Virginia Tech is at a crossroads with both head coach Justin Fuente and as a program in general. The once proud, gritty, lunch pale toting Hokies are now being beaten down by Duke on national TV. The Hokies are sitting at 72nd per the SP+ while Miami is currently 31st. Bill C has always liked Miami and his metrics have favored the ‘Canes at times, too.
Quarterback Ryan Willis is doing average work behind center. He’s averaging 7.5 yards per passing attempt while completing 60% of his passes. He has throw eight touchdowns and five interceptions. The running game is even more mediocre, Deshawn McClease is averaging only 3.8 yards per carry. The offense is 88th per the SP+ while the defense is 52nd.
On the flip side, Miami’s offense is 65th, the defense is 21st and the kicking game has hardly improved sitting at 86th. Jarren Williams is averaging 8.9 yards per attempt with seven touchdowns, zero interceptions, and 73% completion percentage. Deejay Dallas is averaging 6.6 yards per rush. This looks like a no-brainer of a victory but Miami has played Central Michigan close and dropped games to Florida and UNC.
Virginia Tech Defense
The Hokies once proud defense is still better than the offense, but it’s a middle of the road squad per the SP+. Here on 1st and 10 from inside the red zone the cornerback and safety are both above the hard deck (seven yards or more off the ball) allowing Duke to scheme almost anything they want. Against this look I like stick. I’ve drawn it up for you above, and many times before.
The Devils go with a fake-bubble, vertical route that I call money. Once you run enough bubbles as part of your RPO’s or general quick game- you can start taking deep shots off of them. Watch the GIF below, the VT defense runs up to play the bubble and Duke has two open receivers on this play. Quentin Harris intelligently picks the one furthest from the safety, and closest to the sideline. If it’s a bad throw it sails out of bounds, not into a defender.
Down inside of the 5-yard line, the Blue Devils go with a look familiar to Dan Enos. Duke loads up on the heavy package, runs a play-action, and as the fullback slips out of the back field he comes open in the flat.
There weren’t exactly a ton of Va Tech highlights on offense during the game. The Hokies struggled in all phases against the Blue Devils. Justin Fuente is supposed to be an offensive-minded coach, he’s the guy who ‘masterminded’ the Memphis Tigers. However, Mike Norvell has seemed to do a hell of a job at Memphis on offense and Fuente’s prowess to score has fallen off.
One play they run well against Duke on 3rd and long is mesh. A staple of the Air Raid and a play that Mike Leach still runs while others say it’s no longer in the book, mesh is an effective concept. The QB will rhythm his corner route there to the top of the screen, then hitch up and read the mesh between the two slot receivers. Here, the far slot comes open on mesh.
While other defensive backs may not have to worry, Miami painfully week crew back there will. Miami needs to get a pass rush on Willis and confuse him by switching up coverages. With Trajan Bandy, Robert Knowles, Al Blades, Jr. and Amari Carter being ranked in Miami’s bottom 10 per Pro Football Focus (read more here), the ‘Canes will be more susceptible than others to the deep throw.
Miami and Virginia Tech is a once proud rivalry that will now be a 3:30 kickoff many fans skip over for Auburn at Florida which is kicking off at the same time. Va Tech and Miami are both 2-2 and neither is ranked in the top-25 of college football. This will be a battle of futility but Miami should have the edge. The ‘Canes have the more efficient quarterback, better running game, and stronger defense.
Prediction: Miami by 4