November Starts Wednesday
It’s that time of the season. “That” time refers to the final four games, and for Virginia Tech that almost always means four difficult peer games within the ACC. The new bogus ACC hodge-podge, formerly known as a conference with actual divisions that had to be won or lost by playing every other team in that division, has resulted in a three-way tie for third place among the teams. One of those teams is to the astonishment of many, the Virginia Tech Hokies. It seems that after the horrible start at 1-3 with embarrassing losses to at least two teams Tech had no business losing to, the Hokies have found themselves, and have made a turn of sorts. It may be a good idea to revisit the prior article to see how things have changed. Re-evaluating the Virginia Tech Hokie Risk Chart After Four Games - Gobbler Country
Tech’s Risk Level Threat to Other Teams Rises
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves so we’ll review, that the Hokies sit at 4-4 with wins in three of the last four games, and a respectable showing in the loss to FSU. Sure, there was a breakdown in the opening quarter of that one, we already covered that tragedy, but sometimes failures and recoveries from them bring a measure of character to the fore. They also can, in those with character, bring a steely resolve. At the time of the last risk report, the Hokies had sunk from a Moderate/Low threat to their opponents to a Low level. A 1-3 team with no real personality and serious struggles on both sides of the line of scrimmage is more of a threat to itself than to other programs. The win-loss balance screamed Low risk, even without going into the gory details of the personnel, coaching, and strategies.
The turn came with the Pitt game. The win was convincing, but it was also confirming. The key position for the Hokies that had been missing since 2017, the Quarterback, had finally found a practitioner. With no smack against Grant Wells (There is an article coming very soon as to why there have been so many “Wells Experiments” that have failed in football, I promise.) but he did not have the skill set and physicality to run this offense on the field. Kyron Drones does. That change, and Drones’ steady improvement with each game has cascaded through the entire roster. The “end of October Hokies” are a completely different team than the end of September crew.
The Hokies have managed to improve their risk level to other programs to a Moderate. With a 4-4, that’s a push, but with so many other programs hovering between 5-3 and 3-5, a push is a serious factor to contend with for them. The reality is, though that Tech is on a fulcrum point in the season teeter-totter and it wouldn’t take much to cause a rump slamming bump if it becomes unbalanced in the wrong direction.
The Competition for the Remainder
No fooling, no raw speculating, and above all let us concentrate on one game at a time. There is good news at the end of the season if the Hokies can do that. They need to go after each team, in order and in isolation. Like the difference between the Pitt, Wake, and ‘Cuse games, there might be major differences in both offensive and defensive priorities necessary.
Let’s look at the chart, and then go over it a bit.
Hokies 2023 Risk Chart - The Remaining 4 Games
|TEAM||OPPONENT RISK RATING||NEW ODDS||OLD ODDS||COMMENT|
|TEAM||OPPONENT RISK RATING||NEW ODDS||OLD ODDS||COMMENT|
|Virginia||Low/Moderate||60/40||50/50||UVA is still a mess. That being said - they did just play UNC well enough to win by 4 and hold UNC to no points with 9 minutes left. They are increasingly dangerous.|
|Boston College||Moderate/Low||55/45||50/50||BC is 5-3 with wins against Virginia (tight) - Army (tight again) - and Georgia Tech (substantial). They played their non-conference games spread out in the 1st half and some of those teams were not cometative. Still they are home and dangerous.|
|North Carolina State||Moderate||50+/50||40/60||NCState is coming off of a major upset win over a struggling Clemson. Other than that they have a 5-3 record with their ACC numbers at 2-2. This is in Lane on Senior Night. Tech can win this if they play like they have demonstrated.|
|Louisville||Moderate/High||40/60||40/60||Louisville is currently in sole possession of #2 in the conference. They lost a perplexing game to Pitt, but blanked Duke. Consistency might not be there but Tech's got to play a perfect game on the road to beat them.|
|Even with a one game at a time attitude it is difficult to ignore the reality that if they play the way that they have been over the last 4 - and continue to improve - Current risk to other teams has risen to Moderate - Virginia Tech could potentiall win out. More probably they'll go 3-1 or 2-2, but that makes them bowl eligible. And that is a near miracle.|
|TEAM||GAME STATUS||OLD ODDS||RISK ACCURACY||COMMENT|
|Old Dominion||Win||60/40||Good||This was a win but not particularly impressive. It could be the only win for the season.|
|Purdue||Loss||55/45 - 50/50||Good||The Hokie offense fell flat and the defense ended up defending too much for too long - AGAIN|
|Pitt||Win||50/50||Missed||Pitt's problems on offense were made worse by it's surprising difficulties on defense. The score looked closer than it really was. The miss on the risk was to the good - however|
|Florida State||Loss||20/80||Good||Tech's very late start and serious 22 point stumble in the 1st quarter was nearly made up by the 3rd. FSU relit the fires and managed to close out the game but Tech and engineered a 17-17 tie for three quarters. The expected loss and not getting blown out was critical.|
|Wake Forest||Win||45/55||Missed||Wake has wheels coming off of their bus for the last several games. Though we missed a bit (to the good again) the Hokies probably triggered their risk slide so the miss was not by much.|
|Syracuse||Win||45/55||Missed||By game day Tech presented a higher risk for Cuse in the Moderate range. The odds had flipped to 55/45 in the Hokies favor. Seasons turn very fast and both risk windows shift quickly.|
The first fact to notice is that right now, Virginia Tech is already better than 2022. Okay, that’s one game better, but at this point in the season with the reduced expectations (reduced? How about none?) there has been a definite huge improvement in nearly every phase of the game. There will be the negative bleating about how Tech defeated bottom feeding teams, without the self-reflection required to understand that we were also in the bottom of that particularly stinky well and are one of the big reasons why the others are currently in the mud, and the Hokies are climbing out. It’s funny (ironic not ha-ha, though I am tempted there) to note that we are tied with Clemson in overall record. Welcome to the peloton Dabo – the portal is a thing, better learn it… or maybe go ahead and keep ignoring it. That’s way better for Tech.
The Level Risk is Moderate/High and has stayed that way since the beginning of the season.
The first big home stretch jump to get over is Louisville in Louisville. Currently the Cardinals are 7-1 overall with a 4-1 record in the ACC. That single ACC loss, as noted, is from the dreadful Pittsburgh Panthers and might just provide a useful roadmap for how the Hokies need to plan for a competitive game, and even a win. The fact to notice is that Louisville is coming off of a huge 23-0 blanking of Duke, but there is something about the low point total on a shutout that makes your head scratch a bit. Winning it at Duke really doesn’t say much since their stadium is pretty small and their crowd wondering why the basketball game hasn’t started, yet.
The risk never rose to the FSU level of High primarily due to the reality that the Cardinals have usually encountered problems on the back side of the season, and Tech was showing early signs of getting better with Drones behind the wheel. Now with the Hokie defense reviving, they present a much more formidable opponent for Louisville than they did before game 5 of the season. Though the odds still favor Louisville, a stoked and prepped Hokie team could actually grab this one as a huge upset.
Surprise! Surprise! BC isn’t horrible this season. It isn’t great, either, but it certainly is not in the pushover category, and they are playing Tech in Chestnut Hill. The Hokies have won there over the years, and more than they have lost. However, there have been losses and marking BC down as a pushover cupcake run is a tremendous mistake. Their opposing Risk level is a Moderate/Low and it’s not going to take a perfect effort to grab this one, BUT Tech needs to play that sort of game to prove that they still have positive momentum. The Hokies do have a bit of an advantage, but it’s like 55/45, at this point. The Louisville results will be telling.
North Carolina State
If any team on the current schedule rates as completely inconsistent, NC State is right at the top of the list. Though they are 5-3 overall, their choppy win loss record, with Ws over the likes of UConn, UVA, and VMI are balanced off heavily by losses to Notre Dame, Louisville, and Duke. They have two more before they show up in Blacksburg, Miami on Nov 4th and Wake on Nov 11th. Though Wake doesn’t present much of a challenge, Miami is probably a peer matchup that could go either way. (BTW: Miami is not “back”, folks.) NC State represents a true peer matchup, and we really won’t get a feel of the odds of Tech’s status until we see the results of the Louisville and BC contests. If the Hokies come home to Senior night with either a 1-1 or even better a 2-0 road trip, NC State will be in serious trouble. The long-term prospects keep popping up to be a close Tech advantage, and the risk chart reflects that at a Moderate risk from the Wolfpack and a smidgeon of a Tech advantage. The 50+/50 (51/49) could flip but not worth putting in the chart since it won’t firm up until both teams have played the next two games.
You’d like to say that the Wahoos absolutely shall be a season capping win for the Hokies. That’s not really easy to say, at this point. The UVA defense is not horrible. Since their third game, their defense has managed to hold their opponents to no more than 27 points. That puts their offense in close enough range to have a chance at winning. Admittedly, their win total includes FCS William & Mary, but they do have a recently notched win against North Carolina. Last weekend, they lost, again, to Miami but it was a 3-point overtime win for the ‘Canes. The Hoo’s risk level has faded a bit, but if they continue to push opponents and manage to notch a few more wins, that could change back to a Toss-up. For now, at 2-6 UVA is a Low/Moderate risk level opponent, but is pushing the Moderate/Low level, and could be right back to even up Thanksgiving weekend.
Wrapping It Up and Getting Ready for Louisville Week
The Risk Chart has shifted a bit, but there is a real sense that Virginia Tech’s fortunes are looking up. The major factor in the final four games will be keeping positive momentum going. A bad showing against Louisville (win or lose) could pull the wheels off the Hokies’ cart. There are other risks, including the dreaded injury monster.
Regardless of that, the Hokies absolutely need to concentrate on winning one game at a time, and only look up to see how they did, after the final whistle on Thanksgiving weekend.
Next up, a special opinion article on why so many college (and pro) programs seem to struggle season after season with little traction and success. Thursday is preview day.