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What To Watch For: Virginia Tech Hokies

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Big plays and third downs will decide this game.

Florida State v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

THIRD DOWNS WILL BE A MAJOR FACTOR IN THE GAME

Louisville fans know just how big third downs are as the defense has struggled to get stops and the offense has struggled to convert. Well, Virginia Tech is pretty bad on third downs themselves. While UofL is ranked 53rd in converting third downs, Virginia Tech is ranked 46th at stopping them. Louisville is ranked 73rd in stopping third downs, Tech is ranked 77th in converting them. Something has to give.

It’s hard for me to envision Louisville all of a sudden being able to stop anyone on third downs. Especially with the Hokies having Hendon Hooker and his running ability at Quarterback. Tech also does a great job getting the ball to their Tight End James Mitchell and utilizing Khalil Herbert in the screen game. So they do three things that Louisville struggles to defend. They have to put Tech in long third downs because Hooker’s passer rating is only 51.16 on 3rd and 10 and he has only converted one first down on 10 pass attempts.

WILL VIRGINIA TECH HAVE ALL OF THEIR PLAYERS?

No team in the ACC has had more issues managing their roster through the pandemic than Virginia Tech. They’ve gone games without coaches as well as players multiple times and they didn’t get to start their season until the end of September. While some of those things come with the territory, they still seem to be having some issues getting and keeping guys healthy enough to field a full team each week. That’s on top of having to deal with injuries and other issues that naturally come up during a season.

With Tech traveling to this game, numbers factor in a bit more. You’re not allowed to bring your full roster and a positive Covid test can happen at any time. Contact tracing also factors in, obviously. So what happens if they have another issue with a player or a group of players testing positive? They’ve also played worse on the road so far this year. Are the added restrictions playing a role there?

BIG PLAYS SHOULD BE THERE FOR LOUISVILLE

Virginia Tech is struggling to stop teams that run the ball well. UNC ran for 399 yards and averaged over 9 yards per carry. Wake Forest had a handful of chunk runs where Christian Beal-Smith was able to get around the edge and just run away from people. Louisville should see some similar success with the run game.

Last week they went up against a FSU defense that did a poor job of fitting gaps and containing the backside edge. Tech has had some similar issues and teams have been able to exploit it a bit. UofL should be the next to do so. Javian Hawkins found backside lanes to cut to last weekend and I think it was a part of the game plan. Look for that to be the case again this week.

With the running game working, the passing game should have more opportunities to stretch the field. Virginia Tech plays five Defensive Backs but they move them around and not everyone is out wide trying to cover. We should see some aggressive looks from them which means man coverage. While they may not mimic FSU and try to single cover Tutu Atwell, we will probably see single coverage somewhere. Louisville has to look to take advantage of those matchups like they did last weekend.

VIRGINIA TECH’S RUNNING GAME WILL BE A BIG ISSUE FOR LOUISVILLE

Khalil Herbert is putting up some of the best rushing numbers in the country. He will be the second Running Back in recent weeks that can claim that status and Louisville will absolutely have to find a way to do a better job the second time around.

Kyren Williams was ranked in the top 10-15 in the country in yards per game before the UofL game but the Cards were able to hold him to about 5 yards per carry. The issue is that those five yards were pretty consistent and Notre Dame was able to convert third downs because they were in manageable situations.

Louisville is going to see a very dynamic running game against Virginia Tech because they do a really good job of getting Herbert on the edge and they also use Hendon Hooker well as an option threat. They make you pay for over-pursuing Herbert by sneaking Hooker out of the back end. It’s hard to contain and it allows them to drive down the field without having to have a bunch of success passing the ball. Louisville has to be able to contain this running game if they want to keep this game close.