#48 R.P.I. Arkansas vs. #23 R.P.I. Virginia Tech:
Virginia Tech football goes bowling on Thursday afternoon vs. the University of Arkansas. At ~5:30pm, on ESPN, in the 75,412 Bank of America Stadium down in Charlotte North Carolina, as an -8 point betting fave.
Precisely 173.4 miles from Blacksburg, Va., or about a two hour and forty-five minute drive; give/take.
Intrinsically speaking, this is as close as Virginia Tech football can ever hope to get as a home-game goes in post-season terms. Though is this really the shoe-in or obvious O&M ticker-tape VicTory party that everyone is already saying and picking it to be? I’m not as sure, as these 7 up and 5 down 2016 Arkansas Razorbacks played Jekyll-and-Hyde football all season long. So will I be homogeneously slotting this game the same? This of course segues us into today’s word of the day…
Today’s word of the day is: ファンサービス or sābisu…
(Fan Service, in English)
- Is material in a work of fiction or in a fictional series which is intentionally added to please the audience.
- A titillation, or allusion to another series, character or work.
- …what The Man in the High Castle, and what we don’t do, here, on bourbonstreet and south main.
Head Coach: Bret Bielema: age=47, (7-5, this year; 93–49 overall; and 25-25 at Arkansas); with a .5oo or 4-4 bowling mark; at $4,100,000.oo per.
Bret Bielema played college football as a Ng/Dt at Iowa under coach Hayden Fry from 1989 to 1992, serving as team captain his Sr. season. Bielema graduated from Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. He went on to play for the Milwaukee Mustangs in the Arena Football League. After his playing days Bielema coached under Fry, then Bill Snyder at K.State, then Barry Alvarez -whom he eventually replaced- at Wisconsin. And yes, that’s about as much coaching-tree name recognition as three hall of fame coaches can beget. The scuttlebutt says coach Bielema left Wisconsin over an assistant coach pay dispute. His tenure at Arkansas in the So.East Conference has thus far posted south of his .754 years at Whisky in the Big 10. Coach Bielema’s Arkansas defensive staff has be raided over the last couple of years with two key Razorbacks (dLine and D-Coordinator) having been hired away.
Brent won Big 10 Coach of the Year (2oo6), with three Wisconsin Big 10 title rings to show for it (2010, 2011, 2012). Coach Bielema has a rep’ for front-7 defensive work and stop-unit acumen overall. Coach Bielema is the highest paid state employee in Arkansas today and if there was ever a guy who just looks like a coach? It’s coach Bielema; hands down.
2015 record: 8 W’s, 5 L’s, and 5-3 in the S.e.c.
Arkansas Defense: (starters back=9)
- 76th in Total D, 94th vs. the run and 53rd vs. the pass.
- Base: forty-three (4-3)
- 121st in Explosiveness.
- 7th most defensive TD’s scored (4); the Hogs play the ball; not the man.
- 1o7th in 3rd Down conversion D. 115th in 4th Down conversion D.
- 9oth in Qb’s sacked and 121st in TFL (Tackles for a Loss) inflicted.
- 22nd in 1st Down defense.
- The Razorback D has stripped 22 fumbles this year.
- 34th in dLine Havoc. The left side dLine is the strength vis-à-vis here, as Left-De Deatrich Wise and left-Dt Jeremiah Ledbetter -a former De himself- combined for nearly 100 stops, 8.5 sacks and 10 TLF. Making them fringe all-S.e.c. caliber guys. The Dt’s crowd the A-Gaps; with almost a wisp of an outside eye Ng technique at times. De’s will flash a pinch look, in particular on the short-side. Or in other words, there were times that the dLine was horizontally compressed; which shows you how much they trust the second-layer’s East-West pursuit. Though clearly they want to keep their Lb’s clean, and they do not want you ramrod(ing) away on the inside with any internal package.
- 113th in Linebacking Havoc. #45, MLb Brooks Ellis (Sr., 6’2”, 245 lbs.) is the stud here, kinda their Chase Williams+; he wears a Bosworth headband and everything. Generally speaking, I found the Hog second-layer to be solid, though not spectacular. They can be physical, and they did seem to favor the run or shadowing Rb’s and/or the Qb on normalized downs. Linebackers were Alabama-Lyte: close to being as big, kinda as physical, and did not deep or long run as well.
- 45th in Secondary Havoc. The Hog’s secondary did take no less than four INT’s all the way back to the house. They will break on the ball, they will take big play risks. They have been a bit dinged and dented here with two Cb’s out for the year and coach Bielema did fire the ’15 secondary coach for a reason(s). Arkansas returns three starters here, and Fs Josh Liddell (Jr., 6’1”, 21o lbs.) has had a good year with a second best 58 stops, a couple of picks and 10 passes defensed or broken up. Santos Ramirez is a real hitter at Fs (Soph., 6’2”, 2o5), and Ryan Pulley (r-Soph, 5’11”, 198 lbs.) is the smaller though stronger Cb of the two. Saw some semi-variable man-coverage flexes on the same side, with the Slot-Wr typically getting press(ed); and the outside Fl or Se receiving medium to off-man. Fs had some deep umbrella Centerfielder looks, Ss is normalized or cheats forward into run-support or a strong-side tirade robber set. Coverage did jam or press more as the yards to go marker decreased (i.e. on 2nd or 3rd and short). Secondary is aggressive on playing the ball and hitting the man; although they can whiff or miss on each. Did see some Secondary dings/dents vs. Mizzou in the final game as well– God Bless.
- D NOTES: This D plays a ton of people, substitutions abound as the leading tackler (Lb, Brooke Ellis) only had 78 stops and yet 20 guys had 11 tac’s or more! This D came into ’16 with a ’15 rep’ for struggling vs. Spread offenses and with chunk yardage plays. Average tackling D; not hard, not soft, not Enzyte, average. Though this Razorback D sure looks better on paper than it does scouting them on film. Which leaves one wondering what is going on here? (Id est: chemistry, lame duck coach, just a juxtaposed talent fit???) As this D did take shallow run-support angles and lacked inside-out leverage at times; and seemed to wear down as games wore on.
Razorback Offense: (returning starters=4)
- 49th in Total O, 65th in rush O and 36th in throw O.
- More of a traditional Pro Style set.
- 51st in Explosiveness.
- 9oth in Sacks allowed, and 95th in TFL allowed.
- 1o4th in Red Zone O.
- Arkansas has amassed 50 more 1st downs and yet just 1 more single point than Hog opponents have!
- 33rd in Team Passing Efficiency however.
- 12th best in Passing Downs Success Rate.
- 1o9th best in Solo Tackles. (i.e. these Hog’s got lassoed by 1 cowboy)
- Dead Last: 128th in Power rushing rate and a nearly as bad 113th Stuff Rate!
- #8, one Qb Austin Allen is a 6’1”, 2o9 lb. gunslinger of a r-Jr. Pivot from homegrown Fayetteville, Ar., itself. At such, Allen led Fayetteville High School to back-to-back AAAAAAA (seven-A) state championships and was named M.V.P. of both championship games. For such, he was voted as Arkansas’ 2o12 Gatorade Player of the Year following his Sr. H.S. season. Allen was rated the 17th best pro-style quarterback in the country coming out of high school. This season at Arkansas he has throw for a 61.4% completion percentage, good for 3,152 passing yards on a 23:12 passing ratio. Allen however does have five fumbles on the year and he sure has a very strange looking upward tilt/cock to the ball at the very tail-end of his windup. Custom made for a strip attempt. Placing as an S.E.C. Academic Honor Roll member tells you Allen is a heady enough Qb; although this season is his first season of scrumming meaningful collegiate minutes as well. Allen has rushed for –113, yes, negative one-hundred thirteen yards this season! Allen has a sure enough throw-game velocity; though he ran a bit hot-n-cold at times this season. As his completion percentage dropped nearly 9% after a sizzling September of throwing; and his INT rate went up a startling 25o% per month after that. Likewise his completion percentage dropping nearly 6% in the second-half; (pardon the pun); and his passing ratio is 11:10 since September. This Allen took over for the former Allen (his big bro’), and this Allen has a risk taking rep’, unlike his more G.O.P. or more conservative big brother (Brandon).
- #22, Tb Rawleigh Williams III is a 5’10”, 222 lb. t-sophomore ground gainer from Dallas Texas. In his second season for the Razorbacks Rawleigh went locomotion for 1,326 on the ground for 12 TD’s with a long of 72 yards. He also caught the rock for a shiny average of 16.7 ypc; and I sure like his lower target profile when he runs. And that makes perfect sense, when you consider he spent ~10 mins. on the Auburn turf not moving after a scary looking cervical injury and immediate neck surgery last year! God Bless anyone playing anything other than the game of life after that; as this is one brave soul to return to the terminal contact sport we all deigns to call: football. Williams III was the 33rd Rb out of high school where he ran for 5,o23 yards in totality with only 2,814 of those coming from his all-world Sr. year. Williams III has thrown (successfully) one trickeration pass of his own this campaign.
- 5’1o” 218 lb. t-freshman Rb Devwah Whaley anted up and kicked in with 6o1 rushing yards of his own giving the Hogs a right fine 1-2 rushing punch. And there are those who consider this rookie year runner to be the more talented and the stronger Rb of these two. After being ranked 7th nationally coming out of Texas himself; where he only gained 1,701 yards with 23 majors (TD’s) his final year. Whalye has more of a shake-n-bake electrifying style, hearkening back to being something of a bigger man’s Joe Washington of B.More Colt 1970’s fame.
- As pass catchers go, though I did notice that three of the Top-5 Hog pass catchers only field a 61% catch rate or less; i.e. a good hands team this simply is not. However, this is a very senior heavy pass catching lot; so experience is a non-issue here. 6′, 193 lb. Sr., Drew Morgan leads the way with 23 more snags than anyone else (61 for 664 yards), making him Allen’s alpha target. Though he has a history of shoulder ills just as beta target: 6’2”, 2o7 lb., Sr., Keon Hatcher has a history of foot troubles (38 for 638 yards). Though Keon does give you more of a vertical stretch threat; whereas the rest of the Hog’s collect a slew of medium range throws. In point of fact, Arkansas fields a never seen before 14 different guys averaging a first down (10 yards) or better per completion. The Razorbacks do however have only one catch north of 57 yards; and as said, this is a medium+ sized passing attack that will stretch vertically and horizontally and throw to a medium spot on quick hitters. Dominique Reed’s speed and agility add an extra dimension. Jared Cornelius is a quality slot receiver Arkansas works through.
- The Hogs -pardon the Washingtonian pun- return three starters upfront though they did depart two blocking bellcows from last season. Arkansas has also fielded the heaviest oLine in D-1 last year; and even if this years front-wall is not quite as beefy; it is beefy enough at: 1,592 lbs. in total or 319 lbs. and 6’6” on average! Then there is blindside-Ot Dan Skipper, who is a blocking colossus all unto his 6’10”, 319 lb., 48 consecutive starts and senior year self. C is also a high note courtesy of 6’5”, 319 lb. third year Frank Ragnow; and that’s basically code for having four grizzly bears and one mastodon upfront. Now, go back up top and study the TFL and Sacks, Red Zone O and solo stops allowed. See what I mean? As this Hog oLine can be beaten to the Gap jumping spot; no matter how Jurassic Park looking they may indeed be. Though they do industrialize narrower splits; a lower stance; and a downward -almost rocking backwards- posterior tilt.
- O NOTES: saw some balanced line Jumbo (2 Te) sets here. Much more of a Pro’ look with Allen under C way more than you 2016 see. Lotta play-action looks here accordingly. Allen will roll; ½-roll and reverse roll the pocket. Almost had a hint of B.Dooley flavoring to it this Hog offense. Lotta internal push running; between the Ot’s with Lead’s Iso’s and Wham’s; will I-formation in support of those. Offense does Rb screen better for being under C. G’s will pull and kick-out trap-block; though not much beyond one or two Gaps over. Has something of a Kramer and Thurston Packer 1960’s redux scent to it as well. Did see some ‘gun looks with two Hb’s just forward of the Qb on obvious passing downs. Nonetheless, if exotic is your thrill -beyond an End-around play- this traditional betrothal of an O is a dullard for you. Though me? I kinda like it, as modern D’s may not have enough in the seat of their Spread defending pants to smash match-up here.
- 57% run:pass 43% mix. (i.e. a rare run heavy modern era team)
Arkansas Special Teams: (P returns)
6’3”, 215 lb. r-Sr. year Toby Baker is probably about as good a Punter as we will see, as a Punter of 7th best Net Punting caliber is not a specialist, he’s a weapon. 40th best in punt coverage does help here; still yet Toby is the truth. And the Hogs were a vanilla 69th best in KO coverage. Toby was also a fair enough high school Qb, as he went 96 of 187 passing for 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior. So a play fake is indeed in Toby’s wheelhouse; as Toby’s no fondue guzzling kicker, as he started in hoops and soccer in scholastic terms as well and was the runner-up for Mister Tennessee in football as a specialist! Toby has never had a punt blocked in his career; either.
6′ 187 lb. r-senior Adam McFain handles the Arkansas kicking duties. Adam took over after three September contests this year and has yet to miss inside of 40 yards. He does have a 54 yard long, though he is .5oo from forty or more for a reason(s). He has a history of rushing fakes and he is an all-S.E.C. Academic Honor Roll member; kudos there. Two trip’-A Arkansas State Championship rings does not suck; nor did the single season all-time high school Kicker scoring mark. Nor does improving off of a backbreaking five (5) FGA’s blocked last year!
Arkansans was very moderate as return game(s) go; 7oth in Punt Returns and 107th in KO returns. Arkansas went o for 2 when opponents onside-kicked. Arkansas did not allow a punt or P.A.T. or F.G.A. block all year; not one. Arkansas did block 2 opposing F.G.A.’s though no opposing punts got snuffed out.
Special Teams letter-grade: Just a bit more return game and this would have been an even higher A. Though the lowest A— works for now.
- motive: Might be a very slight advantage here to coach-Fu coaching up his inarguable Hokie Bowl. Small EDGE=VT.
- weather: if this precip’ lingers up thru game time? EDGE=Hogs oLine. (if not: PUSH)
- health: the time off usually makes this close to a PUSH. In this particular case, when taken season long; Arkansas has been the healthier team, ditto the VT Belk Bowl De injuries. EDGE=Hogs.
- penalties: VT was a bit less flagged in2016 A.D. Modest EDGE=Tech..
- Alpha intangible: Arkansas plays much better prior to intermission than they do in the 2nd-half. +63 total points to the good in the 1st-half and yet –64 to the bad after the 20 min. break. As coach Hilgirth’s S&C could really issue dividends later on in this one. EDGE=VT.
- Beta intangible: Arkansas finished 2nd BEST in TOP (time of possession); and that could be a real bugbear if they successfully sit the Fu’fense on the O&M bench for that long. Potential big EDGE=Hogs.
- fatigue: N/A
Belk Bowl Gifts: Arkansas vs. Virginia Tech: Shopping trip to Belk department store; Fossil watch, with Belk discounts, included.
Number of Hog's who could start @Tech=9
Illation, conclusion(s) and OPT digits:
The takeaway here is… that after having broken tape on Arkansas, and having tried to Trump this Clinton home-state representative from an X’s and O’s architectural standpoint, I was left wondering what happened to the Hogs this year?
They were not decimated via an insalubrious, M*A*S*H unit or an injurious season; and they court at least five or six -and sum might have me say seven or eight- next level, or at least fringe next level talents. So what triggered such an anti-Gestalt Effect or a team raised to the negative one (^-¹) sporting power?
Well, if you ask me –and you did via reading these words; Arkansas tried to accommodate a pure Gunslinger of diet Qb who began to misfire a bit; got away from its rushing self, and suddenly their potentially interesting Westworld headed south. That and the nine returning defensive starters for whatever reason or reason(s) never achieved a truly synergistic mesh. Hence, Arkansas confuted what seemingly could have been more than a seven win season; and yet here is the kicker; in four of the five Razorback L’s, these Hogs got hogtied by 19 or more. As their subjective differential between 7-5 and 8-4 may have been a Thin,
Red, I mean a thin cardinal Line; and yet the difference between 8-4 and anything else was objectively perpendicular at best.
So maybe Arkansas is not that crispy of a big, bad Southeastern football team after all? Tho’ still, there are some Razorback match-up phobia’s in Charlotte that may prove squirrelly indeed… for example:
- We/V.Tech had one good End-De, though he has zero good shoulders left and Arkansas has one pretty good right-Ot and one truly monsta sized left one.
- The presence of big Vin-Diesel’s absence leaves Bud Stout very exposed on the blocking edge of the Ot-box itself | and therefore very inviting of the Top-2 Rb’s on the field -both of whom ball for Arkansas- to go off-Tackle, off-Tackle, off-Tackle. Rinse, recycle, repeat.
- Did I mention the size of this Razorback oLine yet? As in since half past Mikal Baquee has that ever been a good match-up for our contemporary Mike-Lb?
- Then we see the Arkansas TOP (time of possession) metric. That (or any full-time 4-2-5 or nickel set) appears to be the two defensive flavors of kryptonite for the slick looking and tempo needy Fu’fense thus far.
- Finally, as dinged up as we/V.Tech have been fore weeks on end; I might have liked our chances a bit better had we played Arkansas the week after Clemson. As our confidence was sky-high and coach-Fu’ managed to peak his inaugural football squad at just the right scared the (bleep) outta the Tigers moment.
Or in other words, this game is all about the play-calling and the foci of the Arkansas offense. If their rushing attack precisely targets the Bud Stout vulnerabilities; we will have a real dickens of a gridiron contest on our hands. If they choose to continue to mix it up and wing their way to victory, I like our turnover margin and championship round strength and conditioning chances here.
Though who will win? That’s what you really want to know… and after cogitating on this one for a bit, here are the scenarios I came up with…
- Δ1=7o%. Virginia Tech has more -or at least enough- defense to pull this Razorback fat out of the fire; and slowly widen a back-n-forth seesaw type game into about a two score gap in the end. Presuming Arkansas is still too aerially over reliant and that plays right into a now more healthy than they have been in many a week, Virginia Tech’s secondary hands.
- Δ2=27%. Arkansas reverts back to more of their 2015 play-calling routine with just 48 hours remaining in 2016. And goes 3 yards in a cloud of north-south dust; and subtly then overtly bludgeons Tech at the point of attack.
- Δ3=3%. This many not be coach-Fu’s first bowling rodeo; although that’s only because it is his second. At least as the big whistle that is. And Frankly, from what someone has heard; they were left wondering if the Hokies got back to work just a scosche late, and if they spread the returning (2017 and beyond) baller’s work too broad, or the 2016 bowl prep’ a bit too thin? Additionally, I find the buzz post-Clemson to be nearly hallucinatory, in nature. Almost as if we inhaled too many of our very own “look how well we played” and yet got beat; fumes.
As I’m not to shy about the Fu’fense matching-up with the Razorback D –we can get some scores here; as their D does not match-up all that epic with our O. However, our D does not exactly match-up that well with their straight-ahead power ground assault; IF, they stick to their shock-weapon trench warfare guns; and take the game (and the ball) outta the Qb Allen’s mercurial throw-game decision making hands. As the savant version of Hog Belk Bowl play-calling really should read: “All work, no play” and that might just make Bud a dull boy.
Ergo, therefore, to wit, in terms of overall team stats taken head-to-head, Virginia Tech football holds a 96.o aggregate total yardage edge per contest. Or that with equates to approximately a play and a half win –recalling one point assigned to margin of victory for each 10 yards held in advantage. Or in our case a 9.6 point Hokie win. In the most recent 3-game trends however, the skillful observers among you will tell me that the Tech O has reversed and that the Tech D has softened alike. Thing is however, that the Razorback D has become even more user-friendly, and that the total yardage margin aggregate is still an attractive enough looking 79.9 yards to the good in the last three scrums. Which posits and avers basically an eight point Fighting Gobbler win.
At the risk of sābisu or fan-service, and just so long as Arkansas does not try to smash Bud Bðck right in the mouth; I’ma gonna pick coach-Fu and company to put a slow melt on the Razorbacks in what should be a telly friendly contest that makes the ESPN Bristol Connecticut suits happy enough.
Virginia Tech=44, Arkansas=27