Hokie Dokie – The Va Tech Predicto
Purdue and Virginia Tech will meet for the first time ever on Saturday and they’ll do it in the coveted (by teams used to being relegated to the noon wasteland) 3:30 PM timeslot. On…. ESPNU? Really? Well, okay. This game is part of a home and home the two schools agreed to, with Purdue heading to Blacksburg in 2023. The eight year gap is a bit of a weird one and I think it’s safe to say 68-year-old Frank Beamer won’t still be the coach then. A bigger question mark is….will Darrell Hazell still be the Boilers’ coach?
But back to the present. What does the Boiled Sports braintrust think will happen this Saturday.
Let’s find out.
It's a big one this weekend, as Notre Dame comes to town for a matchup of top-25 teams, and ... wait, that's volleyball. (And also not true; while Purdue is hanging on at #22 after an upset by Miami at LSU, Notre Dame just isn't that good. Aw. But they are playing in Mackey Saturday, and it's free if you're a student and $2 for adults with a VT ticket stub OUCH. OK, football.)
So there's that thing outside in the rain that you're going to watch before volleyball, and it features a Virginia Tech team that sports a crushing defense and amazing special teams ... er, that's not true either. Well, their special teams are actually "just" good, and the defense is, yeah, crushing. (Or it was last year. They failed to stop OSU in week 1, which says nothing, and held Furman to 3 points in week 2, which also says nothing.) But the Hokies' offense was bad last season: 93rd in FEI (possession-based), worse even than Purdue, and 85th in S&P (play-based), still in the Boilers' neighborhood, so Blacksburg has become accustomed to the other units pulling the offense's weight as well as their own.
That's a good thing, because this Purdue team is not prepared to face a team that can roll out top-25 units in every phase of the game. (Raise your hand if you're glad MSU and OSU aren't on the schedule this year. What? damn it.) While the Shoopmobile posted 30+ for the second straight game, the one thing Indiana State and Virginia Tech have in common is that I've been drunk in both places. If Austin Appleby is able to accumulate achievements against ace coordinator Bud Foster's unit, take pictures, because it'll be an accomplishment the likes of which you may never see again. What's more likely is that Shoop will run his short-yardage passing game into a brick wall, as the Hokies crowd the box, dare Appleby to go deep, and then mix up pressure to make sure he doesn't have time to get there. There will be lots of three-and-outs, lots of punts, and lots of opportunities to turn the game on the other side of the ball.
The nice thing for the Good Guys is that Scott Loeffler's not shown he can run a competent offense, and VT is unlikely to punt the ball on first down just to make Purdue work against their defense again. With starting QB Michael Brewer out, the offense will be in the hands of junior QB Brenden Motley, who's thrown a total of 3 career passes against I-A competition. If Greg Hudson is looking for a breakout game for his unit, this game is it: shut down Motley, force turnovers, and keep the Boilers in the game. Even a great defense can't be expected to stop 20-yard scoring drives.
Unfortunately, there won't be enough of those drives Saturday. The defense will make some solid plays, and at times it'll seem like the Good Guys are just a couple of plays away from making a game of it ... but another telegraphed slant will drop the Boilers into a hole that even a couple of well-timed VT turnovers can't quite get them out of. Wild Turkey, anyone?
Virginia Tech 23 Purdue 12
Aneesh the Swamy:
You should pretty much skip my preview and re-read zlionsfans’ blurb, because mine’s exactly the same. Scroll up, I’ll wait. You’re still here? Ok, I guess I can write things down.
I’m not too worried about VA Tech’s offense, as ridiculous as that might seem considering Purdue’s lackluster defensive performances these past two weeks. Starting QB Michael Brewer is out, Gelen Robinson is back, and Purdue should be able to pressure the passer. Maybe we’ll finally see the all-star cornerback duo of Frankie Williams and Anthony Brown live up to their preseason billing, because so far I haven’t been too impressed (despite a few solid moments against an FCS squad last week).
What I am worried about is Appleby, because (as zlionsfan said) I’m sure VT will stuff the box and make it impossible for Knox and Jones to get a glimpse of daylight. Though it might seem ridiculous to say after AA’s 20-34/289 yard/4TD day against ISU, I’m not convinced that he’s got enough to force defenses to respect Purdue’s passing game. There were several instances where Purdue’s offensive line blocked one direction, while Austin directed the offense the opposite way. There were a few errant passes that an FBS opponent would have easily picked off. And the whole staring-down-targets-before-telegraphing-passes thing is very dangerous against VT’s damn good secondary.
If this becomes a high scoring affair, Purdue doesn’t stand a chance…mostly because I think those points will be put on the board by VA Tech’s defense and special teams. If Purdue can slow the game down, if Appleby can clean up some of his inefficiencies, if the receivers can patch something together without Anthrop in the lineup, if the defense can hold VT’s should-be pedestrian offense to under 20 points…well, if all that happens, Purdue’s got a shot.
My prediction? More of those things happen that most fellow pessimistic Purdue fans are expecting, but the game falls just out of reach. If a moral victory is still possible, Purdue nabs it, and heads into their matchup with a really talented Bowling Green team with confidence. A win either against VT or BGSU could be the difference between a step in the right direction or a disaster of a season, so let’s hope Hazell’s boys look ready to win.
Virginia Tech 24 Purdue 18
It's always good to get a win, even if it's against an FCS school and while there was plenty for us to wring our hands about following that game, the fact is Purdue avoided what would have been a catastrophic loss (...yay?). Va Tech offers an opportunity to step beyond "winning games that losing would have been horrifically embarrassing" into "quality win" territory.
That's quite the tall task, although I suppose if it was easy, even Indiana would do it. Then again...IU did beat Missouri last year, so we are kind of by ourselves at the bottom of the Big 10.
Saturday could change that. I still see a bowl game as being out of reach for this team, but a win against Va Tech would certainly be mantle worthy. Hell, if we were IU basketball we'd probably get rings made or hang a banner.
This is where we are, but who we are still seems a bit murky. I'm wondering though, based on what we've seen so far, if Va Tech isn't actually a sneaky-good matchup for Purdue. On defense, they are missing their starting QB, and there's a significant talent difference for them between QB1 and QB2. Their running game is meh, and their OL is mostly just ok. They aren't going to win many shoot-outs this year.
On defense they are actually terrifying. Bud Foster (a subset of Va Tech fans have been clamoring for him to take over for Beamer) is a fantastic DC who recruits size and athleticism well and sticks them in an aggressive, attacking, Rex-Ryan-would-be-proud scheme. As exotic as ISU was at times last week, Va Tech will definitely be more skilled, more athletic, and more exotic. Purdue will have their hands full.
My two main criticisms of Appleby has been his inability to perform under pressure, and his tendency to lock onto one receiver and fail to go through his progressions. The latter won't be a problem against Va Tech (he may not have time to go through progressions), but the former certainly will be. How to you counteract this? Delay draws to Knox (pls hold onto the ball kthx), screens to the RB, bubble screens to the WR...you try to play the short yardage game, and if you can buy some time, try to go over the top. But you gotta be quick, and you gotta be smart.
I think Purdue will lose this game, but I think they'll make it a game.
Va Tech 27 Purdue 20
As Boilerdowd said to me way back sometime last year when we looked ahead to this game…. “You want no part of Beamer.” And that’s the best way to put it. No, this isn’t the Hokie program of old, regularly competing among the best teams in the nation. But they still have the swagger and while he’s not his old self, Frank can still recruit a hell of a defense. Sure, their offense is down a starting QB but they weren’t particularly impressive to begin with and I don’t think Purdue fans were worried about the office originally when they looked at this schedule.
Yes, Appleby looked better last week, but it’s very hard to make any conclusions against that level of competition. As has been pointed out here, he still did a lot of worrisome locking on, etc. And if we’re noticing it, well, you can be sure VT’s defense has noticed. There will be some decoying and laying in the weeds by the Hokies Saturday afternoon.
I had expected Purdue to let last Saturday be closer than it was and I was happily incorrect. However, this is another “until they prove me otherwise” situation for me. After I saw the way they played against Marshall, I thought ahead to this game and felt they were going to be pummeled. I don’t feel much different now.
Virginia Tech 31 Purdue 13
VaTech's offense isn't as potent with the backup QB at the helm, but what they lack defensively, they overcome with defense and special teams.
On Twitter and message boards, some Purdue fans correctly point out that this isn't a Hokie team that will contend for the tourney at the end of the season...But if they had an offense, they might flirt with the top-10...and if I ran a 4.4 40 and was an inch or 10 taller, I would have been able to buy my Mom her dream home.
But, they do have an identity that strikes a bit of fear into opponents.
The most worrisome thing that I saw from our Boilers v. ISU was Griggs missing his second and third field goal of the season...sure, it was a bit breezy, but Hazell needs a kicking game that he can rely upon...especially against salty defenses like VT's.
Appleby had his best game as a starting college QB last weekend, but that came on the shoulders of gaining yards in big chunks...He won't be able to do that this weekend. Plus, he must do a better job in two aspects of the game before I'll have a ton of faith in him:
- Going through progressions/not locking in on receivers
- Not panicking while under pressure
This game is a massive opportunity for Purdue: beat a respectable opponent in a somewhat large stage and change everybody's opinion (including most Purdue fans) of the program.
Will they seize this chance? Sadly, I'm still in the camp that doesn't believe, I guess.
VaTech 31 Purdue 20