Heaven forefend, it’d even be tonic to see a functional jet sweep tossed into the mix to get the defense running from sideline to sideline. Whatever the case, unless the Tech OC figures out a way to get consistently vertical - downfield in the intermediate ranges- his offense is never going to work, and the Wake game is going to be largely on the ground.
The Odds and Speculations from the Desert Southwest
Sin City always has something to say about the chances of the game’s direction. Sports gambling has always been an under-the-table driver of things, but now it’s out in the open, and even though some of us refuse to gamble, the numbers guys have a tendency to be right - big money is at stake. Currently the game is basically a “pick-em” (Even odds) with Tech giving a less than home field -1.5 points on the spread. The Over/Under is not particularly impressive at 47 which tells you what the expected score is. Tech wins roughly 24-23 or so. I’d definitely take the win no matter whether Tech beats the spread or not, but that’s about the tightest game called in the schedule.
The weather is going to complicate things, but the rain total predictions in the tenth of an inch or less per hour tells you that it’s just going to be misty, damp, and cloudy. That can change everything if the footing on Worsham Field gets sloppy and loose.
You Tell Us
We’ll see, now it’s your turn to speculate.
It’s Tech favored by 1.5 on Homecoming. What’s your best guess on this?
This poll is closed
Drones is the unequivocal #1, if they run an offensive game plan that suits his style, Tech has a chance of blowing up the spread, and maybe even pushing into Over territory. Hokies win at home in the slop. Bet the Over.
Neither team is gangbusters. Neither team is going to get a major head of steam going on Offense. It’s going to be a defensive play that changes things. Bet the Under, but Wake Forest nips it by scoring a passing TD late.
Tech’s run defense just can’t get stops and gets gashed again. Wake storms in, runs a balanced attack and pushes the Hokie D to the limit. Hokies hang in for 2/3rd but lose by a TD in a slight over.
The Hokies manage to get some stops on Defense, pick the ball off for a short field. The offense burns up enough yards and clock to make this one look like a repeat of the Pitt game. Tech gets aggressive on both sides for the win, it covers on the over.