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Mailbag 10/27

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What is your favorite song about trains?

CMT GIANTS: Charley Pride Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for CMT/ViacomCBS

If Wake runs the table and finishes as the undefeated ACC champion, does the committee leave them out of the playoffs? I know they intend to put both one-loss ‘Bama and uga in, if it shakes out that way. - Bill Brockman

Ben: I think it’s a hard sell for any ACC team to make the CFP, but if one is going to do it, I think it’ll be Pitt. I think they have the most impressive resume thus far, and if they win out and continue to look impressive in doing so, then yeah, I could see it. As far as Bama and UGA both making it in, I don’t know that there’s any way to avoid it. I would also say that they are probably the two best teams in the country, so I don’t have a problem with both of them being in the CFP.

Logan: Depends on how many undefeated teams there are. If Oklahoma, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Notre Dame all find a loss somewhere and Wake wins the championship convincingly then anything is possible.

Chris: Bama and UGA seem like locks at this point and both Oklahoma and Ohio State feel very likely. The only way I see Wake getting in is if Cincinnati takes a loss, Ohio State and Michigan each end up with 2, and Oklahoma also takes a loss.

Sammy: Yes. There aren’t enough “big wins” on their schedule, especially since Clemson and UNC haven’t exactly panned out. Virginia might end up being their best win, but it was early. That Wake/Pitt ACC Championship is going to be crazy though...

Jake: Who has Wake even played? I think Pitt has to be the most likely, and, even then, it doesn’t feel all that likely. This conversation is just geared to always come to the exact same conclusions. Boring. And I don’t think going to 12 would fix the conversation, either.

Austin: It’s wild to think that Pitt lost to Western Michigan and yet still has a legitimate path to the playoff. That just shows how crazy this season has been.

Carter: “Why do UCF’s helmets look like they say ‘WF’ on them? Am I going blind?” — the committee members, probably

Buy/Sell Barves Series? - DressHerInWhiteAndGold

Ben: I’ll take the Bravos in six.

Logan: Buy

Sammy: Hammer it. Braves in SIX.

Jake: Braves in 6.

Austin: Do it for Hank!

Waffle guy or Pancake guy? Soak your bacon/sausage in syrup over run? - DressHerInWhiteAndGold

Ben: I like both, but if I have to pick, I’m going to say I’m more of a waffle guy, mostly because of Waffle House. And I love soaking my bacon and sausage in syrup.

Logan: Pancake, no soaking of meat in syrup.

Chris: If I’m forced to choose then I’m going pancake. Definitely not soaking bacon or sausage though.

Sammy: Waffle. Soak the sausage, not the bacon.

Jake: Pancakes and bacon, no syrup soaking for the bacon. But, if there’s sausage, it should be soaked.

Austin: Sammy my man, I knew I liked you.

Carter: Tough choice there, but I’ll lean waffle. Agree with Sammy re: sausage/bacon.

Your favorite songs about trains? - DressHerInWhiteAndGold

Ben: The only song immediately coming to mind is that old Josh Turner song “Long Black Train” which is about the devil. I don’t know that I would call it my favorite song about trains, but yeah.

Logan: Crazy Train by Ozzy

Chris: First one that came to mind was Midnight Train to Memphis by Chris Stapleton.

Sammy: “He’s leavin! (Leavin’!!) Oh on that midnight traiiin to Georgia!” Gladys Knight baby.

Jake: All songs about trains are good songs. I am partial to “The El” by Rhett Miller, because it’s about my favorite train, the Chicago ‘L’. Maybe not my favorite song about trains, per se, but it certainly comes to mind first, at least. Plus, it makes me sound like I have a diverse taste in less popular songs, when, in reality, I just listen to a lot of songs about Chicago. See: the band Chicago and their (originally) titular album, Chicago Transit Authority, before the CTA came knocking with a cease-and-desist order. It’s been a while since I rambled about Chicago in the mailbag. It’s a nice return to form, I think.

Austin: I’ll go with Love Train by the O’Jays, Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash, and Peace Train by Yusuf/Cat Stevens.

Carter: Casey Jones by Grateful Dead

What are your thoughts on what needs to be done to improve the defense? Do you think there is any hope this season for any improvement at all? Will Thacker be the DC next year? - aknartrebna

Ben: The more we go through this season, the more I’m convinced that some kind of change in coordinator is coming this year. As far as what needs to be done, well, tackling fundamentals would be a good start. That in particular is very concerning, especially since the team often shares clips of tackling drills. I don’t know what the disconnect is there, but it needs to be fixed. I would also say that the secondary needs new blood. Will there be improvement this season? Luckily, I don’t think Tech sees an offense as good as Pitt or UVA the rest of the year, so Tech may appear to show some improvement.

Chris: I don’t profess to know a whole lot about schemes and such, but to me it feels like we’re just missing the fundamentals. Tackling, being in the right place, looking for the ball, etc. are all not going well right now. My thought would be to simplify and focus. Don’t make anyone overthink, just let them play.

Sammy: Tackling has looked really bad in a number of games lately, so that definitely needs to improve. Outside of the UNC game, the defensive line hasn’t been able to get any pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but we’ve been lining up with 3 down linemen pretty consistently and rarely bring LB pressure. So maybe we go back to the more conventional 4-2-5 “effort based” defense and give the OL a little more to deal with. Unfortunately, I don’t think we have the cornerback talent to run tight man coverage and bring a lot of pressure, so until that changes we may be in this position for a while. I don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball but I feel like Thacker will be back next year.

Austin: In past seasons, I was discouraged by our first half defense but could count on halftime adjustments and a much stronger second half performance. Lately, however, the narrative has flipped, with a strong start giving way to a second half defense that looks like a sieve. Not being too proud to shake things up would go a long way to a more polished product. To his credit, Thacker spoke on adjustments in his postgame, so let’s see how things go against VPISU.

Carter: I’ve heard the staff talk about making changes and then not actually change anything too many times; it’s their signature at this point. The staff needs a shakeup and sadly I don’t expect that to happen either.

Will there be balance brought to the force? VT, by the numbers, has the best pass defense we have faced this year so far, doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and is very good at preventing 3rd down conversions (of which Tech has struggled mightily). Sims has shown he can be flustered by good pass defense leading to quick/poor reads that leads to stretches where the offense no longer works well together taking Tech out of the game. What kind of adjustments do you think need to be made to help Sims settle and lead the offense in the face of a defense that’s going to make passing difficult for him? - gtbadcarma

Ben: This week, I want to see Tech build on the success of the running game we saw against Virginia. Knowing that Virginia Tech’s defensive strength is its pass defense, I think Tech should scheme around it and run the ball. What a novel concept. I would also like to see some quick passes early on just to establish some confidence for Sims and get the ball in the hands of your playmakers.

Chris: Agree with Ben, we really need to get the run game going again. Passing wise I think quick easy passes are the way to go. Give him some easy ones where you scheme the guy open (remember how often Gibbs was wide open on screens and check-downs last year?). Don’t give him too many reads. Once he’s in a rhythm let him take some shots; ideally the run game is always there to fall back on if those don’t connect.

Sammy: Agree with the sentiment above. I think we’re more successful when we run the ball. So hopefully we just run a lot and establish dominance at the line and/or Jeff Sims makes them look silly with some solid read option play. The chances of that happening aren’t necessarily fantastic, but I think it needs to be our primary game plan.

Austin: Getting off to a strong start really helps Sims settle into the game. The opening script against UVA had a good mix of plays that got Sims into a good rhythm while not making him feel like he had to do too much, force the ball, or do it himself. Get the ball out of his hands quickly and/or keeps the decisions simple and the offense will be fine.

Lose, win, lose, win, lose, win, lose. If we’re going to go through the heartache of being a GT fan, can we maintain this pattern for the rest of the year? It gets us to a bowl game and lets our final win be a kick in the teeth to Athens. - BSME_04

Ben: I’m going to say no, Tech doesn’t maintain that pattern, because there is no way they’re beating UGA. I would love for it to happen, but it’s entirely unrealistic.

Chris: Eh, I really want to win two games in a row. I feel like I bring this up every week, but we still haven’t done that under Collins, and it’s insane. I’ll gladly take two losses in a row (happens plenty enough as is) if it means we win the next two.

Sammy: Dude. I would take that in a heartbeat. How funny would it be for the dwags to go 11-0, be #1, everyone’s pick to win the CFP, then lose to Geoff Collins. Haha. I literally just laughed thinking about it. Which means it’s not going to happen. Sad face. I still want 6-6 though so let’s go with “win-win-win-maybewinbutprobablyloss-loss”. Final answer, Regis.

Jake: I would absolutely take that! In fact, I had been sitting on the take “we will beat VPISU because of the pattern” take, hoping to use it at some point in the mailbag. We certainly could do this, but, will we? I don’t know. A win over Athens would certainly be nice.

Carter: Might as well have hope, because there ain’t much else to have.

Austin: The next three game are a great opportunity to win two, maybe even three straight. I’m going to take a real risk here and say Tech will indeed get it done.

Going For 2 points at 40-48. Can you please give me the rational for going for 2 points down 40 to 48? I am happy because it meant that Virginia covered, but beyond that I am generally mystified. Is it that you go for two after the first touchdown so that when you score your next touchdown you just have to kick the point after to win and if you fail on the first two point conversion you can tie the score after your next touchdown with a successful two point conversion? That seems way too complicated. Your thoughts please. - YankeeJacket

Ben: You go for two there and try to get the ball back so you just need the touchdown and PAT to win. If you take the PAT there, you need the two-point conversion to win. Even if you don’t get the two-point there, you still have the option to tie it up with a two-point conversion on the other touchdown you need there.

Chris: A 2PT has roughly a 50% chance of succeeding (historically and agnostic to teams playing). When you’re down by 14 you need two scores. So your possibilities when going for 2 both times are:

  • Make/Make - you win in regulation
  • Make/Miss - you tie and go to OT
  • Miss/Make - you tie and go to OT
  • Miss/Miss - you lose in regulation

So when going for 2 both times you get yourself a roughly 25% chance of winning outright and the insurance that by attempting it twice you’ll probably make one and at least get to OT. If you kick both times then the best you can do is make it to OT.

Sammy: I’m just glad I don’t bet on sports (very often). I questioned it at the time, but thinking back, I agree with going for it. Not that I trust this coaching staff with my life or anything, but maybe they saw something they could exploit on the next attempt.

Carter: I was against it at the time but the above and below explanations work for me. Good play call too, I thought. Just didn’t get it.

Jake: Akshay explained this to me earlier. Where’s he at? AKSHAY? HELLOOOOOOOOO. In the meantime, Chris seems to have said something similar, so, uh, let’s go with that.

Akshay: ESPN’s analysis of two-point conversions provides some good context and stats to back up Ben and Chris’s points. Here’s the TL;DR for a 2PT attempt in that situation: do you want to extend the game — knowing you have a lower chance of winning if you do — or do you want to win?

But this begs the question: when should you go for two down 8? Thankfully, I tweeted something about that on Saturday night:

With both men’s and women’s teams making the big dance last season, what should we be expecting from them this year? Any specific metrics to look for that will show improvement? - Osomosis_Jones

Jake: To be frank, I worry, if anything, about regression from the men’s team, given that we lose the ACC Player of the Year and ACC Defensive Player of the Year. However, that isn’t to say the cupboard is bare, either. Tech returns a lot of experienced talent, and the reinforcements are enough to dream big on, too. If anything, I think the minutes (and production) from whoever fills Moses Wright’s shoes is going to be the biggest thing to look at there, but, again, I realize that’s not a team-wide metric. As for the women, well, they put the band back together, they add some talent, and they get Sarah Bates back from injury. That last part in particular is key, as she has a three-point threat that helps us spread the floor in a dangerous way that we seemed to lack when she went down from injury and we lost one of our big threats from beyond the arc. So, in summary, I would probably look at that ability to spread the floor as a sign that Tech is showing improvement from the edition of the team we saw last year in the tournament.

Sammy: I think expecting another ACC Championship from the men is reaching, although I’m not saying it’s impossible. We won the thing fair and square, but there was undoubtedly some COVID-related help along the way. I don’t expect much of a step backward, if any. I just believe the competition will be a little stronger, and I believe the team has more young talent that Pastner will play often to get experience. I don’t know if there’s a specific metric that I’ll be looking at, but winning the games you should win will be something I will pay more attention to this season. Last year’s COVID preseason madness is barely a legitimate excuse. We shouldn’t lose to teams like Mercer or Georgia State this season or ever. I think the women can make a deep run in a sport that is starting to show some parity. Coach Nell has a great thing going and that team has some really great leadership and chemistry.

Austin: First, I’m very excited for both teams to tipoff. I’m not worried about the women at all, and even feel like they are ready to live up to expectations after a highly successful 2020 season. As long as Cubaj is getting rebounds we will be made in the shade, so watch for her to flirt with averaging a double double. She has zero quit and will be a force at both ends of the floor. Men’s basketball being at or close to undefeated on Dec. 31 will be a good sign that the team is really clicking. A telling game will be Wisconsin on Dec. 1: if we can get out and run and not succumb to their slow-motion style of play, Tech will go into the start of ACC play/end of out of conference schedule with a ton of confidence. Having UNC at McCamish in December is a real blessing, that would be a tough spot to go on the road early in the season and having them at home gives Tech a chance to settle in a bit more before things turn up a notch at the tail end of 2021/beginning of 2022. As far as metrics, with the departure of Moses Wright we will need more consistent outside shooting and perimeter defense from our returning players to stay in games. Kyle Sturdivant will have a much bigger role in this year’s team, and since I expect big things from the likes of Devoe and Usher game in and game out, I believe his contributions will make or break our season.

What’s Tech’s record for number of onside kicks recovered in a season? What’s the over/under for this year? - SullyGT

Ben: Surprisingly, Tech didn’t include any information about most onside kicks recovered in a season, so I don’t know that they have tracked it. As far as the rest of the year, I think they’ll try to do it at least one more time.

Sammy: 222... I have no idea but that seems like a good answer.

Austin: Records are made to be broken, and Jude Kelley has clearly made that his goal for the season.

The UNC game still feels like the most complete game we’ve played under Geoff Collins. The Clemson game this year showed what can happen when the defense is able to put forth a superhuman effort. This past game against UVA showed what can happen when the offense is able to rise to that challenge. Which begs the question: what’s missing? What needs to happen for both units to be in sync and be able to put forth a complete game like they did against Sam Howell and the Heels? (submitted via email)

Ben: The defense needs to actually scheme to its advantage. Against UVA, I could have been out there playing defense and done a better job. In his press conference this week, Andrew Thacker came out and said that the defense failed in all phases.

To be that wholly bad, I think that reflects very poorly on this coaching staff (especially the defensive coaching staff).

Chris: coaching, coaching, coaching. Quoting myself from a comment section on my Tuesday Thoughts last week:

I look at it this way: there are two things you can judge a program on -
1. How good at they at their best (or even 80% best)?
2. How often do they actually play their best?

The staff is doing perfectly fine at #1 (the UNC game for example) but are dropping the ball on #2. We have the talent, that’s not my concern. My concern is that we are not playing to our potential in each and every game and in my mind that responsibility is squarely on coaching. It’s awesome that we’re capable of being a 90/100 team but if we’re just as likely to play games at 45/100 then it doesn’t matter. A successful program has a high ceiling that they play at or near in every game (UGA, Bama, etc.). Right now our ceiling is high enough to excite me but our consistently when it comes to reaching that ceiling greatly disappoints me.

Coaching is what gets us the right balance of both of those things.

Sammy: Bring back Derrick Moore. I mean if this doesn’t jack you up... see a doctor.

Austin: Sit the scout team for a week and go 1’s v 1’s. I’m kidding, but also kind of not kidding.

Hey guys,

It’s time to party. Homecoming week, Braves in the Playoffs, new Velvet Underground Documentary, and The EU and US out of the LoL esports scene. Good things to celebrate. But really this weekend is about Halloween, and how we can get our kids to be diabetic before they hit their teens. Time for us to stop pretending we are who we really are and dress up as we want the world to see us in all our weirdness. Good times.

Question(s) for this week:

1) What is your favorite and least favorite candy to receive while Trick or Treating?

2) If you could magically have any awesome costume, what costume would you want to wear this Halloween?

Have a Spooky Scary Halloween!

- Jubile Hershaw (submitted via email)

Ben: I’m a big fan of Kit-Kats, so it’s always a joy to get those. As far as least favorite, I would say those old wax soda bottle things that have the nasty-tasting liquid in them. I don’t even know what they are, but I remember thinking they were so cool. And then I tried them and immediately regretted it.

For a costume, I would love to have a really well-done Star Wars cosplay, but I don’t have the time and money to really put that together. So instead, here’s a picture of when I was Bob Ross for Halloween:

Logan: Love me a good crunch bar. Hate anyone who give me fruit. My favorite costume would be Vegeta, love his hair and his style.

Chris: Literally anything chocolate, maybe Reeses? Costume-wise I’m not sure, but definitely something exceedingly expensive and well-done.

Jake: Favorite candy as a kid was always Milk Duds. Never super popular with many of my friends, so it was easy to trade for, and I really like caramel and chocolate. As for costumes, I’m bad with those. I think we don’t often see historic stuff, but I’ve always thought it would be interesting to do something historic.

Sammy: Gotta be Reese’s. The Hulk with the Infinity Gauntlet, Stones included. I’d do a lot of things with them, mostly for the good of humanity, but would certainly include a shift in the power structure of football in the state of Georgia.

Austin: 1) Always loved the mini Twix. They were the first thing to disappear from the candy bowl, typically by mid November. 2) Recently watched Iron Man (lots of questionable jokes and scenes, not sure if Tony Stark was purposefully written to be that way or if 2008 was just that long ago), and a Mark 3 suit would be pretty cool.

MCM London Comic Con Photo by Ollie Millington/Getty Images