#68 R.P.I. Virginia Tech vs. #31 R.P.I. Rutgers:
TV coverage: 5:30pm ESPN, Friday
PbyP: Joe Tessitore
Color: Matt Millen
Sidelines: Maria Taylor
VT is a 2 point favorite (VT-2)
$-Line: bet $1.4o on VT to win $1, bet $1 on Rutgers to win $1.20
This has not been a good year down in Blacksburg Virginia folks. Gone is Frank’s pet 10-win streak and on the line is Frank’s first non-winning season in 20 freakin’ years!
To say anything else to open this Bowl preview is to become practiced in the art of prevarication, or worse. 7-6 may not seem too epic to some of you, although 6-7 sure seems like a S’y year to me. 6-7 isn’t exactly at the end of my rainbow during a season that has been anything other than sunshine and puppy-dogs. 6-7 would surely create some big mo’ (momentum) for springball; all of it heading the ‘rong way. Frank does not want that. The players do not want that. I do not want that. And you do not want that.
I don’t want to be correct……….and yet………how does this one not have Lindurger Cheese or stinker of a game written all over it?
PROMO Code: (YAWN)
As there just does not appear to be a whole helluva a lot of Hokie enthusiasm for this one, be that from the fan-base or from the feelers coming outta Blacksburg Virginia as well. Changes appear to be forthcoming as this 2012 Virginia Tech football team finds itself situated at its very first tipping point, turning point or may even a point of no return.
7-6 may or may not make a bundle of difference –and yet, at the end of the day 6-7 would change everything indeed.
- One. That’s how many wins Frank Beamer needs to surpass LaVelle Edwards and move into sixth place in all-time D-1 college football coaching wins. (257) (BONUS: VT has a 1am curfew for this game)
- Thirty-two. As in 32of the Hokies Russell Athletic Bowl 2-deep will return next year.
- Three. Meaning, VT has lead at intermission 25% of the time this year or only 3 times going into the half! (BONUS: these two defenses combine for a whopping 14.33 TFL (tackles for a loss) per game! So go ahead and expect to see a whole lotta Lo.FM’s© in this one men!)
- Forty! As in VT has field an astonishing 4o different starters on offense and defense combined this year!
- 528. Quarterback -not a Tb- Qb Logan Thomas lead VT in rushing this season with 528 net yards on the ground. (which includes -180 yards in reverse!)
- 6-6. We all know that Virginia Tech is a .5oo or six up and six down football team right now. However, VT is also 9-3 vs. the box score this year and yet VT is 60 minutes away from potentially finishing with a negative season for the first time since 1992.
- 172-83. That’s how badly Rutgers has out-scored opponents in the second-half of play this campaign, and that’s a surefire sign of a team with plenty of pulmonary conditioning.
- 108th. Meaning Rutgers is not a well disciplined football team as they finished the year 108th best in penalties.
- 1o9. That’s how many receiving yards the mercurial Marcus Davis needs to become the first Hokie in the history of history to break the 1,000 yard receiving barrier for a given season.
- 110th. As in Rutgers is only 10 spots outta last place in Red Zone offense this season!
Power-I Rutgers Offense (7 starters return)
- 53% : 47% Run/Pass split. Petty balanced looking O.
- only 2 Bowl teams rank lower than Rutgers (100th best) in Total O!
- Ditto Only 2 Bowl teams ranking lower than Rutgers in rushing Offense (100th)
- Offense slumped a bit with a dinged up 1,000 rushing Rb (Jawan Jamison) to close the year.
- N.F.L+ sized Wideouts!
- Lottsa straight ahead zone action between the Ot-box, will pull 1 or 2 gaps over at the most, typically same side.
- Saw a few too many deep hand-offs on slow developing plays; we could get after that in terms of north-south playing up-field
- Nice blend of short to mid-range passing, slight favoritism to the middle (away from the sidelines) was detected
- Qb is a tad INT prone (15 picks)
- Qb lacks arm strength, which leads to the short mid-field type throws vis-à-vis longer lateral throws to the sideline.
- Disciple is a problem, this O will personal foul you
Pedestrian, vanilla, middle of the isle, centrist; those are all good words to describe what is a very generic nothing fancy looking Rutgers offense that I just studied for three days on film. This is 1980’s Intellivision football brought back to life. Rutgers has a whole lotta traditional Qb under Center looks. So you know where the play starts. Rutgers has a whole lotta single Rb sets. So you know where the play ends. Rutgers Qb (G.Nova) has rushed for -132 in reverse for his career. So you know who won’t be keeping the ball. And Rutgers Rb (#23 J.Jamison) has rushed for 1,054 yards in what was basically code for 10.25 games due to injury – so you know who will be getting the ball. See what I mean? Did that paragraph just fake any of you out and how sophisticated is any of that? This is not an exotic or trig, posh, much less trendy looking offense. Not a whole lotta sexxy, not a very high Q-score and nothing Gee.Q to be found. Though does it work?
Well, it works better when Rutgers starting Rb (J.Jamison) is playing on two full ankles, and it would work even better if starting right-G and all-Big East performer Mr. ‘dre Civil had two good ankles of his own. Now do observe my censoring of Gary Nova the Rutgers Qb. Gary is a 132.8 rated Qb after 12 games this year. (readers note: LT3 hold a Qb rating of 119 via comparison). According to my time-study, Gary and his less than bionic arm, had two big games this year. He went big to the good vs. Arkansas (394 passing, 5:0 ratio), and then he went big to the bad on a back-breaking six, that’s 6 INT day vs. Kent State. Other than that, Nova was not much more than a glorified game-manager who was basically asked to hand the ball off and make rudimentary throws over the middle to deemphasize his lack of rail-gun arm strength. Then we come to the fact that Gary has not completed more than 48% of his throws since November 17th and suddenly you see a Rutgers offense –that just like the weather- was chilling out to close the year. The Rutgers oLine is pretty decent and it will be even better with four back in 2013. The Scarlet Knight utilizes a whole lotta singular zone blocking. By that I mean there is very little in the way of combination or help blocking. You take the guy in your zone mano-a-mano and you’d better beat him in hand-to-hand (literally translated) combat because the cavalry ain’t coming over the hill and Rutgers seldom utilizes a Fullback or lead-blocker of any sort. Rutgers does pull all over the place, including the extremely rare outside-in pulling of an Ot in the direction of the Rutgers Center. Despite the fact that Nova’s numbers do not reflect this, Rutgers is about as good as it gets in pass protection as the Scarlet Knights finished 4th best in such in all the land. As you prolly already know by now the Rutgers Wideouts are large in and change physically speaking; as they do hold a sizey advantage as both height and weight measurable go downfield However, collectively speaking, they only hold two plays beyond 46 yards this year and only one guy averages more than 13 per catch; #17 6`7“ Brandon Coleman with 17.
Accordingly my game-plan here is a simple one. First of all the effective though not necessarily explosive J.Jamison is not gonna beat me. Not at all; as I expect J.Tyler to easily surmount double-digits in tackles in this one. After that, Exum is gonna make sure that Coleman does not beat me. And after that I’ma gonna put the game entirely on G.Nova’s right arm and dare it to beat me. This is a Rutgers offense is only averaging 11 points in its final three football games and this is a Rutgers Qb (Nova) who has been far less than super with a 110 Qb rating over the same. I test dre Civil’s bum ankle good and early and I dare the other 9 Rutgers guys to beat me after that.
4-3 twins Rutgers Defense (8 starters are back)
- The Scarlet Knights have returned 3 fumbles for scores this year!
- The Scarlet Knights have returned 2 INT’s for majors as well
- (that remind any of you of a certain Big East up-n-comer in the mid-1990’s?)
- Logan Thomas vs. Rutgers ILb #20 6`1“ 220 lb. Khaseem Greene on the inside is gonna be Ali vs. Frazier part IV! Say it with me folks, this r-senior Linebacker ♫…is a beast! A beast!♪
- Smallish looking defense on film, that plugs the middle at any and all rather combative looking costs.
- LT3 is bigger than 81% of this RU stop-unit!
- 3 of the Rutgers top-5 Ng’s are out for the year. And RU does play more of a 0 or 1 technique Ng as opposed to two regulation Dt’s.
- VERY nice block-shedding stop-unit. Best I’ve seen on film at this in years, plural.
- Still yet, a very tight defense on the Inside, and not so much in terms of lateral pursuit. That remind you of a recent Bowl opponent? (hint: think last year)
- Knights defense has some Tom Landry 4-3 Flex elements to it, odd/even fronts, shifting both vertically and laterally pre-snap in order to create opposing assignment confusion.
- Rutgers uses their Will-Lb as more of a hybrid or Bandit. He can deploy as a De in the 3-4, as a third De in the 4-3 (or fifty look) and he can even play in-line in a traditional 4-3 alignment with the rest of the Linebacking corps
- Employs a pincer approach with De’s and/or the Will-Lb boxing the LOS (line-of-scrimmage) in, just like Kansas did, in order to funnel everything back inside. Painter and Becs really need to have a good evening here!
- Will deal one (or both) of the Twins at ILb on A-gap run blitzing; good tackling downfield, just not that big as raw metrics or measurables of tackling go.
- Will play a 3-4 yard Tight man-to-man on edges; with Tampa-2 behind that on normal downs and Man-1 on Lo.FM’s©. There could be a big play or two to be had here; though Sherm’s boys typically struggle with press-releases.
- Saw a few New Guinea guys in the Rutgers secondary. As these guys will headhunt right up until the echo of the whistle.
The one thing I know about this twenty-twelve Rutgers defense after effusive film-study is they are easy to find. That’s what happens when you line up with a billion-million people in narrow man-to-man adjacent to what amounts to a 50-set on the inside. That’s 8 or more people within 4 odd yards of the L.O.S. (line-of-scrimmage). And that’s code for a damn fine run-fighting stop-unit to be sure. 11th against the run says so, and 5th overall in terms of national scoring defense allowed says even more. This is also a Gap-jumping uber quick off the L.O.S. defense. Penetration and individual play-making are the name of the game here folks. While this Scarlett Knight defense may not be outright stiff or robotic –like say a Boston College- it does not flow to the football exceptionally well either. There are some yards to be had once you get outside the even numbered 6 or 8 hole going right, or conversely the 7 or 9 hole heading left. Rutgers is 19th best in T.F.L. (tackles for a loss) and yet only 73rd best in sacks. See what I mean? This is not so much an all-in hell bent for leather attack oriented defense, so much as this is something of an impoverished mans Bud Foster defense that individually contests the internal A and B-gaps alike, than then attempts to scrape horizontally (or East/West) after having initialized a forward facing or North-South surge. The key here is traffic. As good as the set of Twin ILb’s for Rutgers are –and Mr. Green is a triple-double freakin’ man’s man, make no mistake on that- as good as the Rutgers ILb twins are, they can have trouble covering ground sideline-to-sideline when an offense makes them play good-cop bad-cop out on a freeway experiencing Carmageddon as congestion goes. Accordingly, the hidden key here is the play of the Rutgers De’s, and that is really only code for the play of the Virginia Tech Ot’s (Becs and Painter).
This week on the radio someone described the look and feel of the Scarlet Knights stop-unit as a blend of Tom Landry’s much vaunted 1970’s Felx Defense and that of the Kansas Jayhawk team that we faced in the Orange Bowl a few years back. The criticality, or the onus here is entirely upon the Rutgers De’s, to pincer-movement upfield, and force everything back inside, where the always rowdy Mr. Green and his head-hunting secondary cohorts will not only make plays, they will engage in some nasty looking collision hits to make you pay. In fact they reminded me of Hawkes and Smitty from the 1999 much ballyhooed Y2Tech national championship participant team. This tells us that Becs and Paint-shop really need to play the game of their lives (ditto: Mallack) as we need to seal this Rutgers defense up good and hard and never mind their penetrating advantages right at the point of attack. Save the rock-hammer otherwise known as LT3 for later; or for the forth quarter finishing touch.
Curiously enough to me, the Rutgers secondary and hind-7 in general did not look that impressive on film. Which is most odd when you consider that no less than 43% of them just made first-string all-conference this year as this hind-7 is good enough vs. the pass and yet borderline terrific vs. the run. Despite the fact that Rutgers plays a whole lotta crowding or tight man-to-man, the Knights only tallied 15 INT’s this year due to the lack of Safety help or being late in their rotations period. The Rutgers secondary did score well in terms of passes defended or broken up, scoring 12 and 15 more than the 2012 Rutgers opponents respectively. From what I saw on film, this is not a ball hawking secondary, so much as it is a completion adverse secondary. Now mix in the fact that starting Cb Brandon Jones (#25) has a trick knee and you can go ahead and expect the Frank-n-Stiney offense to test the Rutgers pass coverage on some home-run throws at least a couple of times per half. (presuming we can get our releases to work — as some of you will recall the success of the Klempson Tigers in jamming the Tech Wideouts just as they come off the line)
The other thing I wanna emphasize is that this Rutgers defense did not impress me individually on film. By-the-bye, they are a bit undersized and beyond two VHT (very highly touted) players, they surely did not pass Will Stewart’s so-called the Eye-Test coming outta high school. That tells you they are very well coached. You can see this on film, as they tackle well, they shed blocks extraordinarily well, and they rarely make mistakes. That tells you that defensive coordinator Rob Smith has done about as well as any first year defensive coach can hope to do in terms of applied Gestalt Theory. As this Rutgers defense is clearly greater than the sum of its 4 player star power parts; and that all ads up to a very low scoring game to me.
Rutgers specialists: (1 leg returns)
The leading Scarlet Knight punt-returner (Mason Robinson) averages 3.2 per punt return or about 10 feet give or take. Yes, that’s 10` more than I average per return; and yet I have zero punt returns this year. Next! The Rutgers Punter is Mr. Justin Donner, a senior year Cali’ native who only averages 37.4 yards per kick; that’s not Net yards per punt, as Net=Kick-Return yardage. In that category Rutgers is only 116th best in Net Punting nationwide. However do note that Rutgers is 34th best in Punt Coverage and a daunting 8th best in KO coverage as the Scarlet Knights coverage teams will plum get after you. This posits that Rutgers is very good at hangtime and directional kicking alike. Don’t sleep too much on Mr. Donner, he was only second-string all-Big East last season and first-string Big East in most pre-season magazines this last August. This after Mr. Donner was named to first-string all-conference honors at somewhere known as Los Angeles Harbor Junior College. I don’t know what that means though I do know that first-string all-conference does not suck. Not half bad for a former Wide Receiver (which brings trickeration into play) turned Punter who did not begin punting until he got to college. Double not half-bad for the 543rd ranked Junior College Punter just two years ago! Rutgers is 35th best in the nation in KO returns thanks to all-Big East pre-season KO return specialist pick one #18, third-year man Jermey Deering. Jermey Jermey has started off-and-on at Wideout and he had about as many rushing yards as he did Wide Receiving last season and that makes him more of a utility guy or an impoverished mans Wingback if you will. Jermey averaged 9.5 yards per carry this year in point of fact and he can do some damage vs. a Virginia Tech suicide-squad that has had issues staying in its coverage lanes this year. Rutgers switched Kickers during the campaign as 80% Nick Borgese took over for 54% Kyle Federico (HIP injury, listed as QUESTIONABLE for Friday) as F.G.A.’s goes. Kyle was a very highly touted Kicker outta high school, right up until he wasn’t in college. So in steps r-freshman Nickolas and his fairly sizey leg, as Mr. Borgese sure racked up a ton of touchbacks punting in high school up in New York. Notice as well that Nick has not missed from beyond 40 yards this year and that gives you a 4th down hint when it comes to punting or attempting a long F.G. try in what figures to be a nip-n-tuck kinda game.
Rutgers has blocked more kicks than anybody this year, that’s 8 if you are keeping score at home. On the other hand the Scarlet knights have had 3 of their own kicks snuffed out, and VT corresponds with 1 and 1 respectively. That’s 13 blocks between the two football clubs and that suggests that somebody’s kicker and/or punter is getting one sent back on Friday evening. (Rutgers special-teams letter grade: other than a fairly inert looking punt-return game, things look pretty damn solid here all-‘round to me. The key of course being the penchant for big-plays via a S.W.A.T. squad approach to blocking kicks. That means this Scarlet Knight special-teams unit is dangerous indeed, and that merits a very hazardous looking lowest possible A- from me)
Illation, Conclusion(s), and Prediction:
With the Frank-n-Stiney offense, always operating on a razor’s edge this season, even a slight amount of dulling can be critical. This brings the classical sports management paradigm of Rest vs. Rust into play; as we’ve enjoyed no less than a staggering 19 days wroth of rest during the 2012 bowl practice season.
Typically speaking; you rest an older or veteran team because they have been there, done that, and their odds on simply flipping the switch and turning it loose are a lot greater vis-à-vis. You work a younger team however because they do in fact lack seasoning and too much rest for them tends to lead to performance oxidation or a rusty bowl game indeed. That said, while we were “… all settled down for a long winter’s nap”, Rutgers was wide-awake and seizing the day out on the practice field(s) up in New Brunswick New Jersey. Rutgers could be a scosche worn down for such; nevertheless, they won’t be lacking sharpness or want-to either. Now mix in the fact that the few practices that Virginia Tech was industrious enough to employ were shortened via design and you begin to paint a picture of a program that just wants 2012 to end … the sooner the better. And speaking of endings; my sources are sure at least two Virginia Tech Staffers have one more football game left to coach in O&M –no more, no less. Some suggest that that tally could draw even closer to three, depending upon reclassification or reassignment. All of that conspires one to label this football game as a quack-attack or a lame-duck festus as how much effort do you put out for a coach who won’t be there next year?
Now mix in the fact that you have two suspect, inconsistent, uneven, and turnover prone offenses, with the 14th best total defense (of RU) and the 24th best total defense (of VT) and now include the fact that these two football teams block a whole lotta kicks. Suddenly you’ve got a M.L.B. (Major League Baseball) game on your hands and that means you are looking at a baseball kinda final score; say 10-7, 13-10, or something in that neighborhood. If defense is your thing you’ve come to the right place. As this one is a race to ten; first team there –wins!
(EDITORs note: be back with more throughout the Holiday week)
I looked hi and lo for a reason to pick Virginia Tech to win this one folks. No really, I did! As crazy as this may read to some of you, we/VT really do field the better offense in this one. We all know by now that both teams have a damn good defense and pretty fair to middling special teams play as well. That means that barring a fluky jump-ball or bad-call driven kinda play, somebody on one of these two offenses’ is gonna make a play or maybe even two or three that decide this contest. When you get right down to brass tacks, Virginia Tech enjoys more offensive star-power; all fingers point to that. And yet it is the Scarlet Knights who enjoy the more consistent offense, as it is their offense has been consistently worse than ours.
However, and that said, something just does not feel right about this one to me. Nothing I’m getting suggests a focused nor a Virginia Tech football team that is all keyed up. Rutgers prolly is and this prediction need not go any further than that. I’ll prolly be siding with the more outcome provoked football team on Friday; though I wanna sleep on this one as Virginia Tech really should win this thing about 6 outta 10 time; as any pragmatic or top-44 (first plus second stringers) talent driven analysis would rightfully suggest.
Now notice that both Rutgers place-Kickers are now listed as hurt; the old one with a bad hip and the new one with a bad back. This does nothing to inflate my confidence in scoring in this one, as this one had been a race to 13 in my book. Though now? Hell, maybe it’s a race to three. I kid somewhat, as I now expect one team to tap, “Uncle” and let go the rope later one. However, and specifically speaking, I do not like the jam-technique by the Rutgers Cb’s, as the next effective release that Coach Sherm’ teaches will be the first. That will cause LT3’s throws to go out in front of our pass catcher’s. That will lead to a mutual Wr-Qb and Qb-Wr disconnect. Then LT3 will have to go all uva and attempt to carry us to victory vs. a smaller Rutgers defense. That reads well enough on paper, though the game of football is not played with paperweight or on PS3. Doing such will make us one word and one word only: predictable. And that’s ball game right there folks. Negative final mark at 6 up and a staggering 2.6 full seasons wroth of 7 down here we come.
And mind each and every one of you, I did try to find a way to pick the superior football team in this one. However, I’ve gotten nothing good coming outta Kissimmee in the last several days. I’ve got hidden injury reports, tardiness, Frank P.O.’ed at everyone for lethargy or generic lack of a yawning festival type of effort and just a general … wait for it … “malaise. “ Yes, I finally used Will’s pet word, and yes it has finally come to that. This one may not be death by a 1,ooo cuts, or even the aforementioned 10, and yah; I do wish I could pick Vah.Tech to win. I really do. However, our preparation -or lack thereof- simply does not measure up. Picking Tech would be lying and lying is for rugs.
Virginia Tech=15, Rutgers=27