The Hokies are sitting at 6-1, undefeated in conference play, with their only loss coming in the season opener against #1 Alabama. It’s hard to believe that at this time last year, the Hokies were 4-3, and about to face an ugly three-game losing streak, something Virginia Tech fans had not seen in a very long time.
This squad has many of the same players, but they look like a completely different team, and with a relatively easy schedule ahead, the Hokies for the most part control their own destiny. Here are a few thoughts heading into the bye week.
1. The defense- wow.
Virginia Tech fans have become accustomed to seeing a great defense. This year was no exception, and while expectations were high, no one could have predicted just how well Bud Foster’s group has performed thus far.
Even without their star corner Antone Exum, the Hokies are currently leading the country in interceptions with 13 on the season. Five defensive backs have multiple picks, including a pair of true freshmen, Kendall Fuller (2) and Brandon Facyson (4, one shy of the nation’s leader).
Oh, and the Hokies also have a front seven. A little more than halfway into the season, Virginia Tech also has the most sacks in the country with 27; eight coming against Pittsburgh last week. To say that the defense is the Hokies’ strength would be an understatement. It’s a good enough unit to keep any of the remaining games close, and is really the only reason they’ve won six games.
2. Logan Thomas is improving weekly
In the season opener against Alabama, Logan Thomas was an abysmal 5-26 for just 59 yards. Sure, there were a lot of dropped passes, and his numbers certainly were not all on him, but even the most optimistic Hokie fans were ready to settle in for another sub-par season by their senior quarterback, who once showed so much potential. But as the season has progressed, Thomas has shown great improvement and he has the numbers to back them up.
In his first two games, he completed 41% of his passes. In his next two: 55%. His past three (all ACC games): 66%. In fact, if you take away Alabama and Western Carolina (the hardest and easiest games), he is 60% on the season, a significant improvement from last season, and a few points higher than his fantastic performance in 2011.
3. Running game continues to suffer
The Hokie offense is putting up enough points to win games, but they are still struggling to run the ball. For years the Hokies have relied on a powerful running game to complement good quarterbacks. They have improved from last year, but they still are not putting up the numbers they would like to, and it’s hurting their red-zone efficiency.
Right now their leading rusher, Trey Edmunds, is under 400 yards for the season, and only averaging 3.7 yards per carry. If he continues with those numbers, he will finish with the lowest yards per carry at VT since 2007. Exactly where the problems lie is up to the coaches to figure out, but they will certainly need to work on that during their week off if they want to continue to be successful for the remainder of the season.
4. Remaining schedule looks promising
Before the season began, Alabama was clearly the biggest game for the Hokies, but after the Tide, there were three games that stood out as must-wins for Virginia Tech. Those were Georgia Tech (win), North Carolina (win), and Miami.
With GT and UNC already in the books, Miami is the biggest game remaining in the schedule. Aside from the Hurricanes, Virginia Tech still faces Duke (4-2), Boston College (3-3), Maryland (5-1), and Virginia (2-4). Easy victories are hard to come by in college football, but the way the Hokies are playing this season, their defense should be able to secure relatively stress-free wins over their remaining opponents aside from Miami.
The week after playing at Boston College, Virginia Tech will have to travel all the way down to Miami and face a Hurricane team that will be coming off an emotional (win or lose) game against Florida State. Virginia Tech has already exacted revenge on two of the teams that beat them last year, and will be looking to do the same to a tough Miami team. If they can beat Miami, they will more than likely go on to the ACC Championship game as a top-10 team, to face the winner of this week’s Florida State-Clemson game.
There are a lot of ifs remaining in the season, but if they manage to pull off a victory in Charlotte, they would have a 12-1 record. With their only loss coming to #1 Alabama, and with quality wins against Miami, and either Florida State or Clemson, Tech could at least be in the conversation for the National Championship Game (it’s a long shot, I know).
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