Saturday night, Virginia Tech and Miami will face off in the biggest game between these two teams in at least a decade. Virginia Tech knows that everything is on the line as a loss will basically end their hopes of winning the ACC Coastal and eliminate them from playoff contention.
Here is our by the numbers preview for Saturday night's showdown between Virginia Tech and Miami
4: Number of interceptions for each starting QB.
Josh Jackson and Malik Rosier may be first-year starting quarterbacks, but both young quarterbacks have played with great maturity and made smart decisions. Though Rosier is a junior and has been groomed behind Brad Kaaya for years, it's still impressive for both quarterbacks to have thrown four interceptions in their first years as a starting QB.
Part of that credit has to go to Justin Fuente and Mark Richt for the way they've prepared their quarterbacks. Fuente and Richt are two of the best offensive minds and quarterback developers in the country, and Jackson and Rosier are the latest examples of their talent developing QBs.
However, Jackson and Rosier deserve credit for avoiding mistakes and making smart decisions. Some will argue that they've been helped by the fact that neither of them have faced many tough defenses, but both quarterbacks have done well against the competition they've faced. Jackson and Rosier have filled a void of ACC quarterback talent that guys like Jerod Evans, Brad Kaaya, Deshaun Watson, and Justin Thomas left after their departures.
Both quarterbacks will be tested Saturday night as Virginia Tech leads the nation in defensive completion percentage while Miami has 11 interceptions this season. Both defenses will look to force Jackson and Rosier into throwing what most haven't been able to, interceptions.
2: Virginia Tech's defensive ranking in stop rate and points allowed per drive.
If you don't follow us on Twitter, then you probably haven't seen my fandom for my new favorite defensive stats: stop rate and points allowed per drive. These two stats give us about as close to a clear picture of how good a defense is without having to combine lots of different stats like total yards allowed, redzone defense, scoring defense, and more.
The concept with both of these stats are simple. Stop rate is the percentage of stops a defense makes without allowing any points while points allowed per drive is the average number of points allowed per drive for your opponent. The fact that the Hokies are second in both shows that not only are the Hokies getting stops but when they do give up points, they're only bending on defense and giving up field goals.
Virginia Tech's defense has been stout and has only allowed more than 20 points twice this season. Granted, those two games were against the two best offenses the Hokies have faced (Clemson, West Virginia), but those offenses also didn't have big scoring performances either with both teams only scoring 24 points with their offense.
Miami's offense has been solid, but it's definitely not on the same level as Clemson and West Virginia, especially after the Hurricanes lost star RB Mark Walton for the season. However, the Hurricanes will face their toughest test of the year against a VT defense hungry to prove that they can continue to be dominant even as the competition improves.
10: Turnover margin for Miami.
Whether you like the turnover chain or not, Miami's defense has stepped up and become a turnover-forcing machine under Manny Diaz while the offense is protecting the football very well similar to the Hokies (VT has a turnover margin of +6).
Like with Josh Jackson for VT, part of this success is definitely due to the play of Malik Rosier and his smart decisions that have led to him only throwing four interceptions in seven games. However, Rosier will be tested Saturday night by what is the best secondary he has faced all year.
Miami's defense hasn't been nearly as good as Virginia Tech as the Hurricanes have given up 90 yards more per game. However, the Hurricanes have been opportunistic on defense while also doing well at holding teams to field goals with a points allowed per drive total that is lower than most schools around them in stop rate.
The Hurricanes will need their defense to step up Saturday night and be opportunistic in forcing turnovers. They will have the challenge of facing a Virginia Tech offense that has only had six turnovers all season including only 2 fumbles. If the Hurricanes can make the Hokies turnover-happy, they'll have a great chance at getting to 8-0 and clinching the ACC Coastal title for the first time.
33-9: Combined record of Justin Fuente and Mark Richt over the past two years.
Two years ago, Virginia Tech and Miami hired Justin Fuente and Mark Richt respectively. Since, the two programs have asserted themselves at the top of the ACC Coastal and appear poise to take over the division for the foreseeable future after years of Coastal chaos.
The speed at which both of these turnarounds have happened may be the most impressive thing about this. Fuente led the Hokies to the ACC Championship and a 10-win season in his first year after four-straight seasons of no more than eight wins. Now, Fuente has VT well on their way to a second-straight 10-win season with a great chance at winning a second-straight Coastal title if they beat Miami.
Meanwhile, Richt has Miami off to their best start in a long time (no matter the strength of schedule) after coming off a 9-4 season last year. With 16 wins in the past two years, the Hurricanes already have more wins than they had in the two seasons before Richt's arrival (14 wins in 2014 and 2015).
Both of these turnarounds are extremely impressive and the winner of this game will become a sleeper to be the National Coach of the Year. Only Kirby Smart at Georgia and Scott Frost at UCF can be argued to be even in the same tier of hirings as Fuente and Richt during the 2015 college football coaching carousel.
Saturday night, two of the ACC's best head coaches will face off in the most important ACC Coastal game in a long time.
12.8: Average yards per punt return for Greg Stroman.
Greg Stroman has developed into one of America's best punt returners ranking third in punt return yards (346) and twelfth in yards per punt return (12.8). Stroman has had a pair of touchdowns, but he has also made the right decision on whether to return or take a fair catch.
When Stroman does return it, there's this confidence that he could break out for a touchdown while being likely to at least gain 8 to 10 yards. Punters have tried to bomb it deep, but that hasn't stopped Stroman from picking up a big gain that makes the extra travel distance useless.
Special teams can make the difference in big games like this, and Miami's special teams will know that they can't afford to give Stroman a chance. Meanwhile, Stroman will definitely be fired up and have a chance to prove that he is one of America's best punt returners and worthy of All-American consideration because of his versatility at cornerback and as a returner.
If they fail to contain him, you can bet that Miami fans will have nightmares that last long into the Miami night.
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