College football is back as #21 Virginia Tech and #22 West Virginia are making their final preparations for their huge, primetime showdown at FedEx Field. The Hokies are coming off their best season since 2011 while the Mountaineers believe that they could have their best season in years with new QB Will Grier.
To get you ready for the game, here are some important numbers to know.
The number of passes attempted by Virginia Tech's quarterbacks at the collegiate level. That pass came from Jack Click against Boston College.
If you didn't already know, Virginia Tech has basically 0 FBS experience at quarterback entering this season. After pushing Jerod Evans for the job last year, Josh Jackson earned the starting job this year and is ready to take over.
Jackson may not have played last year but he traveled with the team throughout the year and got to watch Jerod Evans manage himself and the offense in different environments. Making your debut in primetime at a neutral site isn't an easy way to make a debut, but Jackson has gotten to see Evans play in unique environments like Bristol and South Bend.
Jackson will also likely lean on his father some who is a former college assistant and currently coaching in high school in Michigan, while also leaning on the coaching staff as well to prepare him for this environment.
It has been 694 days since Will Grier started his last game for Florida on October 10th, 2015 against Missouri.
For those who don't know, the Gators were undefeated in 2015 with Grier at the helm. After a 6-0 start, Grier was suspended for a year due to a positive PED test after a 6-0 start. While Grier could have stayed at Florida, he instead decided to transfer to West Virginia with no guarantee that he would start.
Now, Grier returns to college football in a wide-open West Virginia offense that will face one of America's best defenses. Grier has faced some tough SEC defenses in the past, but this will certainly be the toughest defense he has faced in his career and will be a big test to see if he can be as good as he was with the Gators.
We'll see if Grier is rusty at all from watching college football for the past season and a half or if he can be as sharp as he was before his suspension.
The ratio of career receptions for Cam Phillips to the total number of receptions for VT wide receivers who are eligible to play this year (CJ Carroll-18, James Clark-6, Henri Murphy-3).
For the past several months, Justin Fuente has said that he has concerns with the amount of depth at wide receiver. Last Friday, Fuente said that the Hokies were "not very" close to being 8 wide receivers deep while WRs coach Holmon Wiggins said they currently had four guys while mentioning that a few others are "on the cusp" without mentioning any names.
There is tons of inexperience at wide receiver with Cam Phillips and CJ Carroll being the Hokies' only veteran guys and James Clark adding some age as a senior. The Hokies will need younger, inexperienced guys like Phil Patterson, Eric Kumah, Sean Savoy, Hezekiah Grimsley, and others to step up and provide more options outside of Phillips and Carroll, something that will be tested in this game.
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The number of defensive linemen and linebackers in West Virginia's 3-3-5 base defense.
West Virginia has one of America's most unique defenses with Tony Gibson running a 3-3-5 scheme unique to the Mountaineers. While most teams have some sort of nickel package, WVU's base defense is basically their nickel package though they can use that nickelback in various ways including various disguises that Gibson will likely try to use to mess with Josh Jackson.
The Hokies do have the benefit of having a former West Virginia assistant in CBs coach Brian Mitchell with his knowledge of that system certain to be taken advantage of as much as possible in the Hokies' game-plan. However, this unique defense has the potential to create some problems though if they can keep WVU limited to 6 in the box, it could create some great opportunities in the running game.
Number of returning starters for Virginia Tech on defense.
Experience is a big reason why Virginia Tech is expected to have one of America's best defenses. The Hokies return seven starters while both Ricky Walker and Trevon Hill have some starting experience along the defensive line with those two and Tim Settle having significant roles last season. VT also has America's best cornerback trio in Greg Stroman, Adonis Alexander, and Brandon Facyson; all three of whom have a double-digit total of career starts.
West Virginia will not face a defense as talented as the Hokies all season and have to face them right off the bat when some offenses aren't at full speed. Virginia Tech has tons of experience in their back 7 and though Will Grier only threw three interceptions in his 6 games with the Gators, the Hokies have the experience at linebacker and in the secondary to make life very difficult for him.
The Hokies have plenty of guys who can hold their own in man coverage including Stroman, Alexander, Facyson, Mook Reynolds, and Terrell Edmunds; something that is quite important when facing a WVU team that will look to run four and five receivers sets.
Jersey number of West Virginia LB David Long, who is out for this game.
West Virginia will be without one of their best defensive players in linebacker David Long who had a solid freshman season with 63 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks. Long tore his meniscus and is expected to be out for the first month of the season.
The loss of Long is tough for a defense that now doesn't have a lot of experience and was looking to Long as a key player on their defense. Being without an experienced guy like Long for a season opener is never ideal but especially when that opener comes against a Justin Fuente offense. West Virginia will have their linebacker depth tested right off the bat with this loss being a significant one.
Virginia Tech will have held the Black Diamond Trophy for 4,719 days when they kick off against West Virginia. A Hokies' win would mean that Virginia Tech would extend their streak of holding the Black Diamond Trophy to 6,195 days. Virginia Tech and West Virginia will meet again on September 18th, 2021 in Morgantown.
Virginia Tech will have held the Commonwealth Cup for 4,663 days upon kickoff against West Virginia. Unlike West Virginia, Virginia has had a chance every single season since 2004 to win back the cup and they haven't.
Why did we include this number? Because we can.
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