Duke Preview and Prediction

The Hokies put their best performance of the year together against UNC. They picked a good time to do it with all the #NC2VT recruits in town. As time goes on, I think you will see the Hokies make deeper in-roads into North Carolina. I think the game last weekend already helped with a couple of Virginia Tech’s top targets.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 17th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 59th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 8th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 47th

Duke

Overall S&P+ ranking: 79th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 88th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 55th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 95th

Under David Cutcliffe, Duke is always a tough out. They are tough. They are disciplined. And they play good defense. No 59-7 box scores this week.

Where Duke is struggling this year is in the passing game. Daniel Jones has not been able to find the success he had in his freshman year. You can call this season his sophomore slump. Expect to see the Hokies focus on shutting down the run and forcing Daniel Jones to beat them with his arm. Something he has struggled with so far this year.

Duke has an effective but not explosive running attack. The Hokies boast the 16th ranked rushing defense in the country. They should be able to slow down the Duke rushing attack and force the offense to come thru the arms and legs of Daniel Jones. I am more concerned about his legs than arm. Although, he only has 217 rushing yards for the season.

Where is Hokies will have issues in this game is on offense. They will struggle to put long drives together against this Duke defense. If the Hokies are going to have success, they are going to need to find a ground game. Duke’s defense is a little more susceptible to the rushing attack than the passing game. The Hokies will need to find ways to get their running backs involved in the gameplan.

At this point, Duke is the third best team the Hokies have played. This won’t be a cake walk like UNC but expect a game like the BC game. The Hokies will struggle to move the ball on offense and the defense will make life hard on Duke. This is a game where it would be a good if the Hokies can get off to a good start offensively. This game being played in the rain makes me nervous for sloppy conditions that can cause turnovers which could hurt the VT offense. But all things being equal – I like the Hokies offense, defense and special teams over Duke’s.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Duke 10

North Carolina Preview and Prediction

The North Carolina game is starting to become as important as the UVA game. Years ago ┬áit was important for the Hokies to win the in-state rivalry with UVA to help with recruiting. These days, the state of North Carolina is just as important for recruiting as Virginia is. That’s why it’s important for the Hokies to beat UNC. Not to mention their recent academic fraud scandal and the bad things they’ve said about VT on the recruiting trail. They are an easy team to dislike.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 19th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 61st
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 11th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 53rd

North Carolina

Overall S&P+ ranking: 88th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 82nd
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 82nd
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 74th

North Carolina’s only win this year was over Old Dominion. Against the Power 5 teams on their schedule, they have lost by multiple scores. The Hokies defense will be the best defense that UNC has seen this year.

Let’s talk about UNC does well. They are actually a decent running team. The problem is Larry Fedora doesn’t like to run the ball. The are good at getting after the quarterback and getting sacks. And they are also good at forcing turnovers. So this is not a cake walk by any means. Especially if the Hokies get off to a slow start.

UNC is not very good defensively. They are likely better than Delaware, East Carolina and Old Dominion. But as far as ACC competition is concerned, they might be the worst defense left on the schedule. Expect the Hokies to be able to move the ball on the ground against North Carolina. Should be a good day on the ground for Josh Jackson and the Hokies remaining healthy running backs.

Things that concern me in this game are the Hokies being rusty coming off a bye and injuries at the wide receiver position. The Hokies have been getting off to slow starts all season. I’m worried we’ll see more of the same coming off a bye. I’m also wondering who is going to start at wide receiver with so many injuries. Hopefully, we’re pleasantly surprised but I worry about having to play a lot young players who will struggle with consistency.

I’m a slightly worried about this game for the reasons mentioned above. But if the Hokies have problems, the Heels issues are far bigger. They have lost 9 starters to injury who are out for the season. And the Hokies have the far better quarterback than the two the Heels could play on Saturday. Statistically, the Hokies are just better across the board. Kinda like the BC game. I see this being similar to that game. I hope the Hokies get it in gear and pour it on the Heels but I think that’s unlikely. This is another game where the Hokies need to get out with a win and get healthy before Miami and Georgia Tech.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 28, North Carolina 10

Midseason Awards and Outlook

Offensive MVP: Josh Jackson

Josh Jackson is the engine that makes the offense go. He has 1,700 passing yards, 13 TDs and 4 INTs. He’s on pace for 3,400 yards and 26 TDs.  Those numbers look similar to Jerod Evans’ record setting numbers midway thru last season. If he stays on that pace, it would set him up nicely for a possible ACC Rookie of the Year award and All-ACC selection. Very impressive for a freshman quarterback.

Honorable mention: Cam Phillips

Defensive MVP: Tremaine Edmunds

Tremaine Edmunds is leading the Hokies in tackles with 50. He’s one of the few players on the Hokies defense that the offense needs to be aware of on every snap. He goes sideline to sideline better than any linebacker the Hokies have had since Adibi and Hall. He also has 4.5 TFLs, 1.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Hard to argue anyone has been a bigger difference maker on defense than Tremaine Edmunds.

Honorable mention: Mook Reynolds

Special Teams MVP: Oscar Bradburn

As much as I want to give this to Greg Stroman, it has to be Oscar Bradburn. There are plenty of teams across the country with punters who shank punts or can’t get good punts off consistently. Our twenty-year old freshman from Australia might be the best freshman punter in the country. He’s averaging 43.8 yards per punt, nine punts were downed inside the 20 and eight punts have been greater than 50 yards. He played a big role in winning the field position battle against West Virginia. You normally don’t get that kind of production out of your punter, much less a freshman punter. Good on ya, mate!

Honorable mention: Greg Stroman

2nd Half Outlook

The first half of the season has gone according to plan. Hokies won against West Virginia in a big opening game. They took care of business against the rest of their over-matched opponents. And, as expected, took a loss to the defending national champs. So far, they are meeting expectations. What will take this season from good to great are wins against Georgia Tech and Miami. They also need to avoid the upset bug the rest of the way.

Things are setup well for the rest of the season, even if the Hokies lose to Miami and Georgia Tech they would still equal last season’s 9-3 mark. If they win one or both of those games they could finish at 10-2 or even 11-1. The key will be winning both of those games if the Hokies hope to make it back to the ACCCG. Even if they beat Miami and lose to Georgia Tech, the Canes could still win their remaining games and make the ACCCG with one loss to the Hokies. Looks like it’s going to be a tougher-than-usual year in the Coastal. Barring major injuries or a collapse, the Hokies are set up well for a good season (9-3 or better) and a trip to a quality bowl game. Hopefully, they can do what it takes to get a rematch with the Clemson Tigers in the ACC Championship Game.

Boston College Preview and Prediction

Hokie Nation did a fantastic job last Saturday. GameDay looked great. Enter Sandman looked great. The ESPN folks went out of their way to talk about how great the atmosphere was. We don’t get that kind of love from ESPN very often. You can tell they still like our program but they are still waiting for us to be “back”. If the Hokies can get back to winning 10 games consistently again, there will be more ESPN love and GameDay appearances in our future.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 22nd
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 64th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 10th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 84th

Boston College

Overall S&P+ ranking: 96th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 124th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 33rd
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 62nd

This isn’t the tough as nails Boston College we’re used to. Trips to Boston in the past have given the Hokies a lot of trouble. Between 2006 and 2013, the Hokies lost 3 out of 4 trips to Chestnut Hill. After a big win in 2015 and two straight in the series, it looks like those days are in the rearview.

Boston College has struggled with recruiting in recent years and it’s starting to show on the field. The defense is still good but the offensive can’t do much… at all (see the offensive S&P+ ranking above). The most points they’ve scored in a game this year is 28 last week against Central Michigan. Against Power 5 opponents this year, they are averaging 12 points per game. Ouch.

In games like this I like to look at what the opponent does well. Boston College has a very strong pass defense only giving up 154 yards per game thru the air. The Hokies will need to move the ball on the ground to move the chains consistently. BC has also forced 7 interceptions in 5 games, which is 3 better than the Hokies have this year. When BC gets into the red zone, they score 87.5% of the time (56.3% TD). They also have a dangerous punt returner who is averaging more than 18 yard per return.

Other than that, BC is not a dangerous team this year. There is a reason the Hokies are favored by 16.5 points. Their stats remind me more of what we usually see from UVA than what we’ve been used to from BC. Simply put, they don’t have the offensive firepower to consistently put points on the board. Much less against a defense like the Hokies. But their defense is good enough to keep them in the game. Likely into the 2nd half and maybe into the 4th quarter if they play like they did against Clemson. But ultimately, if the defense is on the field too long, they will wear out and the Hokies take can advantage in the 2nd half. I like the Hokies to win by around the Vegas number. They won’t pull away until late in the game but eventually they will get the better of the BC defense.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Boston College 10