Virginia Tech’s loss to North Carolina was disappointing but not necessarily unexpected. UNC looked like the better team. But that game did raise a couple of questions. Could the Hokies have won if Hendon Hooker had started? What if the Hokies had their full roster of defensive players? What happens if Khalil Herbert gets more than two carries in the first half? The reality is that the Hokies got outplayed on defensive side of the ball. You don’t need to analyze it more than that. Anybody watching could see that.
Boston College is a sneaky good team. This is the type of team if you aren’t ready for what they are bringing, they can get you. On offense, it’s a two-man show with Phil Jurkovec and Zay Flowers. There about as good a QB-WR combo as there is in the ACC. Boston College ranks 7th in the nation in passing offense. And Zay Flowers ranks 4th in the nation in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He’s a talented player who you can expect to be playing on Sundays. The Hokies need to put Waller on Flowers to keep him in check. The good news is that BC is one of the worst rushing teams in the country. So if you can keep them from beating you through the air, they won’t beat you on the ground.
Defensively, they are solid all around. Not great but not bad either. This defense has kept BC in every game this year — including the North Carolina game. They should present some problems to a Hokies offense that has been moving the ball at will against everybody they’ve played this year. If the Hokies can stick to the balanced attack they’ve shown in the first three weeks, they should be in good shape against Boston College. It will be important to establish the run game with Khalil Herbert to open up the passing game over the top. The Hokies will need some contributions from their top receiving threats to move the ball against this defense. Tre Turner and James Mitchell need to have big games.
The Hokies are double-digit favorites going into this one, but the matchup looks closer than that on paper. The Hokies were obliterated in the run game against North Carolina. Will that happen against BC? Probably not. But they need to show that they have corrected a couple of things on that side of the ball. Next, can the Hokies stop the potent Jurkovec-Flowers combo? If Tech can get their full complement of defensive backs on the field, the Hokies stand a good chance of winning their fair share of those matchups. My biggest concern is Virginia Tech being able to stop the run. If the Hokies can show they can do that, they have a very good chance to win. But if Boston College is rushing for 5+ yards per carry, the odds don’t seem nearly as good. Put me down as thinking the Hokies bounce back this week defensively and have another good offensive performance.
For two weeks in a row the Hokies have been able to pull out wins even while being undermanned on defense. The Hokies have been able to win with a dominant run game which currently ranks #1 in the country in rush yards per attempt. If Tech is able to keep up this type of dominant run game, they will be tough to stop. But the competition level goes up this week with a trip to Chapel Hill.
Overall: 23rd Offense: 31st Defense: 24th Special Teams: 21st
Overall: 11th Offense: 10th Defense: 37th Special Teams: 43rd
North Carolina has an impressive passing attack but it has yet to come together in 2020. If the Hokies are still missing defensive backs, this is a passing attack that can exploit that weakness. Tech needs their top defensive backs this week to stop a powerful aerial attack. To limit its effectiveness the Hokies will need to get in the backfield early and often. Virginia Tech ranks #1 in the nation in sacks. They will need a strong performance from their front seven to get after Sam Howell and limit the North Carolina passing attack.
North Carolina’s defense has been impressive, but it’s been against some pretty ineffective offenses. So far this year, the Tar Heels have been the #1 team in the nation against the run. If they can keep that up, it will force the Hokies to have to beat them through the air. If Hendon Hooker is behind center, the Hokies stand a better chance to air it out. The Hokies should be able to find some running room, but it’s unlikely they’ll be able to run for 300+ yards for the third consecutive week.
On paper, this looks like a great matchup between two evenly matched teams. UNC has a great passing attack. Tech has a great running attack. Both teams feature stingy defenses. The Hokies are still trying to get all their guys back on the field to see how stingy this defense can be. If you’ve watched UNC, you get the feeling you haven’t seen the best that offense has to offer yet. This may be the week they break out of their funk. If the Hokies are going to win, they need to pound UNC with the running game. Like they did NC State and Duke. If the Hokies can pound the rock for four quarters and connect on a couple of shots downfield. They have a good chance to win. Before the season started, I had this game marked down as a loss. But after seeing how impressive this offensive line and running game have been, Tech should be able to pull this one out.
Last week’s win was a big one. Being down 23 players and 2 coaches is a big deal. Especially when even more than those 23 players hadn’t practiced much in the two weeks leading up to the game. Getting a conference win given those circumstances is impressive. The coaching staff did a great job preparing the team, despite difficulty practicing and preparing with a couple of starters out.
Overall: 17th Offense: 25th Defense: 21st Special Teams: 28th
Overall: 81st Offense: 120th Defense: 38th Special Teams: 37th
Duke has struggled on offense this year. They are 70th in the nation in turnovers this year (out of 72 teams that have played). Ouch. Their quarterback, Chase Brice, is only completing 51.3% of his passes with a 1:3 TD-INT ratio. Also not good. You start to wonder if David Cutcliffe might give his backup a shot in this game. Duke’s struggles in the passing game might not look so bad if they had an effective running game, but they rank 65th in the nation in that category. Duke is averaging 254 yards through the air this season. But most of that is due to the face they’ve been trailing by multiple touchdowns in their three games this season. If the Hokies have to play backups in the secondary, Duke may find some success thru the air.
Duke’s defense is solid, but their offense haven’t done them any favors by leaving them out on the field a lot this year. They have a pair of talented defensive ends who can get after the quarterback. Like last week, this is a good week to get the running game going and keep pressures off the quarterback. Any slow developing plays work to the strength of Duke’s defense. Virginia Tech needs to focus on the running game, screen game and quick passes to keep the Duke defensive ends out of the backfield.
Duke looks better than their 0-3 record. With that defense alone, they should be able to win some games. Unfortunately for them, their offense has been a disaster to start the year. They can’t run or pass with any sort of predictability. And that’s when they aren’t turning the ball over — which they do a lot. Like last week, the Hokies might be down a couple of starters due to COVID-related issues. Also like last week, this is another week where they should go with a safe gameplan of running the football to try to keep their defense off the field. Worked for them last week. And it’s likely to work for them again this week.