Following Virginia Tech’s 17-10 win at Georgia Tech last week, Hokies’ fans were clamoring to know one thing: Is Virginia Tech’s defense the best in the country?
Consider this: The Hokies held defending national champ Alabama to just two offensive touchdowns.
More evidence: Virginia Tech’s defense held Georgia Tech, which had the nation’s fourth-ranked rushing offense, to 200 yards below its average -- on just four days of preparation.
The final dagger: Michigan State’s schedule has nuthin’ on the Hokies.
Virginia Tech has a championship-caliber defense that’s only going to get better this week with the expected return of cornerback Antone Exum, and on paper, Michigan State is the only program that can rival the numbers the Hokies’ D are putting up. Considering how much stronger Virginia Tech’s strength of schedule has been, and how the Hokies have performed in their two most important games (against Bama and Georgia Tech), they should earn the title of nation’s best right now.
Check out these numbers from ESPN’s Stats & Information department:
Virginia Tech’s yards per play defense (3.73) ranks second in the country behind only Michigan State.
Only 28.8 percent of plays against Virginia Tech’s defense gain five yards or more. That’s second-best in the country, behind only Michigan State.
43.3 percent of the time, Virginia Tech’s defense held opponents to a play that gains either zero yards or negative yardage. That rate ranks fifth in the country. Michigan State first again.
Here’s what you need to know about the Spartans: They’ve played Western Michigan, South Florida, Youngstown State and Notre Dame -- and lost to the Irish. Western Michigan and South Florida have combined for an 0-9 record this season. Look at where their scoring offenses rank nationally: Western Michigan 119; South Florida 118, Notre Dame 85. Youngstown State is FCS. ‘Nuff said.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech has played Alabama, which is averaging 35 points per game and scored just 14 offensive points against the Hokies (we’re excluding the punt return, kick return, and interception returns for touchdowns). Georgia Tech is averaging 36.5 points per game and managed just 10 against the Hokies -- at home.
Virginia Tech’s front seven has created tremendous pressure and opened opportunities up for the secondary. Virginia Tech is tied for the FBS lead in interceptions (11) and sacks (17). According to ESPN’s Stats & Info crew, the Hokies are snagging one interception every 12.2 passes -- by far the best rate in the nation. The next closest is Nebraska (1 every 15) and the national average is 1 every 31.2. In other words, the Hokies are picking off passes at a rate almost three times the national average.
Good luck, North Carolina.
Now that Virginia Tech fans are gloating and floating on air, here’s your reality check: The Hokies can have the best defense in the world and it’s not going to matter if the offense can’t get a first down. Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas and his supporting cast took a major step forward against Georgia Tech and looked the best they have all season, but it has to continue as the Hokies enter the heart of their ACC schedule.
Virginia Tech’s identity has long been a lunch-pail defense and mediocre offense, and it’s been good enough to win four ACC titles and make five appearances in the ACC championship game.
With the nation’s best defense, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to make it six.