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.
Special Teams: 34th
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
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.
Special Teams: 92nd
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
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.
Special Teams: 124th
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
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.
Special Teams: 34th
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
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.
Special Teams: 19th
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