#13 VIRGINIA TECH (-5.0) 29 #19 Nebraska 24June 23, 2016
VIRGINIA TECH (-5) 29 Nebraska 24
I wasn't a big fan of Virginia Tech heading into the season, as their offense was worse than average last season and appeared to be worse than average heading into this season. My beliefs were confirmed in the Hokies' game against Alabama, as Tech managed just 157 total yards on 3.1 yards per play while allowing 6.5 yppl to the Tide.
However, last week's game against Marshall was an eye opener, as the Hokies racked up 467 yards on the ground at 10.2 yards per rushing play against a veteran Marshall defensive front that had been pretty good defending the run last season. Virginia Tech actually ran the ball relatively well against Alabama too (4.2 yprp against a brick wall of a defensive front is actually good), so it appears as if the injury to Hokies' running back Darren Evans, who averaged a sub-par 4.4 ypr last season, was a blessing in that it allowed Virginia Tech to get some real talent in the backfield to run the ball.
Freshmen Ryan Williams and David Wilson have been electrifying in combining for 400 rushing yards at 9.8 ypr in the first two games and they should run well against a mediocre Nebraska run defense that has allowed 4.7 yprp to Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State. Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor is still an unproven passer who has completed just 50% of his passes this season, but Tech should be able to move the ball well enough on the ground to score a good number of points.
Nebraska can keep up with quarterback Zac Lee, who has been outstanding in completing 74% of his passes for 9.1 yards per pass play, which is very good even when compensating for the level of opposing defenses he faced (FAU has a horrible pass defense, but Arkansas State is not much worse than average).
Running back Roy Helu is on his way to another good season, rushing for 212 yards at 7.1 ypr in the first two games after racking up 803 yards at 6.4 ypr last year while splitting duties as the main back. The Cornhuskers should move the ball well against a Virginia Tech stop unit that was supposed to be good, but hasn't shown that yet in allowing 5.5 yards per play to Alabama and Marshall, who would combine to average 5.4 yppl against an average defensive team.
I actually still rate the Hokies' defense at 0.7 yppl better than average, but this game will help define what sort of defense they really have.
My ratings only favor Virginia Tech by 2 1/2 points in this game, but the Hokies do qualify in a very good 121-45 ATS situation and they are 26-12 ATS in home games when not favored by more than 14 points while also being 27-6-1 ATS in regular season non-conference games when not laying 25 points or more. Nebraska, however, does apply to a solid 51-16-2 ATS indicator, so the technical analysis is a bit split (although it favors Tech overall).
I'll pass on this game, but it will tell me a lot about these two teams so I'll be paying close attention to the results.
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