Hokies took care of business against UNC. Three straight blowouts can really inject a lot of life into a fan base. After the Tennessee game, fans were wondering if this team would make a bowl game. Now folks are talking New Year’s Six bowl. A lot can change in a couple of weeks.
On to Syracuse. Long-time Hokies fans still have nightmares about the Carrier Dome. That dome has seen a lot of weird games between the Hokies and the Orange. It also has not been particularly kind to the Hokies. But those games were a long time ago. Different coaching staffs and two different programs at this point in time. The players on these teams were young children the last time these teams played.
This Syracuse team reminds me a lot of the Tulsa team the Hokies played in the Independence Bowl. A great offensive passing attack with one really good play-making wide receiver (Amba Etta-Tawo). And not much of anything else. Didn’t that Tulsa team only lose to the Hokies by 3? They did. But Bud Foster’s D is playing much better this year than they were in the bowl game.
S&P+ Overall Ranking: 19th
S&P+ Offensive Ranking: 96th
S&P+ Defensive Ranking: 4th
S&P+ Special Teams Ranking: 22nd
S&P+ Overall Ranking: 68th
S&P+ Offensive Ranking: 43rd
S&P+ Defensive Ranking: 96th
S&P+ Special Teams Ranking: 71st
The Hokies have the clear advantage on defense. Even though Syracuse has an excellent passing attack, the Hokies should be able to slow it down. Syracuse also reminds me of ECU, who was able to have some success in the passing game. But the Hokies were still able to limit ECU below their season average. Syracuse does not take a lot of shots downfield. They are a dink and dunk West Coast offense but they still put up a lot of yards.
Key matchup to watch: Virginia Tech’s cornerbacks vs. Amba Etta-Tawo. Etta-Tawo is one of the best wide receivers in the ACC and one of the best the Hokies will see all season. He leads the ACC in receiving yards. It will be a tough task for the Hokies corners to cover him all day.
Syracuse has lost to every decent team they’ve played this year. Their only wins were against Colgate and UConn. All their losses have been blowouts. Syracuse excels in the passing game and at punt returns (#1 in the nation!) but does not do much of anything else well.
I expect the Hokies to have a bit of a letdown in this game. It’s just so hard to play so well for four consecutive games. Eventually you’re going to have one that’s not exactly a masterpiece. This is a classic trap game on the road sandwiched in between two games against ranked opponents. Even if the Hokies don’t play their best, I still think they can win comfortably. Syracuse is not a great team. In fact, they’re not very good overall. Imagine if this team was playing last year’s Tulsa team, they’d probably win… by a lot. The talent advantage is clearly on the Hokies’ side in this matchup.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Syracuse 17