Pittsburgh Preview and Prediction

The Miami game was a tough way to lose. The Hokies looked like the better team for three quarters against a top ten team. Then the offense went into hiding in the fourth quarter. It’s easy to point fingers but you have to make the plays in crunch time to win the game. Miami did. Virginia Tech didn’t. It’s that simple.

SP+ Rankings

This game comes down to can Hendon Hooker complete passes against man coverage? We know exactly what Pittsburgh in going to do. They will stack the box against the run and make Hendon Hooker beat them against press coverage. If Tech’s receivers can get open and Hendon Hooker can find them the ball, the Hokies should have success moving the football. But if Tech can’t run the ball and Hendon Hooker has trouble finding open receivers, it could be a long day offensively.

The Panthers struggle to run the ball and like to move the ball in the air. That plays to the advantage of the Hokies. Tech is better at stopping teams thru the air than on the ground. Kenny Pickett will have his work cut out for him against Virginia Tech’s secondary. Pitt ranks 71st in the nation in scoring offense averaging 27.6 points per game. Watch out for Jordan Addison in the passing game. He is Pitt’s go-to receiver.

This is a game where the Hokies want to get the tight ends involved. If James Mitchell is healthy, he would be the featured receiver. If he’s not able to go, the Hokies will need to lean on Nick Gallo. Expect this game to be a low-scoring affair, where the Hokies will HAVE to move the ball through the air. If all-else-fails the Hokies should run the Jerod Evans offense and have Hendon Hooker throw up jump ball after jump ball to his receivers. In the end, the Hokies will make a couple more plays offensively and win a one possession game on the road.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 28, Pittsburgh 24

Miami Preview and Prediction

Yikes. A loss to Liberty. If the loss to Wake wasn’t bad enough, this team goes down to one of the little brother programs in Virginia. To put this loss in perspective, Virginia Tech’s football budget is more than three times more than Liberty’s. Virginia Tech also paid Liberty to come to Blacksburg and hand them a loss. Ouch. It’s a bad look for this program. It’s going to be one of those losses like ODU that’s hard for the fan base to forget.

SP+ Rankings

Statistically, Miami doesn’t look like a Top Ten team. Their record looks like a lot of smoke and mirrors. But they do have an excellent quarterback in D’Eriq King. If Khalil Herbert is out, King will be the best football player on the field on Saturday. Miami’s offense looks a lot like Louisville’s and Liberty’s. Both gave the Hokies’s defense tons of trouble. And if I’m picking quarterbacks, D’Eriq King is the best out of the three the Hokies have faced the last three weeks. Slowing down this Miami offense will be a tall task for this defense. Watch for this stat on Saturday, the Hokies will need to try to keep King under 50 yards rushing …

With just about every game the Hokies play in this year, they are going to have to outscore the opposing offense in a shootout. They can’t count on the defense to get a lot of stops. If Khalil Herbert is back from his pulled hamstring, I like the Hokies chances. If he’s still out or limited, the Hokies will need to get other weapons involved in the offense. Like Raheem Blackshear, Tre Turner or James Mitchell. Hendon Hooker can’t do it all on his own.

After the Liberty game, I expect a bounce back game from the Hokies. The problem is, I’m not sure how bought in the team is this year. They started the season with a lot of fire against NC State and it seems like slowly it has faded as the year has gone. So, I’m not exactly sure what team we’re going to see on Saturday. No one needs a top ten win right now more than Justin Fuente. It might the cure for what ails him with the fan base. If Khalil Herbert is back, I see a very close game that could go either way. If he’s out, Miami wins by two scores. Let’s see what happens on Saturday. Let’s hope we see more fire out of this team after what happened last week.

Prediction: Miami 41, Virginia Tech 31

Liberty Preview and Prediction

When the Virginia Tech offense is humming they are tough to beat. Louisville’s impressive offense was able to put up 35 points on Tech’s defense but it wasn’t enough. The only team that has been able to foil this offensive attack is Wake Forest. But I’d argue it was the turnovers more than Wake’s defense.

SP+ Rankings

The Hokies are currently 14.5-point favorites over #25 ranked Liberty. 6-0 is 6-0. But it’s a questionable 6-0 against not exactly the toughest competition. Their opponents this season have a combined four wins. Yes, you read that right. They’ve played six teams who have COMBINED for four wins. Yikes! But they took it to Syracuse in the dome so it’s best not to overlook this team.

The Liberty offense looks pretty good. They look like a less talented version of Louisville. So the timing of this game looks good for the Hokies. Liberty has had success on the ground this year thanks to their quarterback, Malik Willis. Willis was a former VT commit who committed to go to Auburn and ended up at Liberty. He’s a good player who could be in the mix to start at many Power 5 schools. If the Hokies want to stop the Liberty offense, they will need to key in to stop Willis in the running game. The Liberty offense has put up some gaudy numbers this year. But they are hard to judged based on their level of competition.

Liberty’s defense looks good on paper but they’ve faced some of the worst offenses in FBS this year. So again, hard to judge. Liberty might be in for a rude awakening based on how good Tech’s running game is. They haven’t seen anything like it this season. Liberty will struggle with Tech’s outside run game and covering big-play receivers like Tre Turner and James Mitchell. Not to mention the speed of Tayvion Robinson. While they have a capable defense, they haven’t seen an offensive team like the Hokies this year.

This is an important game for Liberty. This is their first top 25 ranking in school history. We know whenever a non-Power 5 school in Virginia gets to play Virginia Tech, it’s a big deal for them. This is the game they’ve had circled on their calendar this year. If they weren’t ranked, I’d be more worried. That little number by their name means that they’ll get the Hokies full attention this week. Liberty will definitely put up some points this week, although they will struggle at times with Tech’s pass rush. Liberty will have A LOT of trouble with Tech’s ground game. Again, they haven’t seen a team that runs the ball as well as the Hokies. Liberty may keep it close in the first half but Tech will pull away in the 2nd half.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 45, Liberty 24

Midseason Awards and Outlook

This season is weird. There are 11 regular season games. And if there is a bowl game, there will be 12 games total. I thought it would make sense to do midseason awards after 6 games. With the hopes that the Hokies will play 12 games total this season.

Offensive MVP: Khalil Herbert

This is the easiest call in all the years I’ve been doing this. Imagine this team without Herbert. It’s not the same powerful offense. I still think it would be good. But it wouldn’t be as explosive. You can tell Herbert gets a lot of attention when he’s on the field. That opens the game up for everyone else. We haven’t seen that around here since David Wilson.

Honorable mention: Hendon Hooker, James Mitchell

Defensive MVP: Amare Barno

This one is a lot harder. Like a lot harder. First, let’s start by saying the defensive performance in the first half of the season hasn’t been good. But Barno has jumped off the screen when watching the Hokies. You can tell he is still a raw player but the natural ability is definitely there. He leads the team with 8.5 TFLs and is 2nd on the team with 3.5 sacks. The one thing this defense has done well is get after the quarterback and Barno is one of the big reasons why.

Honorable mention: Justus Reed, Divine Deablo

Special Teams MVP: Khalil Herbert

It’s that man again. One of the things that has driven me crazy in recent years is that there was no threat on kickoff returns. Tech would either start at their own 25 yard line or worse in terms of field position. Herbert gives this team the potential to take it to the house every single kick return.

Honorable mention: Oscar Bradburn, Brian Johnson

2nd Half Outlook:

The schedule gets a lot harder in the 2nd half of the season. The defense will need to show up otherwise a 2-3 finish isn’t out of the question. We’ve already seen their floor but how much better can they get? They looked good against Louisville outside of two horrific plays. They need to build on what they did the rest of the game. That was a good offense they held down most of the day.

On offense, RUN KHALIL HERBERT. It’s that simple. If he’s not getting 20+ carries a game, you’re doing something wrong. Easier said than done, but you need to get your best player involved in the gameplan. He needs to be the center point of this offense. If he’s not getting the ball, your letting the defense your facing off the hook.

Folks have been hard on the defense but I give them a pass. They had no spring practice. They have a new coaching staff and a new scheme. Not to mention they had a TON of players out during fall practice. And that’s on top of having guys out due to suspension, a leave of absence or injuries. That’s A LOT to deal with. The defense is making progress but we need to see more from them in the last 6 games.

This team will be bowl eligible. I’m not exactly sure what the criteria is or what bowl games will be played. But the Hokies will be there. I’d like to see the Tech finish with at least 7 wins in the regular season. I could feel good about that. I’d also like to see them beat UVA and play Clemson close. This is the weirdest season I can ever remember. So dialing expectations too high may be unrealistic. But I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far. This is an exciting offense and I hope we get to see a lot more offensive fireworks in the 2nd half of the season. And enjoy Khalil Herbert. We don’t get guys like him in Blacksburg very often.