For the second week in a row, Wake Forest will play host to an ACC opponent from the state of Virginia. Last week the Deacs were able to pick up their first conference win of 2020, defeating the Virginia Cavaliers 40-23. This week, things get a little bit tougher, as Wake takes on the 19th ranked Virginia Tech Hokies (3-1). Let’s take a quick look at the VT offense.
The Virginia Tech offense has been very, very good this season. The Hokies are scoring 42 points per game (9th in FBS) and racking up almost 485 yards per game (14th in FBS) through four games. In the ACC, they are second in points per game behind Clemson and third in yards per game behind Clemson and UNC. They are also one of the most efficient teams in the nation, averaging 7.3 yards per play (6th in FBS). That is second best in the ACC behind just UNC. Needless to say, this VT offense is not just one of the best in the conference, but one of the best in the whole nation.
The scariest thing about the VT offense is that they are an incredible rushing team. The Hokies are runnning the ball an average of 45 times per game for an incredible 312 yards per game, second best in all of FBS behind just Air Force; they are even averaging more rushing yards per game than the notorious Army triple option. The Hokies are also second in the nation in both yards per rush, with 6.9 yards per carry, and rushing touchdowns per game, with 3.8. Those rushing totals are pretty terrifying because the Deacs are 62nd out of 76 teams in rushing defense—giving up almost 200 yards per game on the ground—and 61st in the nation in rushing touchdowns allowed per game at 2.3. Obviously, that is a favorable matchup for the Hokies.
The biggest threat on the Virginia Tech offense is running back Khalil Herbert, who has run the ball 62 times this season for 593 yards and 5 touchdowns. That comes out to a ridiculous 9.6 yards per carry, which is fourth in the nation. He has rushed for over 100 yards in every game this season and hit the 200 yard mark one time against Duke. Virginia Tech also has an extremely dangerous runner at the quarterback position now that Hendon Hooker is healthy and back in control of the offense. Hooker has played in just two games this season, but already has 26 carries for 193 yards (7.4 yards per carry) and 4 touchdowns on the ground. Last week against Boston College, Hooker made up for lost time by rushing for 164 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Eagles. We saw the Deacs have a pretty difficult time in the Virginia game slowing down those designed QB runs, so fixing that will absolutely paramount this week.
As good as the Hokies are running the ball, they have been pretty subpar in the passing game. The Hokies are throwing the ball just 21.5 times per game and only completing roughly 11.5 of those attempts. They are 69th in nation in completion percentage at 53.5% and 66th in the nation with just 172.5 passing yards per game. While that isn’t very good, what’s the point of passing if you can get over 7 yards per play on the ground?
I think it’s safe to say that this is not a great matchup for the Deacs—we’ve already seen the Deacon defense get gashed by big plays in the run game and struggle against quarterback runs so far this season. I have no illusions that Wake Forest will be able to completely stifle the Hokie rushing attack, but the game will likely come down to whether or not the Deacs can limit explosive plays and get off the field on 3rd down. The Hokies are converting on just 38% of their 3rd downs this season, so just getting them to 3rd down would be a big step in the right direction.