NC State Preview and Prediction

The Hokies finally get on the field after two weeks of postponements. As of the publishing of this post, the game is still on. Let’s hope it stays that way. The team has been struggling over the last three weeks with significant issues related to COVID-19. The team as a whole had to take a four-day pause from football activities since they had so many players out due to positive tests or contact tracing. Even now, as players start returning from quarantine, it appears like the Hokies may be without some key starters for NC State.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 27th
Offense: 38th
Defense: 24th

NC State

Overall: 60th
Offense: 57th
Defense: 61st

The rankings above are based on preseason rankings and one game that NC State has played against Wake Forest. NC State is a solid team that put up a lot of points against Wake Forest. The Wolfpack ran the ball well last week. That concerns me due to the fact that the Hokies have had many guys unavailable to practice for the last couple of weeks. We saw what happened to Navy after their team went no-contact in practice. BYU ran all over them. Since the team has been limited in practice for the last two weeks, let’s hope we don’t see that with our guys.

I’m a bit less concerned about the offense. If Braxton Burmeister has to play, he is ready. I’ve heard he is an excellent runner and a good passer. He has playing experience from his days at Oregon and he’s entering his second year at Virginia Tech. If called upon, he can do the job. What to look for on Saturday is a healthy offensive line that will be able to line up and run the ball. The Hokies have a stable of capable running backs. This week’s game plan should focus on running the ball, running the clock and keeping the defense off the field.

The first thing I want to see this week is for the Hokies to actually make it to kickoff. They still need to get through test results on Saturday morning before they are cleared to play. If they do make it to kickoff, they will still may be down a couple of starters. And they will be playing a team that has already played a game. Both of those things concern me. This is a good week for the Hokies to go with a safe game plan to pull out a victory. Next week, they should be able to get more of their guys back.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, NC State 24


2020 Virginia Tech Season Preview

Who knew when the final whistle blew at the end 2019 Belk Bowl what we were in for this offseason? This college football season is almost unrecognizable from all previous college football seasons. Dating back all the way to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918. I commend the ACC for trying to put college football on the field this season. Even outside of players, coaches and staff, a lot of people depend on college football. The university presidents, commissioners and ADs owe it to those people to least attempt to have a season this year. Even if it looks completely unrecognizable from previous seasons.

The Hokies had an up-and-down season in 2019. Starting 2-2 with losses to Boston College and Duke before going 6-3 with losses to Notre Dame, UVA and Kentucky. And offensively, looking much better down the stretch. The Hokies look to build on that success going into the 2020 season.

Offense

The Hokies return Hendon Hooker under center. With him under center, they averaged 34 points per game. The offense turned the corner when he started taking snaps in the Miami game. With some new playmakers around him along with a more experienced offensive line, this is a offense that could take off this season.

One thing this team has at wide receiver is SPEED. Expect Tre Turner, Tayvion Robinson and Raheem Blackshear to get a lot of snaps. The Hokies will continue with jet sweeps and misdirection from the wide receiver spot to keep defenses guessing. Also expect more plays over the top as the Hokies have the speed to exploit teams downfield.

There is experience at the running back position. Joining Keyshawn King will be Khalil Herbert, a graduate transfer from Kansas, and Raheem Blackshear, an honorable mention All-Big Ten player from Rutgers. This will give Justin Fuente more options to get more out of a position than in recent seasons. An effective running game will help open up the passing game. That has been an aspect of the offense that has been lacking in recent years.

This offensive line should be one of the better lines in the ACC. Seriously. This is a deep and talented group. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen smash-mouth football from the Hokies on offense. This looks like a sneaky good group that will be able to line and run the ball on almost anyone they line up against. With the lack of spring ball and limited contact in Fall practices, it may take a couple of games before they get going.

Expect the Hokies to have one of the better offenses in the ACC. The only thing holding this group back is introducing many new additions to the offense. By the end of the year, this group should be humming but in the beginning, it might be a little rocky. It would be surprising if they weren’t averaging 30+ points per game by the end of the season.

Defense

This will be a good defense. They have all the pieces in place for success. A couple of things that give me pause are 1) how does this defense respond to Justin Hamilton running the show? 2) how do they bounce back from not having Caleb Farley shutting down one entire side of the field?

The talent is there and the experience is there but the loss of Caleb Farley and a new defensive coordinator could cause some unexpected issues. This is a defense that returns 9 starters, even with the losses of Caleb Farley and Tyjuan Garbutt, this should still be a stout group.

Defensive end depth is thin. The Hokies will rely on Emmanuel Belmar, Justus Reed, and Jaylen Griffin. Behind them, the group will need to rely on freshmen or transfers for production. If other players don’t step up and produce, this looks like a concerningly thin group. Especially when a positive COVID test could keep a couple of guys off the field on any given week.

Linebackers should be an area of strength for the Hokies. At Backer, the group returns Dax Hollifield and Keshon Artis. At Mike, the Hokies bring back Rayshard Ashby who should be the leader of this defense. He is a tackling machine and one of the most productive defensive players in the ACC. This should be a good group and they have depth to be able to rotate players in and out.

The Hokies have options at cornerback but many are unproven. Jermaine Waller was one of the best corners in the nations last season. The Hokies are hoping guys like Armani Chatman, Brion Murray and Devin Taylor can cover the other side of the field. When Caleb Farley went down in the last two games of the season, it exposed the defense. Let’s hope we don’t get a repeat of that in 2020.

Normally, when you see a Virginia Tech defense bring back this many upperclassmen, you’d expect a top notch Bud Foster group. This year, with a new defensive coordinator and replacing key pieces like Caleb Farley and Tyjuan Garbutt, you don’t know what to expect. The group should be good, but how good? And can they stay healthy and/or COVID-free?

Special Teams

Oscar Bradburn is one of the best in the nation. Period. He should be a candidate for the Ray Guy Award — the best punter in the nation.

The Hokies also return Brian Johnson who went 19-23 on field goals last year. You would expect another solid campaign from him. If there is an area to watch is his accuracy beyond 40 yards where he was only 4 for 8. Inside of 40, he was a perfect 15 for 15.

Tough games (<40% chance to win)

Clemson. It’s no surprise to anyone that Clemson is the class of the ACC. In normal years, the Hokies’ homefield advantage would give Virginia Tech a nice boost. This year, all games are essentially neutral site games. I don’t like the Hokies chances on a neutral site against Clemson. Even if it is the last game of the regular season.

Toss-up games (50% chance to win)

North Carolina. Louisville. Pitt. These are all tough games. Talented and well-coached teams. The Hokies can win any of these games. But these are all games where I see the opponent at least an even match with the Hokies. These are games where the Virginia Tech will need to make a couple of plays down-the-stretch to get the win. These should all be nail-biters.

Should win games (>60% to win)

Virginia. NC State. Duke. Wake Forest. Miami. The modified 10-game ACC schedule is littered with these games. I’d rather see the Hokies play these kind of games rather than cupcake games. These are far from guaranteed wins. The Hokies drop games like these every year — look no further than Boston College and Duke last year. All things being equal, the Hokies should win these games.

Better win games (>70% to win)

Boston College. Liberty. If the Hokies hope to have a good season and finish above .500, these are must-haves. They can’t afford to stub their toe here. If they do, an appearance in a bowl game may be in jeopardy this year.

Key games for the Hokies: at North Carolina, at Louisville, at Pittsburgh

Upset Alert: at Pitt

Game-by-Game Predictions

GamePrediction
NC StateVirginia Tech Athletics - Official Athletics Website
Virginia Virginia Tech Athletics - Official Athletics Website
at DukeVirginia Tech Athletics - Official Athletics Website
at North Carolinahttps://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d7/North_Carolina_Tar_Heels_logo.svg/300px-North_Carolina_Tar_Heels_logo.svg.png
Boston CollegeVirginia Tech Athletics - Official Athletics Website
at Wake ForestVirginia Tech Athletics - Official Athletics Website
At LouisvilleLouisville Cardinals - Wikipedia
LibertyVirginia Tech Athletics - Official Athletics Website
MiamiVirginia Tech Athletics - Official Athletics Website
at PittsburghPittsburgh Panthers - Wikipedia
ClemsonClemson Tigers - Wikipedia
Game-by-game predictions

Final Regular Season Record: 7-4 (6-4 in the ACC)
Expected finish: Tied for 5th in the ACC

Q&A with Tyree Saunders

Tyree Saunders is a 6’0″, 174 lbs wide receiver from First Coast High School in Jacksonville, FL. He recently signed with Virginia Tech in the 2020 recruiting class. You can follow Tyree on Twitter @showtimetyree and on Instagram @showtime_re.

Here are Tyree’s Senior Season HUDL highlights.

What drew you to Virginia Tech? Why did you choose to sign with Virginia Tech over the other schools that recruited you?

Saunders: What drew me to Virginia Tech was the coaching staff and the opportunities at Virginia Tech. I chose Virginia Tech based on the relationships I made and the opportunity to play big-time football. Getting a great education while also getting developed for the next level. VT was just the school for me.

What other schools recruited you? What were Virginia Tech’s football facilities like compared to the other schools that recruited you?

Saunders: Others schools that recruited me hard were Syracuse, Kansas State and FSU was showing a lot of interest thoroughout my recruitment all the way to signing day but they never offered. The football facilities at Virginia Tech were about the same as the other schools recruiting me or better.

Which coaches/staff members did you connect with in your visits to Virginia Tech? Who did you talk to the most?

Saunders: The coaches or staff I connected with when I visited were Coach Williams, assistant Lino, Coach Fu and Coach Cornelsen. I probably talked the most to the assistant Lino on my visit just as much as I did with Coach Williams.

What were your visits to Virginia Tech like as a recruit?

Saunders: My visits to Virginia Tech as a recruit were fun and I made good relationships and bonds. Every time I visited.

How big a role did social media play in your decision-making process?

Saunders: Social media played a little role in my decision-making process but not enough to make me sway one way or another. It’s just social media.

If you could give advice to class of 2021 recruits, what would you tell them about the recruiting process?

To enjoy it as much as possible and to go on as many visits as possible. Have fun with it, because you earned it but keep in the back of your head what the true goal is and what you’re there for. Make the best decision for you and seek advice from those close to you, if needed.

What are your goals for 2020? What do you hope to accomplish in your first season with the Hokies?

Saunders: My goal for the 2020 season is to come and compete right away. I want be playing in the rotation and towards the middle of the season be the starting wide receiver. As a freshman, I just want to win as many games as possible, makes catches when ball comes my way, make sure I’m open and get better each week to become a better player. Also, be on special teams, but most importantly I want to be on the field contributing in some form for my team. I’m trying to make an impact as a freshman and try to make a freshman ACC team in either special teams or offense. I want to be a freshman on some type of awards or mention-level.

Belk Bowl Preview and Prediction

The Hokies are in a bowl game for the 27th consecutive season. This is the longest active streak in the NCAA and the fourth longest streak in NCAA history. While it has become easier to make a bowl game in recent years, this is still a big accomplishment. If the Hokies aren’t going to be in a New Year’s Six bowl, the Belk Bowl is a good consolation prize. It is in a location that is easy for many Virginia Tech fans to attend. And it is against a good opponent from the SEC.

SP+ Rankings

Kentucky

Overall: 37th
Offense: 65th
Defense: 32nd
Special Teams: 41st

Virginia Tech

Overall: 40th
Offense: 60th
Defense: 38th
Special Teams: 40th

Kentucky’s rankings are like Virginia Tech’s but they put up those stats in a tougher league. If the Hokies want another opportunity against a team like UVA, this is it. Bryce Perkins is a better passer than Lynn Bowden, but Bowden is a better runner with a better offensive line. Bud Foster has been good in the past stopping one-dimensional offenses. Especially with extra time to prepare. But this Kentucky rushing offense will be tough to stop for 60 minutes.

The Hokies will also be facing one of the better defenses in the SEC and in the country. They are a big, fast and experienced group. This group is tougher than any defense the Hokies have faced in the ACC this year. The Hokies have done a good job of keeping defenses on their toes with screens and misdirection. That may work against Kentucky but they will have had a long time to review tape to know the Hokies do on film. This is a good opportunity to throw in some wrinkles to keep the Kentucky defense on their toes.

The Hokies defense should be able to limit Kentucky’s one-dimensional attack. Lynn Bowden will break a big play or two but the Hokies defense should be able to limit Kentucky’s offense. What Virginia Tech can do on offense will decide this game. The Hokies need to be able to run the ball against Kentucky’s tough front seven. This game looks like what you’d hope from a bowl game — two well matched teams. The motivation factor of each team will have a lot to say over which team wins. The Hokies will want to move on from a disappointing performance against UVA. They will also want to send off Bud Foster the right way. But it may not be enough against a tough Kentucky team.

Prediction: Kentucky 28, Virginia Tech 27

Virginia Preview and Prediction

Last season, I expected UVA to win this game. I expected the Commonwealth Cup streak to end. I expected the bowl streak to end. It was the worst Virginia Tech team in a quarter century and it felt like the time had come. Luckily, the Hokies made enough plays to keep the Commonwealth Cup in Blacksburg. This year the stakes are even higher with a Coastal division title and a potential spot in the Orange Bowl on the line.

Virginia

Overall: 37th
Offense: 68th
Defense: 32nd
Special Teams: 34th

Virginia Tech

Overall: 42nd
Offense: 70th
Defense: 33rd
Special Teams: 40th

Bryce Perkins is a one-man show on offense. He has been able to hit on big plays in the passing game. Virginia has the 43rd ranked passing offense in the country. Where they have struggled is in the run game. They rely on their do-everything quarterback to find yards on the ground. The Wahoos have the 118th ranked rushing offense. Their offense is one-dimensional when Perkins can’t find rushing yards on his own. The Hokies will need to contain Perkins and make him throw the ball. The Hokies corners will have to cover one-on-one against the Wahoos wide receivers. Especially when Perkins leaves the pocket.

Virginia Tech will need to find ways to move the ball against an aggressive defense. They came up with a good game plan against Pitt’s aggressive front. They will need to do the same against a UVA team that blitzes even more than Pitt does. This is a game where the Hokies need to use the screen game and misdirection to slow down UVA’s front seven. Tech will also want to challenge UVA’s corners. The Hokies have a good matchup there and will need to exploit it with their big and talented wide receivers.

These rivalry games can be tough to predict. There are always unexpected turns, trick plays and turnovers that can play a big role in the outcome. The Hokies need to not get caught up in the extracurricular activities of this rivalry game. Expect the Hokies to put a lot of pressure on Bryce Perkins. That has been a game plan that has worked well for this defense in the last two weeks. Also, expect the Hokies wide receivers to get the ball in space against Virginia’s corners. The Hokies need to show up and play the same type of football that they’ve been playing for the last six weeks. This year, the Hokies have the better squad. They just need to show up and play their game. If they do, they have a very good chance to win this one.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Virginia 17

Pittsburgh Preview and Prediction

Hokies are bowl eligible of an NCAA-leading 27th consecutive season. The first goal for any season is to make a bowl game. Start with that goal first, then worry about division titles. A bowl game was a good goal for this team — especially after waiting until their 12th game to make one last year. Their excellent play of late has them in the thick of the race for the Coastal division. But to get there they need to win two difficult games against Pittsburgh and Virginia.

SP+ Rankings

Pittsburgh

Overall: 52nd
Offense: 112th
Defense: 10th
Special Teams: 92nd

Virginia Tech

Overall: 44th
Offense: 67th
Defense: 35th
Special Teams: 39th

Pittsburgh reminds me of Virginia Tech teams from the mid-2000s. Elite defense. Pedestrian offense. Pittsburgh wins by keeping the opposition out of the end zone. Pittsburgh is giving up an average of 22 points per game in ACC games this season. Pitt’s defensive statistics are impressive. 11th in total defense. 7th in rushing defense. 9th in pass efficiency defense. To beat Pitt, you need to be able to complete passes against press coverage. Wide receivers need to win the one-on-one battles. This is a good week to get tight ends involved in the passing game. If the Hokies hope to have success on offense, they need to stay out of third and long. And use the screen game against an aggressive defensive line.

This is not the offense that you’ve seen from Pitt in the past. When you think of the Pitt offense you think of a run-heavy game. This year, the Panthers have not been able to run the ball and have turned to a pass-heavy offense. Pittsburgh’s offensive numbers are ugly. 106th in scoring offense. 106th in rushing offense. 96th in passing efficiency. This is an offense that does just enough to let their defense win the game for them.

This is going to be a close game. Pitt’s defense is good enough that the Hokies aren’t going to be able to go up and down the field on them. The goal for the Tech offense will be to not turn the ball over and try to grind out a few scoring drives to win the game. The Pitt defense is good but not unbeatable. Tech needs to take a methodical approach to their offense. Take opportunities as they come but don’t force it. The Hokies offense should be able to put enough points on the board to win. And the defense is playing well enough now to keep Pittsburgh’s offense mostly in check.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, Pittsburgh 17

Georgia Tech Preview and Prediction

With the win against Wake Forest, the Hokies have put themselves in good position for a bowl game. And even a shot at the Coastal division title. The key for the Hokies is to keep the momentum going. Next up are key Coastal division games against Georgia Tech, Pitt and Virginia. The Hokies cannot afford to overlook Georgia Tech. They are an improving team under Geoff Collins. Tech needs to head to Atlanta with a take-care-of-business attitude.

SP+ Rankings

Georgia Tech

Overall: 99th
Offense: 110th
Defense: 49th
Special Teams: 124th

Virginia Tech

Overall: 52nd
Offense: 72nd
Defense: 48th
Special Teams: 41st

Offense has been a struggle for Georgia Tech this season. Most expected a difficult the transition from the triple option to a spread offense. The Jackets have not been a threat in the passing game this season. But they can break a big play from time-to-time. Georgia Tech’s offense likes to run the ball and try to shorten the game. They want to keep the clock running. In order for the Hokies to be successful, they will need to stop the run and not get beat downfield with the long pass.

Georgia Tech is better on defense, particularly against the pass. The Jackets rank 119th against the run but rank 31st against the pass. It’s safe to say if you want to move the ball against Georgia Tech, your best option is on the ground. This is actually a pretty good matchup for the Hokies. The running game has looked a lot better with Hendon Hooker under center. The key for the Hokies will be to not turn ball over and give the Jackets struggling offense a short field.

Here are the last three games against Georgia Tech:

2016: Georgia Tech 30, Virginia Tech 20
2017: Georgia Tech 28, Virginia Tech 22
2018: Georgia Tech 49, Virginia Tech 28

The Hokies had a long stretch of success against Georgia Tech from 1990 thru 2015. But since then things have gone downhill. Virginia Tech were Vegas favorites in all three games but were on the losing end of upsets all three times. They need to change that. Paul Johnson was a thorn in the Hokies side for a long time. But he’s gone now. The Hokies need to go down to Atlanta and take care of business. On paper, this looks like a favorable matchup. The Hokies need to watch out for a motivated opponent playing on their home field. Georgia Tech is improving as the season goes on. They want to get that first ACC win at home. The Hokies need to go in focused to not mess around against an overmatched opponent.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 30, Georgia Tech 20

Wake Forest Preview and Prediction

That was a tough loss on the road at Notre Dame. Tech came very close to pulling a big upset on the road against a very good Fighting Irish team. The Hokies have four games remaining to get two wins for bowl eligibility. And they still control their own destiny in the Coastal division. The Hokies get an opportunity to rebound this week against a ranked Wake Forest team at home.

SP+ Rankings

Wake Forest

Overall: 46th
Offense: 38th
Defense: 63rd
Special Teams: 34th

Virginia Tech

Overall: 64th
Offense: 82nd
Defense: 55th
Special Teams: 62nd

The Hokies offense should look better this week with the return of Hendon Hooker. His return should see the offense return to the one we saw against North Carolina. Hooker gives the Hokies the ability to go downfield. He also gives the Hokies another threat in the running game. Wake Forest gives up a lot of yards thru the air. Hendon Hooker and the Hokies’ pass catchers need to have a big game for the Hokies to have a chance. The Hokies offense will need to keep up with Wake Forest’s high powered attack.

Wake Forest is one of the best offenses that the Hokies will face this season. QB Jamie Newman and his wide receivers have put up a ton of yards this season. They are seventh in the nation in total offense and ninth in passing offense. These guys have lit up the scoreboard on a lot of teams this season. The Hokies defensive backfield needs to be able to keep this passing game in check. Armani Chatman will have to step up in Jermaine Waller’s absence. Bud Foster will need to scheme to put pressure on Jamie Newman while not giving up the big play. The Hokies will need to bring a lunch pail attitude on Saturday.

This game looks a lot like last week’s game against Notre Dame. But Wake Forest has a more potent offense than Notre Dame. The Hokies were able to keep it close against Notre Dame with Quincy Patterson behind center. With Hendon Hooker, the Hokies should be able to put more points on the board. But they will also need to keep Wake Forest’s high powered offense from putting up a lot of points. Wake Forest’s experienced roster should give the Hokies some trouble.

Prediction: Wake Forest 31, Virginia Tech 27

Notre Dame Preview and Prediction

The dramatic win against North Carolina is the type of win that can give a team confidence and momentum. The Hokies need to use that momentum going into a 5-game stretch run in November. A bowl game is still a very real possibility and so is a Coastal division championship. This is when the Hokies need to start playing their best football.

SP+ Rankings

Notre Dame

Overall: 25th
Offense: 22nd
Defense: 38th
Special Teams: 19th

Virginia Tech

Overall: 57th
Offense: 64th
Defense: 67th
Special Teams: 73rd

Notre Dame is coming off a tough loss to Michigan. They will be looking to get back on track against the Hokies. The Irish offense is not hitting on all cylinders like it was then they came to Blacksburg last season. Notre Dame has a good quarterback but they are still trying to find a running game. A game played in cold weather is not great to be tossing around the football all day. Notre Dame will have to lean on Tony Jones Jr. and the running game. If the Irish are throwing the ball a lot, that’s likely a good thing for the Hokies.

Notre Dame has a talented and experienced defense. They have upperclassmen across the depth chart. The Irish have a very talented secondary that does not give up a lot through the air. If you want to beat Notre Dame, you have to establish a running game. The Hokies need to lean on Quincy Patterson (or Hendon Hooker, if healthy) to get the running game going. A game played with temperatures in the 30s, the team that is able to run the ball will likely win the game. Expect a lot of different looks in the running game, trying to get the quarterback, running backs, tight ends and wide receivers all involved in running the football.

The story of this game will be Notre Dame’s experience vs Virginia Tech’s inexperience. Notre Dame’s depth chart is full of 3rd, 4th, and 5th year players. Virginia Tech’s is full of 1st, 2nd and 3rd year players. Experience matters. And if this game was in 2020 or 2021, Virginia Tech would have a much better shot to win. But playing a Notre Dame team at home coming off a tough loss to Michigan, the odds become a lot tougher. The Hokies definitely have a shot in this game, more than the experts are giving them credit for. But in the end, Notre Dame has too much talent for the Hokies to keep up with. Expect this to be a close game going into the half, with Notre Dame pulling away in the 2nd half.

Prediction: Notre Dame 35, Virginia Tech 21

North Carolina Preview and Prediction

The Hokies didn’t look great against Rhode Island. The Virginia Tech offense only had 8 possessions the entire game. The offense was pretty efficient but it stumbled on a couple of its red zone opportunities. If the Hokies had cashed in, the scoreline would have looked much better. The Hokies offense is going in the right direction, not sure if the same is true about the defense right now.

SP+ Rankings

North Carolina

Overall: 56th
Offense: 44th
Defense: 72nd
Special Teams: 92nd

Virginia Tech

Overall: 67th
Offense: 63rd
Defense: 66th
Special Teams: 58th

Expect UNC QB Sam Howell to get his yards against Virginia Tech’s secondary. He has thrown for over 1,500 yards, 15 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions so far this season. Very impressive for a true freshman. The North Carolina offensive line has had some trouble pass blocking. The Hokies defensive line will need to get into the UNC backfield and make life difficult for Howell. This worked well against Miami and the Hokies will need to get back to that type of pass rush against North Carolina. Tech will also need to be able to cover the UNC running backs in the passing game. They use their running backs in the pass game more than the teams the Hokies have faced so far this season.

North Carolina has had trouble covering the passing game this year. The Hokies talented wideouts are going to have to make plays on the outside. Having a healthy Tre Turner and Damon Hazelton will help. Tech will not have much success running inside so they will need to look to the outside running game to find room on the ground. This is also a great opportunity to get Dalton Keene and James Mitchell involved in the offense. The run blocking looked better against Rhode Island. Having an effective run game will help to open up the passing game. Blocking UNC’s defensive line and linebackers will be much tougher than blocking Rhode Island’s.

These teams look similar on paper. Both have average offenses and defenses. The team who can win the one-on-one battles will win this game. Especially in the passing game. The Duke game also looked close on paper and we remember how that turned out. The Hokies’ play-calling may have been a bit vanilla against Rhode Island. The playbook will be open against UNC. Expect a little bit of trickeration from the Hokies. Winning this game would get the Hokies in contention for a bowl and improve their odds for spot in the ACC Championship. A loss and you can forget about the Coastal title and a bowl bid becomes dicey. In the end, Sam Howell makes more plays with his arm and North Carolina wins by a touchdown.

Prediction: North Carolina 35, Virginia Tech 28