After a thrilling win over Pittsburgh, it’s rivalry week in the Commonwealth as Virginia Tech is looking to keep the Commonwealth Cup for the 14th straight year. However, the Hokies will be facing the best Virginia team since the last time the Cavaliers went to a bowl game in 2011.
With that said, here is our by the numbers preview for this year’s Battle for the Commonwealth Cup.
12: Number of receptions Cam Phillips needs to break VT’s single-season record.
Cam Phillips has two games left to break Isaiah Ford’s single-season reception record, and only needs to average 6 receptions to do so. While the Hokies’ recent offensive struggles make that look a little more difficult, Phillips definitely has the talent to break that record despite those struggles.
Cam Phillips had his best game in weeks against Pittsburgh with 8 catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. Phillips has been slowed some by a combination of increased attention and not being 100% due to a foot sprain suffered against Boston College. However, Phillips had his best game since suffering his foot sprain last week, making plays all over the field.
Cam Phillips has had some of his best performances in the Hokies’ biggest games with 7 receptions against Clemson, Miami, and West Virginia while breaking the 100-yard mark against Miami and WVU.
Phillips also is starting to benefit from the fact that opposing secondaries are having to give some attention to Sean Savoy and Eric Kumah. The emergence of that pair of receivers has given Phillips and Josh Jackson some much-needed help in the passing game that could make a difference against UVA.
Phillips has found ways to make a difference even with the increased attention and has a great shot at breaking the school record in his final two games.
20.8: Yards per reception for UVA WR Andre Levrone.
Virginia Tech has had some issues recently giving up some big plays in the passing game. Injuries to guys like Terrell Edmunds, Divine Deablo, and Adonis Alexander have caught up with Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh both having a few big pass plays that helped lead GT to victory and nearly helped Pitt beat VT last week.
Virginia definitely knows this and will look to find ways to use big play receiver Andre Levrone to be that x-factor. Part of that strategy will be built on trying to get Levrone matched up with someone not named Greg Stroman or Brandon Facyson. If they can avoid Stroman and Facyson with Levrone, he might be able to give the Hokies’ some problems especially if Mook Reynolds is unable to play and help Reggie Floyd in pass coverage.
Levrone is one of three UVA players with over 600 receiving yards, but the only Wahoo averaging over 20 yards per reception among those three players. Levrone also leads UVA with 7 receiving touchdowns and has shown the type of big play potential that will force Bud Foster to give him some more attention.
Andre Levrone gives UVA a home run threat that can change a game at any moment, but he has been kept quiet lately with not a single reception for 35+ yards since UVA upset Boise State. However, VT will have to be very alert to where Levrone is every second he’s on the field.
Levrone has the talent to be a difference maker with his big play ability being a major x-factor in this game.
12: Yards per punt return for Greg Stroman.
Greg Stroman has been one of the best punt returners in America averaging 12 yards per punt return with a pair of touchdowns. Stroman has done a great job of making the right decision on whether to take a fair catch or return. When Stroman has decided to return it, he’s done well at making sure he doesn’t lose anything and regularly gains 6-10 yards on his returns.
Stroman has had some big return games, but this game presents a great matchup against a Virginia team that has struggled in punt coverage.
The Wahoos have been below-average at best on punt coverage with opponents averaging 13.7 yards per return against the Hoos. Virginia Tech has done a great job of blocking for Stroman, giving the Hokies a mismatch that could make a big difference in this game.
One of the big reasons for the Hokies’ success has been their ability to win the hidden yardage and field position battles. Stroman has been a big part of that consistently improving the Hokies’ field position while always having the potential to break out at any potential for a touchdown.
This is Greg Stroman’s final game against Virginia, and you can bet he will have a little extra motivation to win and go 4-0 against UVA in his career. Stroman has been a weapon on special teams, and this is as great of an opportunity as any for him to have a big game as a punt returner.
19: Number of fumbles for Virginia.
UVA has had some ball security problems this season with Virginia having 19 fumbles through 11 games this season. However, the Cavaliers have been very fortunate in losing only five of those fumbles, meaning that UVA is losing only 26% of their fumbles. While part of that may be due to UVA’s offense doing a great job of diving on the ball to recover fumbles, that low percentage is more a luck stat that could change at any second.
Virginia Tech hasn’t had the highest rate of fumble recoveries as they’ve recovered only 5 of the 17 fumbles they’ve forced. However, the Hokies have done a good job of forcing fumbles and combine that with UVA’s unusually low fumble lost rate, there seems like an opportunity for VT to force some turnovers via UVA’s below-average ball security.
Virginia has turned the ball over four more times than the Hokies while also having a turnover margin that is 5 worse than VT. UVA hasn’t been bad overall at protecting the football, but the numbers show that they’re vulnerable to having a bad game in terms of turnovers, something that there could be a high risk of this game.
UVA has shown some ball security vulnerability and this could be something to watch in a game where turnovers will likely make a big difference.
25%: Rate at which opponents convert third downs against Virginia Tech.
Virginia Tech’s defense has done a great job of getting the stops they need on third down. The Hokies are tied for second in the nation with opponents only converting on third down 25% of the time this season.
That level of third down dominance has helped the Hokies get out of tough situations and end long drives with only a field goal attempt for opponents rather than a touchdown. Part of this has been due to the Hokies’ dominant rush defense whether that involves VT getting opponents into third and longs or stopping opponents on third and short situations.
Virginia has been okay on third down this season converting 41% of the time, around the middle of the nation and slightly better than VT. However, UVA hasn’t faced a lot of tough defenses and struggled on third down at Miami, going 4-for-13 on third down against the Hurricanes’ talented defense.
Against Virginia, it will be important for the Hokies to get some third down stops. While UVA has some big play potential, they showed last week that their big plays weren’t enough to get the job done against the Canes. If VT’s defense can do as well on third down as Miami was able to last week, the Hokies will be in great shape to keep the Commonwealth Cup.
4,745: Number of days Virginia Tech has held the Commonwealth Cup.
The last 13 years have been pretty fun Hokie Nation. Let’s make it a 14th year of dominance.