FBS Mission Statement:

We at FBS believe that offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring bears the largest share of the blame for years of sub-par output from some of the most talented players ever to set foot on Worsham Field. We believe the main objective of the VT football program - a national championship - will escape us as long as Stinespring is making the calls. We therefore advocate the improvement of our football program through the replacement of our offensive coordinator.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Our Distinguished Opponents: Dook

It's the law to use this picture on all VT/Duke previews in all sports.
After doing this blog for a couple years now I've pretty well developed my routine. At the start of the week I like to take a day or two to familiarize myself with this week's opponent by checking their record, any common opponents we've already faced, and the stat sheet. 

Duke's record? Losing. But they've already won as many games (3) through week 8 this year as they did all of last year. The bad news is with their remaining schedule (VT, @Miami, @UVA, GT, @UNC) they might not win another game. Our common opponents? Duke edged BC by a point and got edged by Wake Forest by a point. While not technically a common opponent because it's different seasons, Duke got shellacked by Stanford by about the same margin as we did. Stats... well, here's where my jaw hit the floor.

The Duke Blue Devils have the 22nd ranked passing game in the nation. Junior quarterback Sean Renfree is averaging 256 passing yards per game. He's completing 67.8% of his passes. He's passed for 47 more yards than LT in one fewer game. The caveat - and there's always a caveat with Duke, isn't there? - is that it's almost exclusively a short passing game. Renfree is only averaging 6.6 yards per attempt. Of his 185 completions, only 11 have gone for 25 yards or more. And he only has six touchdown passes on the year. But he's only been held under 200 passing yards once this season, against Stanford. He's no Seth Doege, but his numbers are enough to make me question my original assumption that we wouldn't really need Jayron Hosley this week.

The reason Renfree passes so damn much (39 attempts/game, 11th in the nation) is because Duke has zero run game. Their leading rusher is Juwan Thompson, a sophomore whose closest flirtation with a hundred yard game came in week 1 when he put up 86 yards against Richmond. Against Bowl Subdivision opponents he's yet to crack the 70 yard mark in a game. Thompson has shared carries with junior Desmond Scott who, on paper, is the more explosive back, averaging a near-Wilsonian 6.1 yards per carry. Altogether the Blue Devils are averaging exactly 100 yards per game. There's only ten teams in the nation that fare worse in the running game.

We picked the best possible time to be facing the worst possible rushing team. Three of our starting front seven are gone for the season (Godspeed in your recovery, Bruce). James Gayle couldn't go against BC on his bum ankle. J.R. Collins came out of the BC game with a finger injury, though he did return. That leaves Tariq Edwards and Derrick Hopkins as the only two members of our front seven that you can legitimately describe as "healthy." Not to downplay what the backups have managed to do in step-up duty this season - this musical chairs front seven is still locking down the run to the tune of 7th in the nation. But on the injury front I'm starting to feel like this defense is Spaceball One and we've just hit ludicrous speed.

Bud Foster's gone to plaid!
Things are only marginally better in the secondary. Hosley is sure to still be nursing that twinged hamstring, as that's a hell of an injury to bounce back from. Antone Exum also came out of the BC game for a while with a thigh bruise, though he would return and finish the game. Playing armchair coach, I'd say rest Hosley and play Exum. Detrick Bonner has risen to the occasion and played the boundary at a high level in Jayron's absence. The free safety position behind Exum, however, is still an unproven commodity. Despite my sagacity, however, early indications are that Hosley will give it a go against the Blue Devils. Fingers crossed, people.

Looking at the other side of the ball, Duke's defense is yielding 398.9 yards per game to its opponents and the majority of that is given up through the air. The Blue Devils rank 102nd in the nation against the pass, versus a comparatively more respectable 48th against the rush. Put those numbers into the Stiney/O'Cain blender and hit puree, and what's likely to pour out is another pitch and catch gameplan like we saw in the first half against Boston College. If the receivers come ready to play this week LT should have a good opportunity to put up 300 yards through the air. But here's hoping that Mike O'Cain has learned from experience and is committed to getting David Wilson ten touches before halftime.

This game is the final obstacle remaining before the most desperately needed bye week in Hokie history. Barring catastrophic injury or monumental bribery we aren't going to lose to Duke. But it would be nice, for once, to see LT and the offense come out firing on all cylinders, bury the Blue Devils by halftime, and get our starters off the field before Lisfrancs start spontaneously combusting all over the place.

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