As part of Testudo Times' 2013 football coverage, staffer Alex Kirshner is corresponding with opposing teams' beat writers and SB Nation bloggers for each week on the Terrapins' schedule. This week, we check in with Chris Hatcher of Gobbler Country, SB Nation’s Virginia Tech Hokies site. We also answered some questions there.
TT: The Hokies are coming off a tremendous win at Miami last weekend and are in the thick of things for the ACC Coastal's spot in the conference championship game. How are you feeling about their chances?
GC: I am feeling as good as one can considering how the team played in the two weeks prior at Boston College and at home vs. Duke. Granted, both those teams are better than advertised, as Duke is dangerous offensively and Boston College plays tougher than about anyone else Tech has played all year. But many of the Hokies' wounds from those games were self-inflicted. As for their chances, I won't go out on a limb at all. This team has been so unpredictable over the last month and for the greater part of the year when it comes to which team will show up that it would be a fool's errand to do so. What I will say is if Duke goes down in one or more of their remaining games, I feel much better.
TT: Did you expect last weekend's result? You couldn't have thought there'd be such a blowout, could you have?
GC: I couldn't have, no, and I didn't. I predicted the Hokies would lose 24-10, contributing to their own demise substantially. Man was I wrong. I got Miami's point total right, which counts for something, huh? But if you told me Tech would score 40 points against ANY FBS team, I would have laughed you off the playground. That's how bad this offense has been.
TT: Judging by his numbers, Logan Thomas has been a mixed bag. Has he given the Hokies what you expected in his third year of action?
GC: Thomas has done better than expected in my determination. His stats don't show it, but as I have to write every week, his receivers have approximately 50 drops and are responsible for AT LEAST five of his 12 interceptions. No one has done the job of making him look good on a regular basis. Much like last year, he's having to be Superman, and he's probably not that guy. All things considered, coming into last week he was responsible for 75 percent of the Hokies' offense. That's a much higher percentage than most of the Heisman candidates. But you're right, it has been a mixed bag. He's certainly had his bad games (see Duke, Marshall, or the throw he made against Boston College to seal it), and the Alabama game would appear to be one as well, but the fact that his receivers allowed 11 catchable passes to hit the ground or their opponents' hands, nine of which were straight drops, the other two were on plays where they simply stopped running their routes because...? But given the way he played last year, most of the season felt like he would NEVER get his confidence back. At least to some degree this year, he has, and that has to be better than expected for realistic Hokie fans.
TT: Thomas has spread the ball around nicely, at least, to a whole crew of receivers with double-digit catches and more than 100 yards. Who are the biggest threats in Virginia Tech's group of pass-catchers?
GC: That's been borne of necessity, as no receiver has been a consistent threat (minus Willie Byrn, who has suffered through various injuries and didn't play a big part in the first game as he came into the year as the fifth receiver on the depth chart). Recently, with the emergence of Joshua Stanford, who has back-to-back 100-yard games, and the uptick in health for D.J. Coles, Tech finally has some options. Demitri Knowles, despite his statistics, has been probably the worst wide receiver and perhaps the worst player on the team. He has been the cause of many interceptions and leads the team in drops. But he is a deep threat if he can hang on to the ball.
TT: Virginia Tech's running averages are very mediocre across the board. Is that a function of the offensive line, the running backs or a lack of vertical passing threats that lets teams stack the box? Have opposing game plans zeroed in on putting a halt to the running game?
GC: Outside of the Alabama and Miami games, the Virginia Tech offensive line has not blocked well against a single FBS opponent. They are not very talented, a result of several consecutive Virginia Tech recruiting classes that didn't manage to land a single starting-quality offensive lineman. That said, the running backs haven't really been helping themselves, tripping over air and running to the wrong hole on occasion. But mostly it's been a function of bad offensive line play. You can't expect your running backs to do things when the defense is in the backfield at the time of the handoff, which has more often than not been the case. Hopefully they turned the corner last week.
TT: Maryland's offensive line, a worry before the season, seems to have finally crumpled over the past few weeks. Will the Hokies be able to generate the kind of pass rush that will have C.J. Brown running for his life?
GC: Earlier in the season, I would've said yes undoubtedly, but for as good of a defensive line as the Hokies have, they have been quieter over the last month, dropping from the most sacks per game title they held at that point. That's not to say they've not been good over that time period, but certainly less dominant when it comes to getting sacks. Most teams have adapted by having their quarterbacks get the ball out fast. They've still made their presence felt though, even when not collecting sacks, so I would have to say they will have an impact, even if Maryland goes with a similar strategy as say Boston College and simply runs short, quick routes.
TT: The point spread has Virginia Tech winning by 13.5. Maryland's almost definitely not going to win this game, but I'll ask you: Do the Hokies cover?
GC: Again, I'm not sure what to make of this team from week to week. I THINK the Hokies will win, and because of all of the injuries Maryland has suffered, I THINK they should cover. But I don't know, and given how up and down this team has been all season, I will say it will be closer than the line suggests.