Virginia Preview and Prediction

The Hokies are struggling through a number of injuries but they found a way to win against Pittsburgh. If the Hokies want to win against UVA, they’re going to have to dig deep and find some unexpected heroes.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 33rd
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 92nd
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 13th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 31st

Virginia

Overall S&P+ ranking: 65th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 79th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 49th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 51st

UVA is a solid team. It has been impressive what Bronco Mendenhall has been able to do with this team after a 2 win effort last season. This roster did not look dramatically different from last season but he has been able to get his squad bowl eligible. That’s impressive.

When I’ve watched the Hoos this year, I’m been really impressed with Kurt Benkert. He is the engine that makes their offense tick. He will also be one of the best quarterbacks that the Hokies have seen all season. Lucky for the Hokies that he is not a running quarterback. But given how well he distributes the ball, the Hokies defensive backs and linebackers will have their work cut out for them. Particularly across the middle with Terrell Edmunds being out and Mook Reynolds potentially missing time.

If the Hokies hope to win, they will need to find a running game. They had some success against Pittsburgh but they will need to lean on it more than they did last week. Travon McMillian and Deshaun McClease will need to step up and make some plays.

Kurt Benkert had a great first half against Miami last week but couldn’t keep it up for 60 minutes. If he can have a full 60 minute performance against the Hokies, he can give the them a lot of trouble. He reminds of Will Grier at WVU. He can carve the Hokies up like few quarterbacks that VT has seen this season. He is an NFL caliber talent.

This will not be a beauty of a game to watch. If the Hokies hope to win this one, they will have to win it ugly. The VT defensive backs will have to step up and not allow Kurt Benkert to carve them up for big yards especially over the middle. The Hokies linebackers will also need to be aware of running backs and tight ends getting involved in the passing game. I’m expecting a game like the Pitt game. Defense and special teams will be critical. They may need to bail the offense out in this game.

The Hoos have all the pieces they need to win but they also need to contend with the 13 year monkey on their back. They’ve been close to winning in recent years but couldn’t make the plays in the clutch to pull out a victory. I expect a very close game and the team that can make the plays in the fourth quarter will come out with the victory.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, Virginia 21

Pitt Preview and Prediction

Georgia Tech is the one game so far this season that the Hokies shouldn’t have lost. They simply made too many mistakes and couldn’t capitalize when opportunities presented themselves. Most teams will have a loss or two like that each season. These are the ones who think about weeks later and know how close you were to a win. They are the difference between a good season and a great season.

Either way, the Georgia Tech loss doesn’t greatly affect the Hokies postseason goals. Even with a win against Georgia Tech, their chances at a New Year’s Six bowl were slim. And they are still in the mix for the Citrus, TaxSlayer and Camping World bowls with two more wins against Pitt and UVA. The important thing will be to get the team refocused after two tough losses and take care of business against two teams that they should beat.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 24th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 90th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 7th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 29th

Pittsburgh

Overall S&P+ ranking: 92nd
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 72nd
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 94th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 83rd

The biggest issue that the Hokies will face from Pitt is their ground attack. Pitt uses a lot of jet sweep motion to spread out the defense then they run the ball with their big tailbacks. This is something that gave the Hokies trouble last season. Not to mention in their game against UNC, their quarterback scrambled more than he has all season. Expect this game to be like the Georgia Tech game. The Hokies need to stop the run and not get beat over the top.

Pitt’s run defense is bad but so is the Hokies run game. So those two things offset each other. If the Hokies want to move the ball in this game, they will need to do so through the air against Pitt’s average pass defense. Pitt likes to use a lot of press coverage which has given the Hokies trouble this year. The Hokies young wideouts will have to find space against tight coverage and make plays. The best outcome would be for Cam Phillips to have a great day on Senior Day.

The stats say Pittsburgh is somewhere in between Duke and North Carolina this season. Two teams that the Hokies blew out before they had their confidence stomped on by Miami. And before the recent rash of injuries the Hokies have suffered. On defense and special teams alone, this is a mismatch. The Hokies offense has been so stagnant in the last two weeks that it’s hard to expect much from them. And with the defensive injuries this past week, it’s hard to know what to expect from the defense. All I know is that Pittsburgh doesn’t pass the eye test to me. When I watched them last week, they looked a lot closer to UNC than they did VT. Even though it’s a bad matchup for the Hokies, they will find a way on Senior Day.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 34, Pittsburgh 20

 

 

Georgia Tech Preview and Prediction

Justin Fuente described Virginia Tech games this year as a “three-and-a-half-hour stomach ache.” Every game against Georgia Tech is a three-and-a-half-hour stomach ache. Their option attack limits the opposing team’s possessions and if you can’t make the most out of each and every possession, they can outscore you and beat you. Which they have done to teams often in recent years. That doesn’t sound like a good situation for a team known for getting off to slow starts offensively.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 18th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 83rd
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 7th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 25th

Georgia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 50th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 50th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 45th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 72nd

Expect to see a game plan from Georgia Tech similar to last year’s. Expect a lot of runs right up the middle from the B-back position and TaQuan Marshall. It’ll be up to Ricky Walker, Tim Settle and Andrew Motuapuaka to stuff the run up the middle. Something the middle of the Hokies defense had trouble with last year. The Hokies need to be able to push the option outside and have the Hokies defensive backs and linebackers shed blocks to get to the ball carrier. As usual, Georgia Tech will have some success but it will be important for the Hokies defense to keep them to 20 points or less. It’ll be tough situation for the Hokies if they get into a track meet with the Jackets.

Georgia Tech’s defense is solid but not spectacular. They have trouble generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Expect Josh Jackson to have time to throw but he will need to make the most of those opportunities since offensive possessions are limited when you play GT. It’s not uncommon for offenses to only have around eight possession when they play GT. So if you can’t get going in your first four possessions, you might only have four more the rest of the day. That’s why generating turnovers (i.e. more possessions) is important when you play the Jackets.

If there is one area where the Hokies have a clear advantage in this game, it’s on special teams. Just as with most games this season, the Hokies will need to play field position and try to set up big plays in the return game. There should be opportunities in this game. Georgia Tech’s special teams this year have not been particularly special. This game calls for a dose of #Shibestball.

This game makes me nervous because the Hokies just came off a very physical game against Miami where a couple of players got dinged up. Not to mention they had travel issues and lost a day of practice and they have to travel to Atlanta for this game. That’s not a lot of prep time for Georgia Tech’s offense. It helps that most of the players on defense have seen Georgia Tech’s offense last year but still you wish the Hokies had more time to prepare. I expect a close game but on paper the Hokies have the stronger squad. The Hokies defense has to show up and finish tackles though.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Georgia Tech 23  

Miami Preview and Prediction

This is a huge game. If the Hokies lose, they are mathematically eliminated from Coastal contention. If the Hokies hope to repeat as Coastal champions, they will need to win this game on the road against undefeated Miami.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 15th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 70th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 4th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 34th

Miami

Overall S&P+ ranking: 14th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 20th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 31st
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 54th

As you can see, they are two very evenly matched teams. Both teams have put together impressive resumes against relatively soft schedules. No one would argue these aren’t two very good teams. Both teams are trying to build a resume ahead of the ACC Championship for a chance at the College Football Playoff. They could both be considered dark horses in the CFP race.

I’ve watched Miami’s games this year and they just don’t pass they eye test to me. At least not for an undefeated team nine weeks into the season. You always expect them to play better than they do. What has stood out to me is that they play down to their competition. Which means they can play up to their competition in a big game, and they probably will. So don’t expect the same Miami team that struggled against GT and UNC.

The Hokies offense is going to have trouble moving the ball against Miami’s defense. They aren’t as good as Clemson’s but they are probably better than Duke’s and BC’s. They will be a challenge. The Hokies will be able to put some points on the board as Justin Fuente and Brad Cornelsen will be able to scheme against an aggressive defense but I would not be surprised if the Hokies’ offense gave up a turnover or two. It will be important for the Hokies to not give the Hurricanes a short field and limit turnovers. Turnovers and special teams will be key in this match up.

The Hokies cannot have big lapses like they did against Clemson. They had a busted coverage which led to a 60 yard touchdown and a mishandled catch which led to a pick 6. That cost the Hokies 14 points in game decided by 14 points.

A key stat favoring the Hokies is that they rank 3rd nationally in third down conversions allowed. Miami ranks 118th in converting 3rd downs. That could be an issue for Miami but they do excel at finding big plays on offense. The Hokies need to focus on limiting Miami’s big play ability and force them to convert 3rd downs to move the ball down the field.

Bud Foster’s goal needs to be to make Miami one dimensional by stopping their running game. UNC was able to limit Miami to 1.8 YPC last week. If the Hokies can force Malik Rosier to throw the ball, that works in Virginia Tech’s favor and should limit Miami’s big play ability.

Miami is better than they have shown the last two weeks. It’s strange to see an undefeated team as a home underdog (probably has more to do with Vegas folks being high on VT recently but I digress). Virginia Tech’s average game performance is better than Miami’s average game performance. That doesn’t mean that Miami can’t put together a special performance on a big stage. We’ve seen that from them before. But all things being equal, I like the Hokies’ defense limiting Miami’s offense and Tech’s offense’s ability to find big plays. Special teams will be key in this game. Field position battles will matter in a close game. Expect a low scoring affair. This game will be classic Virginia Tech-Miami. Lots of big hits. Lots of emotion on both sides. It’ll be a fun one on ABC prime time. We will need Joey Slye to come up big in this game.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Miami 24