#25 Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati:
Pbp: Anish Shrof
Color: Daniel Hawkins
VT is a 7 point favorite,
$-Line: bet 2.5 to win 1 on VT, and bet 1 to win 2.1 on Cincy
Surprisingly (3-1) Virginia Tech and still unbeaten although under-played (2-o) Cincinnati invade FedEx Field up in Landover Maryland this Saturday afternoon in a A.c.c. vs. Big East clash of alleged conference front-runners.
And that unspoken whisper you hear on the wind is the almost muted sound of doubt. Some might even deign to call it outright clinical phobia as this game#5 outcome goes; that really seemed to be a regulation style Virginia Tech victory a mere 3 weeks ago. However, Cincy did work Pitt good and hard and Pitt mauled #13 Virginia Tech worse than the scoreboard indicated on-film just a fortnight ago. And suddenly that ole sinking feeling has permeated the Orange and Maroon fan base as our O&M margin of error has diminished as has our confidence in mutually intrinsic or team-wide sense –and in an extrinsic or fan-base sense parallel and alike.
Virginia Tech is not a bad football team, we are authentically an above average football team to be sure. Though I am unsure if our game#1 debut performance vs. a dangerous Georgia Tech football team is our pinnacle or ceiling signature performance for twenty-twelve? I am sure that our Pitt performance will get us beat and I’m phobic that our Bowling Green performance would bring this Saturdays issue into doubt. As this is just not a good looking set of Bearcat match-ups on film; not at all men.
- VT is #1 in punt-returns thanks to D-1 leading Kyshoen Jarrett and his 35.4 average punt return! (BONUS: Kay-Jay scores a TD on punt returns once for every five times he fields a punt!)
- 28. As in VT opponents have been forced to fair-catch or let roll 72% of Hokie punts this season. (hint: 100-28 is…?)
- 13. As in Cincy enjoys thirteen days worth of prep and film-study or basically two weeks to get ready for mighty Vah.Tech.
- 46. Meaning Cincy is 30th best in fewest penalties per game which is good for only 46 yards in reverse. (i.e. this is a well coached football team indeed folks)
- 5th. As in Cincy is fifth best in Sacks and eight best in TFL (tackles for a loss) this season. i.e. these Bearcats damn well could live in your backfield all day long.
- As Tech Trivia goes VT was beaten by Cincy in the Sun Bowl after the 1946 season, this was VT’s inaugural Bowl appearance.
- VT has already fielded 17 different starters on offense and 31 different starters team wide after only four games thus far this season! </WOW!>
- 8 true freshman have already seen the field for Virginia Tech this campaign.
- 1995 A.D. This was the last time a Hokie football team got skunked or shut-out o-16 at home in the rain vs. Cincy which has posthumously spanned a scoring streak of 221 games!
- -1.00, alright, so that’s not quiet 10, however that is Cincy’s 93rd best Turnover Margin this year and it makes you wonder just how good these Bearcats would be if they could actually hold onto the ball?
Spread set Cincinnati offense (4 return)
- only 28 combined oLine starts return!
- this is a skyscraping tall oLine that is strong (not powerful) and can flat out move
- passing=intermediary to short, with very few set-down-routes beyond a screen
- lottsa single Back sets with 3 or 4 wide looks; occasional Te
- expect a sudden shift to up-tempo especially after a big-play
- quite a bit of good ole fashioned man-turn or man-shield and kick-out trap-blocking going here, follow the G to the play –not much motion pre-snap, a frozen offense
- plenty of scissors, crossbuck or misdirection looks (watch for an H-back here)
- oLine chips-n-scrapes very well to the second-layer; very fluid oLine
- not all that powerful of an oLine however, and therefore not as useful in short-yardage situations
- Good pass catches presuming leading Wideout McClung (QUESTIONABLE, elbow) can go, smallish, darty, and efficient if not great
- Again, smallish, swivel-hipped Rb’s galore; think of a very tricky set of Eddie Hunters from the 1980′s
- tad bit fumble prone as I saw at least 2 go uncalled on tape
Couple of ancillary things I wanna point out that may have been omitted erstwhile and elsewhere. In a nutshell, this is one damn entertaining Cincy offense to watch! They do anything and everything. Be that Pro or Con. This is one of the very few (opposing) offenses I’ve ever studied that actually utilized a pass first to set up the run latter philosophically speaking. And make no mistake, these Bearcats pass ok, occasionally well, and then they run like pure mothers! All over the place as well, well, all over less a few inside carries as one thing these cutty and jukie Cincinnati Rb’s are not is big. The start a lot of things inside that end on the hashmarks, or things that start on the hashes and end on the edge. This is one bouncy rushing attack that is always looking to bounce it outside or run towards any wide open space(s) no matter how far away it may be. Two of ‘em are just barely strong enough; and diminutive. The other one is plain or diminutive at 5`6“ and a buck-sixty-eight (168 lbs.!) That’s nutz, though what they do on film making people miss and sagely enough avoiding contact is pretty nutz as well. The pistachio nut of course is Munchie Legaux. He too is freaky, lanky, and fleet of foot. This tells us all two things right away; tacking will be at a premium and marinating leverage will be nothing short of a death sentence if we do not contain and spill plays back towards help. Notice I went away from the Bud Stout signature of spilling of plays towards and individual and have now nominated spilling them back towards help. This is why you see the freak in cleats otherwise known as R.V.D. now inserted into the Virginia Tech starting line-up at Whip (though Cincy will test him in coverage). The Hokie defensive gurus are that concerned about this much Shake-n-Bake from the Nati. However, this is not quite that epic of a Bearcat passing attack if we can only plug the run. And that means taking some offensive risks early on in an attempt to secure the O&M lead and force Cincy to have to play pitch-n-catch a bit more than they and Munchie would naturally feel comfortable with as this day wears on.
4-3 and 4-2-Nickle Cincinnati defense (9 back)
- Lottsa man on edges, and man-free behind that
- deeper cushions than most 4-3 sets for Linebackers and Secondary defenders alike; will occasional go press-man on the outside to mix it up
- a defense that trades raw girth in exchange for speed/pursuit max; with 8 starters south of 248 lbs.
- VERY tough on the edges and on the Will side (wide-side) in particular
- The 4-2-5 is more of a classical umbrella keep everything in front look, whereas the 4-3 is more of a match-up look
- will deal (blitz) a fifth or sixth man off the edge
- a very quick, very nimble and athletic defensive set that swarms to the ball
- that said, I did see a few running lanes inside from time-to-time; presuming our beat-up G’s and Center can nail 2-3 seal blocks
- VERY disruptive defense that really plays upfield well from the outside-in (i.e. De’s and OLb’s) less spectacular though reasonable on the inside (hint: LT3 really needs a big day rushing: think 85+)
- not the most carnivorous or raw-meat physical defense I’ve ever seen
- Experienced hind-4 that does not make mistakes and does not make a whole lotta plays either
- Bearcats who could start at Tech: 4 maybe 5 on defense
The Bearcat D is keyed to individual talents making one-on-one plays and make no mistake, this Cincy stop-unit is front-loaded and fully funded in their front-7 to do just that. The hind-4 is solid if unspectacular. The Ss is the best secondary baller here, he (#26, Frey) could possibly start at Rover at Tech. There is one good Cb and there is size in the middle at both Safties spots to help plug the run. They won’t be caught outta position any more than they won’t be making a whole helluva a lotta pass defense plays either. Keep it all in front of them, in front of the organized pandemonium that plays itself out in front of them upfront in the Cincy front-7. TFL (tackles for a loss) and Sacks are your key words here folks and I can already just hear the Lo.FM (Longfield Management) metric crying out in pain. Don’t trip if Virginia Tech chases the sticks on 1st and 2nd down at times in this one. As this set of Bearcat Linebackers and dLinemen alike bring the pain. They pursue, pursue, pursue some more and rally to the ball. They have just enough hard-nosed –if undersized- run-fighting ablity right I the middle with a bulky MLb and the #94 Stepp kid at Dt who plays a lotta 0 or 1-technique head-up Ng to aid and abet the internal shock-troops down in the trenches. They play even better defense outside of that in front-7 terms as these are the two best De’s and Will Linebacker we will see all year not named Florida State. However, if anything, they are almost too frenetic or individually pedantic for their own good at times. There are cut-back lanes here for counter-measures or misdirection action if we can only get one quality seal block on the edge on these Cincy De’s and/or Will. Mallack and or Martin really need to play well here; ditto Painter and Bec’s who have been better vs. the pass than vs. the run thus far this season. This is a very speedy and athletic Cincy defense, it does make plays despite anteing up a few misQ’s here and there. Though the plays do tend to outweigh the mistakes and this bunch arrives Fast-Forward with a whole lotta ‘swag on top of all of that.
Cincy Special Teams: (both legs back)
Tony Miliano the sophomore Kicker for the Bearcats is #2 all-time in Ohio High School football history as touchbacks go at the varsity level. And yah; I’d have to say that leg-strength is not a problem on this one folks. Although he has had 4 career P.A.T.’s missed or flat out blocked due to the low boring and yet quite powerful nature of his kicks. He is very much a threat beyond 50 yards so file that one away if Cincy needs a long-range F.G.A. late. Tony was 67% last year and has improved a bit on F.G.A.’s this season though there is a tendency to spray or over-kick a bit once he gets beyond the mid to high-30’s as F.G.A. distance goes. At Punter we find Pat O’Donnell who is the skyscraping 6`6“ punter who appears to be more parts Te and less part leg at first glance. However, he is also all parts first-string all-Big East. Pat has improved this season as well and is now up to 41 and change average on his punts. That’s pretty good for a Punter with a history of injuries and a leg big enough to place-kick when Cincy kicks-off. Tony has had one punt blocked and he is a former High School track-n-field star and that tells you he is athletic enough to fake a punt. Cincy is a very user-friendly 96th best in punt-return-defense and an even more porous 99th best in kick-coverage. So there should be some room to run for Hokie returners’ and that could shorten a few Tech fields this Saturday. The Bearcat return game is very sporting on punt-returns with McClung (if he plays) at 24th best and the downright dangerous Abernathy IV 8th best on KO returns nationwide. (Cincy Special-Teams letter-grade: yes the Bearcats have some “boom boom pow” as pure leg strength goes, though it is erratic at times and the Cincy cover-teams could be the worst we will see all year. A C+/B- fence is the very best I can do here as somebodies return team could win or outright ice this game)
Conclusion(s), Illation, and OPT digits:
Right now I foresee some problems for Virginia Tech in this one men and I do mean problems plural as not only match-ups go; as Hokie weakness on Cincy weakness goes as well.
First of all, there is the problem that our best outside runner (T.Gregory) is out with a left-knee tweak from early in a very robust performance last week vs. Bowling Green. That only leaves us with J.C. Coleman to plum get after the Bearcats to the edge. However, that too is a problem as these Bearcats will maul you out on the edge to begin with. This Cincy defense is a bit lightweight; and of course you are all already wondering out-loud just how many scratch-marks my inside the Tackles T-account will get this week. Cincy is just barely big enough and talented enough to deal with that on the inside. However, it is the absence of the outside or edge game that will make Vah.Tech predictable all the more with #22 at home, in a knee-brace and sweats.
Now, the key here as I see it is for Bud Foster to tap some more Bud Stoudt and force Munchie Leqaux to become a one-dimensional player. You do that by busting the lanky Predator haircut Legaux up good, hard and often when he runs as he is a narcissistic passer. Munchie has game, you have to to sport a nickname like Munchie (given name is: Benton Shannon Legaux). That said this ragin’ Cajun has never meet a needle he did not feel he could thread. Or in other words, despite some very handsome play-making ability on loan from Coach God; Munchie at times will try to do too much. Kinda has a D’Mac or Donovan McNabb 18 year-old vie to him. Yes, his passing completion percentage is up (14%) and yes he will occasionally just throw one away. However, you can still bait-n-switch him into hooking himself. Although, you simply MUST stop this 26o yard per game frenetic herkey-jerkey rushing offense first second and third and make Munchie make heady decisions when throwing the ball after that. The top-3 Bearcat rushers all average between 6.0 and 10.1 yards per carry! That’s a first down every 1.11 carries if you are keeping score at home! That puts tackling at a premium for Bud Ice and it likewise places ball-control at a premium for the Frank-n-Stiney offense. Not sure I like that as LT3 surely looks more comfortable in our hurry-up offensive sets and since when have we run well between the C-gaps in 20 quarters all year?!?
One other thing I wanna throw at you and see if it sticks: Coach Butchie Jones up at the ‘Nati can flat-out coach! Don’t believe me just ask his M.A.C. trophy case from Central Michigan during the Dan LeFevour reign. Give this guy 14 days to break tape and study LT3, or Coach Foster tendencies is just not a good idea. In fact you have to wonder how much longer Cincy can afford to employ Coach Jones’ services in the B.C.S. recessionary economy otherwise known as the Big East. Butch is a whizbang offensive mastermind by trade. You can see the richrod D.N.A. all over his jacked up spread offensive sets. Not to mention the fact that he interned, yes, interned as a college senior season coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the pro level! You do not get to do that via accident folks. Upon his return to his Alma, (Farris State, upstate NY); all he did was lead his team to the #1 ranked offense in all of D II football every single season! Feeling nervy just yet? You should be. As I most confidently got the feeling that Coach Butchie went very vanilla vs. Delaware (nobody) State and just coasted to a victory two weeks ago. That; and I also got the Jim Harbaugh something to prove mano a mano or hand-to-hand with all-world Bud Foster. I also caught a not so subtle whiff of something of an “I’ll show him” vibe already in play here folks.
Now, let’s get something clear. Transparent if you will. Contrary to the OPT “malaise” this is very close to a 50-50 game even though it should be a quasi home-field game for Vah.Tech.
It however is not as tix sales have been anything other than brisk up in the District. That harkens me back to the Bill Cosby visits to Temple U in what amounted to a pigskin mausoleum way back when. D.C. may not be that dull, boring and unimpressive; however it won’t be tricked-out and jacked-up and it won’t even be Lane Stadium lyte. Never mind Vah.Tech quasi hosting eventually national champion So.Cal way back when. That does not exactly paint a ruckus or inspired picture –does it? And beyond the opener vs. Georgia Tech we have not exactly been ruckus or inspired ourselves. Have we? So that speaks to the always nebulous concept of “leadership” and we are not exactly senior heavy. Are we? And Bruce Taylor’s comments to A.Bitter on this, this week, were candid indeed — almost too candid or too much of a fess-up admission. Weren’t they? See what I mean? There is a whole lot going on down in Blacksburg Va, that just does not meet the front-page eye; much less pass Will Stewart’s pet Eye-Test.
That said, don’t let go the Hokie rope. Well, at least not yet. As Virginia Tech prolly enjoys a 60-65% talent advantage against when take stem to stern or in top-44 terms when comparing both teams 1st and 2nd stringers vis-à-vis. Right now I’d peg this one with a 47% upset index metric in terms of the odds on 7 point underdog Cincy winning straight up. For your edification the Vegas Money Line converter says our beloved Hokies have a 72% chance at winning this one straight up! Though I’m a good deal lower than Vegas is…
Why is that? Because so many of the X’s and O’s individual or unit match-ups lean towards or outright favor the ‘Nati. And yet we do enjoy one XL sized X-factor and you may have heard of him. His name is LT3. We need him to bust this Bearcat defense up good and hard on the inside with some uber physical runs on Qb draws, Qb, keepers, Qb sneaks and Read-Option keepers. Doing so will (mostly) keep the game-clock rolling, hopefully put an enthusiastic if not overly aggressive ‘Nati defense on their heels; and most of all that will help keep the turbo rushing Cincy O off the field and maybe even outta synch. That will set Cincy up for some smart play-action looks as there is room to throw along the edges here and there is often a cushion in front of all of that. Finally, I finally pried a interesting nugget loose from a Cincy source which suggests that Munchie is mistake prone on about 11% of his passes. 2 INT’s could go a long way towards changing what appears to be a an even game on paper and this tells me that this game is all about these Qb’s. Whichever one is better will have secured the triumph for their side when you post-game Box Score this one –simple as that.
That said, I can not in good conciseness pick Vah.Tech to win here. These may not quite be the two proverbial ships passing in the night. Although this is a ship-shape Cincy ship with self-trust and a O&M ship that as suddenly sprung some confidence leaks and could use a few R&R dry-dock coats of paint with so many dings and dents in tow.
(READERs note, I am on a Pilgrimage this week and next hence the lack of an Eye for Bowling Green and the spartan nature of this preview at this time –be back on Friday or early Saturday as travel and connectivity permits; may or may not be an Eye next week as I won’t be back anytime before Monday)
Virginia Tech=15, Cincinnati=19