Liberty vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

This week we have a guest contributor @DriftVT from Twitter writing this week’s preview.

Before we get into the preview, please consider giving to a GoFundMe to support the families affected by the shooting in Charlottesville this week: https://www.gofundme.com/c/act/uva-shooting-help

After back-to-back collapses against NC State and Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech was completely outmatched by the Duke Blue Devils this past weekend. A game that left most Virginia Tech fans feeling demoralized. It was a tough game to watch, as Virginia Tech took the lead to start the game, and failed to score again. Losing even against the spread which was 9.5 in favor of Duke.

Moving forward to this week, Virginia Tech is playing the best program in the state of Virginia, in Liberty. Hugh Freeze has built a winning G5 program, and he was recently signed to an extension keeping him at Liberty for years to come. Until the SEC gives him a ring.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 98th
Offense: 123rd
Defense: 48th
Special Teams: 82nd

Liberty

Overall: 73rd
Offense: 81st
Defense: 49th
Special Teams: 87th

In order for Virginia Tech to contain this Liberty offense, they will need to slow down Demario Douglas. From Jacksonville, FL, Demario has 830 yards this season on 56 catches, which is already a season high for him. He is a shifty mismatch nightmare for defenses to contain and it begs the question, who will Virginia Tech put on him? Usually in this scenario, Chamari Conner or DJ Harvey will cover the slot in man coverage. I’d expect to see more zone this week as I do not believe the staff will be comfortable playing man coverage against him all game. 

On the offensive side of the ball, the Hokies still look completely lost. Everything looks difficult and forced. At least we have been able to snap the ball without false starting every play, which has been about the only improvement. In terms of what works; well, nothing really, outside of throwing the ball downfield to Kaleb Smith. Virginia Tech will have to do whatever they can to score at least 20 points to keep this game within reach. And they’ll need the defense to gift them a turnover as well. 

There are quite a few fans calling for Tyler Bowen to be fired, and while I am completely uninspired by his performance this season, I don’t think he will be let go. I think Pry would like to keep the same staff heading into next season, hoping to learn and grow as a unit. While a new OC could help, I think it might be too soon to cut the cord. 

Up until after the Georgia Tech game, I had said on Twitter just how far one of these games would help recruiting in Virginia if Pry could squeak one or two out. We thought we had it with Miami, then NC State, and then Georgia Tech. If we get blown out this weekend, it will seriously damage the moral of the fanbase and all the buzz around the program. I really think a win here, while unlikely, could go a very long way in repairing some of the damage done by previous staff. Remember, it is a revenge game for the Hokies. 

Even with that being said, here’s my prediction:

Liberty 24, Virginia Tech 13

Duke vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

For the third time this season, the Hokies have collapsed at the end of a game. A game they should have had in hand and failed to put away. This is a trend that has been present for the last few years. It’s a losing mentality. When this team encounters any adversity, they fold like a cheap tent. There are reasons like talent and depth that this team wears out late in game. But that’s only part of the answer. The other part is a psychology of losing that this team can’t seem to kick.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 91st
Offense: 116th
Defense: 48th
Special Teams: 49th

Duke

Overall: 76th
Offense: 61st
Defense: 80th
Special Teams: 53rd

It’s been a while but Duke is good at football again. Mike Elko has done an awesome job of getting the most out of the roster he inherited from David Cutcliffe. This is what VT fans were hoping for from the Pry era but it appears that Duke had a more ready-made roster. Duke has a very good rushing offense that will give the Hokies trouble. Particularly rushing from the QB position. Expect the Hokies to play a lot of zone to try to keep the Duke running game in check. There will be a lot of rushing yards from Duke QB Riley Leonard, especially from read option plays.

Duke’s defense is vulnerable against the pass. Unfortunately, VT’s passing offense is not consistent enough to take advantage of it. The Hokies show flashes here and there in the passing game but it’s not enough. If there was a game where the Tech should focus on airing it out a bit, it’s this game. The Hokies should focus on targeting Kaleb Smith, Dae’Quan Wright and Nick Gallo downfield. This is also a good opportunity for guys like Da’Wain Lofton and Stephen Gosnell to step up in the passing game. The Hokies won’t be able to score much in this game from their run-based offense. They will need some downfield throws to move the ball against a stout Duke defense.

It seems like everything has been a struggle for the Hokies this season. Do they have a chance in this game? Of course. But Duke seems like they are firing on all cylinders based on their roster. Tech is still trying to figure things out. The best thing for Tech to do is forget all the negative plays and bad energy and focus on going 1-0. This team has the talent to win but they need to put a complete game together. There are only three more opportunities to get that done this year. Let’s see if they can finish the season strong.

Prediction: Duke 31, Virginia Tech 17

Georgia Tech vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

That NC State loss was a tough one to swallow. Virginia Tech did what they needed to do to win but couldn’t close the deal. After NC State scored their first touchdown, the Hokies went into expect-to-lose mode. That game felt like a carryover from the Fuente era. We have seen more than a few games play out like that over the last few years. This program has a losing culture right now. They need to start changing that mentality if they want to move forward and build a winning program again.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 91st
Offense: 117th
Defense: 49th
Special Teams: 49th

Georgia Tech

Overall: 97th
Offense: 106th
Defense: 83rd
Special Teams: 89th

Grant Wells should be able to make plays against Georgia Tech’s secondary. The Hokies offense just needs to avoid being one-dimensional. Running into the interior of the line over and over again will not work. The Hokies need to open up their passing attack and press the edges of the defense with outside runs. VT should try more misdirection and read options. Right now, the offense is just to easy to read for defenses. The Hokies also need to try to get the ball in the hands of Keshawn King and Bryce Duke in open space. Whether it be via outside runs or quick screen passes. They were far too predictable on offense against NC State.

This game will come down to whether Jeff Sims is healthy enough to play and be effective. The Georgia Tech offense is much better with him behind center. Even if Jeff Sims is available, the Georgia Tech offense hasn’t had much to write home about this year. Like the Hokies, they are one of the worst Power 5 offenses in the nation. They run the ball a little better than they throw it but they are not really good at either. This is where the Hokies’ defense should have a significant advantage.

This game represents the Hokies best chance of getting a win the rest of the season. If the defense plays well and can limit the GT offense, I see the Hokies having a good chance to win. If Jeff Sims shows up and is healthy, he’s the best player on the field and could be the difference. All things being equal, the Hokies will put enough together on offense and defense to squeak a victory. I hope they find a way to play more than one quarter of offense this week.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 28, Georgia Tech 21

Georgia Tech Q&A with Talkin’ ACC Sports

This week we are joined by Jeffrey Fann from @TalkinACCSports.

Tell us about yourself and All Sports Discussion. 

I am graduate of Georgia Tech and Clemson grew up a fan of ACC Basketball. Those were the collegiate sports I’ve watched the most and I started All Sports Discussion about 10 years ago because I spent so much time talking about ACC sports, I figured I’d start sharing it. I didn’t think the ACC got fair coverage in media and I want to the voice that too. I started an ACC podcast with @Hokiesmash_ASD a couple of years after that and that’s a lot of fun. He usually lines up the guests freeing me up to write. 

Tell us about your team this year. What are your thoughts on Georgia Tech this season?

The best thing about the Georgia Tech season was the day Geoff Collins was fired. He was a total disaster as a head coach. The season was going nowhere when he was there. For a couple of games after his firing Georgia Tech played some inspired football and beat Pittsburgh and Duke, but with the injury to QB Jeff Sims and his status unknown the offense just can’t move the ball. Defensively, they have had some good moments since Collins was fired, and is a decent unit. I feel like the bowl chances are gone, but there will be a game where things break right and they win one more time. 

What do you think about the job that Brent Key has done so far?

He’s made the special teams a respectable unit. That in itself is a win as it was a total mess with Collins. He brought accountability to the team and a sense of cohesion. The back to back wins made you feel good about Georgia Tech football for the first time in years. Unfortunately, the injury to Sims limits what he can do. Overall, he’s done a pretty decent job taking over and making Georgia Tech look functional. Just getting functional was a big upgrade over the previous coach. 

How do you feel about the Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech annual rivalry coming to an end?

I think it’s had better days for sure, but in it’s hey day when both were competing for Coastal division titles, it was one of the most underrated annual games in the ACC. With the frequency that they will still play I will miss the game, but they’ll meet often to maintain a good sense of rivalry.  

What’s your favorite memory from the rivalry? 

The 2009 game that Georgia Tech won 28-23 over a top 5 ranked Virginia Tech. There was a lot of talk that the 2nd time around seeing Paul Johnson’s triple option that teams would be on to it. That was a really good Hokie team and it convinced me that Paul Johnson had a chance to win a lot more games. He did and it start with game. QB Josh Nesbitt was warrior in that one. 

What’s your outlook on the future of the ACC? 

 That’s a good question. I think for the next 5-7 years nothing happens regarding team movement, but the TV Deal in comparison to the Big 10 and SEC is a problem. I don’t think the ACC is catching them, no matter what they do. What the ACC must do is get well ahead of the Big 12 and Pac 12 to be solidly in third. I do think you’ll see adjustments to the TV deal, but will it be enough? It would be nice if ACC commissioner Jim Phillips would be more transparent in what he is doing to raise ACC revenues. He’s been far too quiet on the matter. 

What are your expectations for the Virginia Tech game? 

It all depends on the status of QB Jeff Sims. Zach Pryon showed some ability against Florida State, but he’s really inexperienced. That’s a bad combination on the road, against a pretty good defense. I think the defense can limit Virginia Tech’s inconsistent offense and I’d like see Pryon continue to develop. 

What’s your prediction for the game?

I expect Sims to not play or be very limited, and Virginia Tech showed some good things on offense against NC State. 

These feel like a defensive battle but one that goes in the Hokies favor 20-10.  

NC State vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

The Hokies offense caught fire in the fourth quarter against Miami. Does that mean they’ve turned the corner? We don’t know yet. Sometimes a good quarter means something and sometimes it doesn’t mean anything at all. The Hokies will need to build on that fourth quarter if they have any hope of beating a good NC State team.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 88th
Offense: 115th
Defense: 41st
Special Teams: 30th

NC State

Overall: 41st
Offense: 82nd
Defense: 12th
Special Teams: 25th

The key mismatch in this game is the NC State defense vs the Virginia Tech offense. It’s big-time strength vs big-time weakness. The Hokies struggle to move the ball against bad defenses and I’d call NC State’s defense a very good one. The Hokies looked like they were turning the corner against Miami but the Wolfpack defense could set them back to square one. The Hokies will have to get creative to try to move the ball against this defense. Running into the interior of the line over and over again is not going to work. They need to incorporate some misdirection and get their running backs out in space if they want to have success this week.

NC State is missing QB Devin Leary but it won’t matter. Virginia Tech’s defense is good enough to keep VT in the game. However, the NC State offense will not have to do much to get a win. The Hokies offense will not be able to move the ball very much against the ‘Pack defense. So if the ‘Pack are able to score more than 10, it might be game over for the Hokies.

These teams are mirror images of each other but NC State does everything that VT does but better. This NC State team reminds me a lot of how VT would play back in the day. The offense didn’t have to score much for the Hokies to win. They could rely on a turnover and short field to put some points on the board. Expect a low-scoring affair that may drop below the O/U of 40 — which is already pretty low. I expect for NC State to turn a couple of short fields into points. It won’t be a pretty game and NC State should find a way to put it away by a couple of scores.

Prediction: NC State 24, Virginia Tech 10

NC State Q&A with Tuffy Talk

This week we are joined by NC State podcast Tuffy Talk (@TuffyTalkNow).

Tell us about yourself and your podcast.

Tuffy Talk is an NC State Youtube Channel that covers and discusses ALL NC State Sports, and is run by five die-hard NC State fans.  We post 2 episodes a week, along with doing a Live Show every Monday Night at 8:00 PM, along with doing different content, such as vlogs and watch parties. We also export the audio for our content, so if you can watch us on our Youtube Channel, you can listen to us on ALL major podcast platforms.

Tell us about your team this year. What are your thoughts on NC State so far this season?

Definitely has been a roller coaster to say the least.  Very grateful to escape ECU and FSU with a win, as those were games that history has shown, would not normally be in our favor.  We were dealt a HUGE blow last week, with the announcement of our starting QB, Devin Leary, being ruled out for the season.  We still have a lot of key weapons and both of our losses are against Top 20 teams on the road. 

How do you feel about Virginia Tech finally coming back to play a game in Raleigh?

Should be an EXCITING environment!  Excited to play under the lights and see what will come of this ACC matchup!

Are you happy with the ACC’s new scheduling model?

I think every team in the Atlantic Division LOVES it, and every team in the Coastal Division HATES it lol.  Was definitely bummed that we will not be playing WF every year anymore, as that is one of the nation’s longest running rivalries.  But looking forward to having a more balanced schedule across the ACC and playing different opponents each year.

What’s your outlook on the future of the ACC? 

A TON of new coaches and a TON of programs on the rise.  I think the new scheduling model will really stir up the future ACC seasons.

What are your expectations for the Virginia Tech game? 

For this game, I am really focusing on what NC State does.  Offensively, we GOTTA figure out a way to put Jack Chambers in a position to be successful and get our WR’s move involved.  We really have relied on Thayer Thomas this year, but have guys like Devin Carter and up and coming WR Julian Gray, get more involved.  Defensively, we need to be more technically sound.  Missed a TON of tackles and had many missed assignments and missed opportunities, but this is a defense that CAN be dominant, if they play like we expect them to.

What’s your prediction for the game?

I think the bye week could not have come at a better time.  Having that extra week to regroup and get some players healthy and play back at home next is HUGE.  Should be a tough environment for VT to come into, and I think that will definitely have an effect.  A lot of questions for NC State coming into this game, which could make this game go in 100 different directions.  But I am going to say that we have a huge bounce back game, defense gets back where it needs to be, and we take care of business, 24-14.  

Miami vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

We saw some real improvement against Pitt. The offense scored some points. They were able to run the ball. And they were competitive into the 4th quarter. Can they do it again? Can this team hold up for a full 60 minutes? This team has been pretty good at taking games into the 4th quarter but that’s where things fall apart. Is it talent? Is it depth? Is it injuries? I’m not sure we know yet but it’s something that needs to get fixed if they Hokies want to chalk up more wins this season.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 86th
Offense: 118th
Defense: 44th
Special Teams: 30th

Miami

Overall: 54th
Offense: 48th
Defense: 61st
Special Teams: 18th

Miami’s passing offense has been very good against some bad defenses this season. They got tested against Texas A&M and only managed 9 points. Virginia Tech has had a good pass defense and the Hokies’ front seven should be able to get stops. Having Alan Tisdale return should be a nice boost to this defense this week.

Miami has stout defensive line that does not allow a lot of rushing yards. If the Hokies want to move the ball it’ll have to be through the air. The Hokies’ receivers need to be able to win one-on-one battles with Miami’s defensive backs. The Canes’ linebackers are great run stuffers but not as great in coverage. This would be a good game for the Hokies to use their tights ends and crossing routes in the pass game.

The Hokies defense should hold up pretty well against Miami’s offense. It would help to have Dorian Strong back but even if he’s not, they should hold their own. I’m more worried about the Hokies offense against Miami’s defense. Miami has the ability to make Tech one-dimensional. I don’t trust the Hokies’ passing attack in that situation. The Hokies will need some semblance of a run game to help their pass game be effective. This will be a close game and Miami slows down the Hokies offense enough to pull it out in the end.

Prediction: Miami 28, Virginia Tech 21

Midseason Awards and Outlook

Offensive MVP: Kaleb Smith

Kaleb Smith leads the Hokies in all receiving categories. He is top-10 in the ACC in receiving yards, receiving yards per game and receptions per game. He has a top 25 PFF ranking for wide receivers nationwide. He has been the Hokies most reliable receiver and Grant Wells’ #1 downfield receiving target.

Honorable mention: Keshawn King, Grant Wells

Defensive MVP: Dax Hollifield

Dax Hollifield is a tackling machine. He is a dependable tackler and his coverage ability has improved this season. He is one of the few guys on this defense who will get serious consideration for All-ACC at the end of the season. Pry’s defense has done wonders to improve Dax’s play this season.

Honorable mention: Mario Kendricks, Josh Fuga

Special Teams MVP: Will Ross

Will Ross is about as good as you can hope for out of a first-year kicker. He is hitting on 89% of his field goal attempts, which ranks 26th in the country. If the Hokies could play some close games, he would be a real asset.

2nd Half Outlook:

Bowl eligibility at this point seems like a lost cause. It wouldn’t be impossible for the Hokies to win four games down the stretch but it’s unlikely. The best thing for the Hokies to focus on in the second half of the season is improving their offense.

The run blocking so far this season has been poor. That needs that to be an area of focus in the 2nd half. It’s difficult to have an effective offense when you can’t run block. The Hokies need to find some receivers outside of Kaleb Smith. Dae’Quan Wright looks like he has a bright future. We’ve also seen some nice moments from Bryce Duke and Christian Moss as pass catchers.

This is a lost season and the Hokies need to focus on who can help them next year. Time to evaluate positions of need in the portal. The Hokies have to hit the portal hard in the offseason. They should spend the next 6 games evaluating positions of need and which positions need more depth. Will they solve all those problems in one offseason? Definitely not. But they need to start chipping away with recruiting and the transfer portal.

The Hokies will only win 2 or 3 more games down the stretch. 2 wins seems pretty safe. 3 wins might be a bit of a reach. They won’t win less than 2 games. The games where they have the best odds to win are Georgia Tech and Virginia. Even the Duke and Liberty games are looking a bit dicey at the moment. Either way, I wouldn’t focus too much on wins and losses this year. Focus more on improvement and who is going to help this team moving forward. A bowl game is unlikely so this team should be in full evaluation mode.

Miami Q&A with Dirty Bird from The Cane Gang Radio Show

This week we are joined by Miami radio show host Ryan (“Dirty Bird”) from the Cane Gang Radio Show. You can follow him on Twitter (@dirtyyybird) and listen to his radio show every Friday from 11a-1p ET on SiriusXM channel 145.

Tell us about yourself and your radio show. 

My name is Ryan, but I go by “Dirty Bird” on Twitter (@dirtyyybird) I worked in the equipment room during the late 90s for the Atlanta Falcons and the name has always stuck with me through fantasy football and social media platforms. I am a lifelong fan of the Canes having grown up in South Florida and watching the teams of the late 80s and early 90s, I fell in love with them at an early age and despite how rocky our relationship has been over the last 20+ years, I get more and more into it every year! Recently, I have started to contribute on a Canes focused radio show called The Cane Gang Radio Show that airs every Friday from 11a-1p on SiriusXM channel 145 SLAM! Radio. I do the show with Derek Coe who is one of the most well known recognizable fans around our program and John Michaels who is based in Atlanta and is on The Locker Room on 680 the Fan. We are just a couple of old guys who hop on the air and talk completely unscripted and unfiltered. Our show has had a number of recognizable guests including Vince Wilfork, Santana Moss, Uncle Luke, Brett Romberg, and even former VT WR Isaiah Ford.

Tell us about your team this year. What are your thoughts on Miami so far this season?

Clearly, we had higher hopes for our team so far this season. We fought hard at Texas A&M, just came up short in the end. I think that loss sucked a ton of the life out of us. Then you come back and think you have a layup and the game proves to be anything but that. The loss to MTSU was shocking and the perfect storm of everything that could possibly go wrong going wrong in one single game. Nevertheless, you have to win those games so there is no excuse you can make! We are still licking our wounds from that one and then walked into a matchup with a team in UNC that has always given us fits. We fought hard, and despite the loss, there was some good to unpack there.

I remain optimistic knowing that this is a process and as much as we want to win now, it is going to take time to get it going. We are pointed in the right direction, yet have a long way to go to get where we want to be.

What do you think about the job that Mario Cristobal has done so far?

Mario Cristobal is focused in the right areas building through relentless recruiting and putting funding in the program to build out the support staff to a level needed to win in the current landscape of college football. Some are screaming the sky is falling in our fan base (I am sure VT has those too) but we are 5 games into what we know is a major rebuild of a program that has been hurting for decades. Nobody cares more than he does. I (and most of our fan base) remain “all in” on him!

 How do you feel about the Miami-Virginia Tech annual rivalry coming to an end?

Well, I love the new format for scheduling and think after these 4 years (where we still play twice) they will get us back on the annual matchup! Hopefully we get to meet in the ACCG!

What’s your favorite memory from the rivalry?

I think anytime you look at these rivalries, you have to look at when both teams are ranked high and there is a ton at stake. The games between us should mean something. Unfortunately, for both of us, that has not been the case for a while. But for my favorite memory, I will go to 2017 to the time that we were both really humming and VT came to Hard Rock ranked 13 to play the Canes ranked 9th. We had won the previous 4 in really close fashion, so there was a ton of talk that despite a record of 7-0, we were fraudulent. That night at Hard Rock was electric and VT fans showed up in force too! We won the game in convincing fashion (sorry VT fans!) and it really catapulted us into a feeling we had not felt in forever!

 What’s your outlook on the future of the ACC? 

I think the ACC has two things going for it making it really hard to break it up. #1 the TV contracts and grant of rights making it nearly impossible for anyone to break off 1 or 2 teams. Plus, #2 the ACC is still really the premier basketball conference even though the SEC and Big12 have had better basketball the last few years. I think lots of important TV executives (who are really the ones who run all of this) would not want to implode the ACC. But hey, who really saw USC & UCLA to the B1G! Anything is possible!

What are your expectations for the Virginia Tech game? 

Well, first and foremost I respect VT as an opponent and always will despite either teams record. I do feel as though we are in a back against the wall position and I think (hope) we come out swinging. We are due for a good effort and honestly think we get it here. The thing is, I see the same being true for your program as well. Hard to gauge, but I see us coming out on top!

What’s your prediction for the game?

Miami 34-21

Pittsburgh vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

The offense has been bad for two straight weeks against not-so-great defenses. I respect that Brent Pry wants to instill his culture but he also has to find a way to make the offense work. In the first half, the Hokies put together a couple of nice drives (see the video tweets below). Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep up that level of consistency throughout the game. But you can see glimpses of an offense that is maybe starting to put things together.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 87th
Offense: 118th
Defense: 35th
Special Teams: 30th

Pittsburgh

Overall: 45th
Offense: 22nd
Defense: 76th
Special Teams: 121st

Pittsburgh has an efficient offense. Not as good as WVU or UNC’s but still pretty solid. Like those two teams, they are well balanced running and passing the ball. They have a running back to can pick up big chunk plays and a quarterback who doesn’t make many mistakes. A lot like WVU, this is an offense that can nickle and dime you all the way downfield. The Hokies defense will need to find ways to get off the field on third down. They held up well for three quarters against West Virginia. Now, they’ll to find a way to do it for 60 minutes — with a little help from the offense.

This looks like a traditional Pitt defense. Good not great. They are good at defending the pass and not as good at defending the run. With VT’s run blocking I’m not sure that matters much. Teams with good offenses have had success against this defense. Even Georgia Tech’s putrid offense was able to put up 26 points on Pitt. That might be an outlier but still, this defense has it’s weaknesses. It’s all a matter of if the Hokies can exploit any of them.

I’ve started to go into how-many-points-will-Tech-lose-by mode. For me, it’s less about wins and losses this year and more about showing improvement week-to-week. The defense is about what I expected. The offense is far worse than I expected. But teams rarely stay exactly the same all year long. There are ebbs and flows. I’m hoping as the weeks go by, we start seeing some more life from this offense. Until then, I’m in wait-and-see mode. I’m not going to pick Tech to score more than 10 points in a P5 game until they prove they can.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 33, Virginia Tech 10

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