First and goal. Three yard line. Two minutes remaining. Down six. Hokies can’t punch it in. That’s all you need to know about the WVU game. Hokies couldn’t get out of their own way and tossed away a chance to get a big road win. The game wasn’t the disaster that some are making it out to be, but the red zone offense is a concern moving forward.
Overall: 15th (FCS)
Offense: 100th (FCS)
Defense: 4th (FCS)
Richmond’s defense presents a good challenge to a struggling Virginia Tech offense. This group has some size. This is a solid group from the FCS. Normally, in these kinds of games you keep the ball on the ground and keep the clock moving. But after last week, Tech’s passing game could use some reps. This might be a good opportunity to air it out and let the quarterback and receivers get into a rhythm.
Virginia Tech’s defense should feast on the Richmond offense. This is not an explosive offense. Tech has generally done a good job at stopping the run this year. Tech’s talented secondary could pose some problems when Richmond decides to throw. Expect Richmond to have to go to the air if they want to move the ball on the Hokies defense.
Can Virginia Tech lose to Richmond? Yes, but don’t count on it. FCS teams beat FBS teams from time to time. But usually it’s a bad FBS team going against an above average FCS teams. Or a brutally bad performance from a good FBS team. The Virginia Tech team that lost to JMU ended up in the Orange Bowl that season. It happens. But it’s pretty rare.
Use this game as a tune up before Notre Dame. The Hokies need to get out of this game with a win then go into a bye week before Notre Dame. That’s a good opportunity to rest up and get healthy before a big non-conference game at home. If Notre Dame can get through the next two weeks without a loss, that would set up for a big matchup.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 35, Richmond 7
Getting through a classic trap game is an accomplishment. Sometimes you gotta get the W and move on to the next game. After a sleepy first half, the offense and defense got in gear and put the game away in the third quarter. This week will be a much tougher challenge as the Hokies go on the road for a rivalry game.
Special Teams: 75th
Special Teams: 46th
The West Virginia defense has been very good at causing chaos this year. They rank 2nd in the nation in tackles for loss. They are a disruptive group that creates havoc in the backfield. This is a game where the Vice Squad will need to keep WVU defenders out of the backfield and provide space in the running game.
Virginia Tech has been winning the turnover battle thru two games. They need to keep that going. A road trip to Morgantown is the wrong time to start turning the ball over. The Hokies need to keep possessions on offense and create turnovers on defense.
West Virginia ain’t played nobody. They lost a close game to Maryland on the road. Maryland is a team that won three games in 2019 and two games in 2020 in a shortened five-game season. West Virginia did beat Long Island University 66-0. I didn’t know that school existed until this past weekend. And they’ve only been a Division I football program since 2019. So it’s kinda hard to judge West Virginia based on who they’ve played.
Can the Hokies go into a hostile environment and win? This isn’t a road trip to Wake Forest or Duke. The folks at West Virginia have been waiting for this game for a long time. Our players need to be ready for a very hostile atmosphere. I don’t like this game as the Hokies first trip on the road this year. It’s good that it’s a noon game but I still have concerns about whether this team is ready to handle that atmosphere.
Prepare for a three-and-a-half hour stomach ache. This is going to be a sloppy game with negative plays and turnovers. Both team’s defenses are ahead of their offenses. Also watch out for big plays on special teams. Both teams are capable of breaking a game open with a special teams play. VT is the better team. I worry A LOT about the Hokies going into a hostile road atmosphere for the first time. I spent most of the week thinking I’d pick WVU, but the Hokies will find a way to pull it out.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 23, West Virginia 20
A top ten win is what this program needed. Since the end of the 2019 season there has been a going-thru-the-motions feel to this program. Friday night seemed like a boost at the right time. What has been missing in past years is making a big win like this count by continuing the momentum. Andy Bitter did a great job of cataloging the games after a big win in his article in The Athletic this week:
2016: Beat No. 17 North Carolina 34-3, lost to Syracuse 31-17
2018: Beat No. 19 Florida State 24-3, lost to Old Dominion 49-35 in next FBS game
2018: Beat No. 22 Duke 31-14, lost to No. 6 Notre Dame 45-23
And that’s just in the Fuente era. VT has not been great about dealing with success when it comes. This week, the team needs to take on Justin Fuente’s 1-0 mentality and be ready to play.
Special Teams: 79th
Special Teams: 91st
Former NC State quarterback Bailey Hockman is the quarterback for MTSU. Hockman had trouble last time he came to Blacksburg. I’m sure it was a particularly bad performance for him. But I also don’t think he’s looking forward to his return to Blacksburg.
Middle Tennessee appears over-matched size-wise. The Hokies should be able to win the battle in the trenches against an undersized opponent. I will say VT has lost matchups against undersized opponents before, but this time feels different. I’m taking the Vice Squad and this upgraded D-line over the guys at Middle Tennessee.
Focus. Focus. Focus. Can’t sleepwalk through this game. After the win against UNC, I saw casual college football fans on Twitter saying “let’s see them lose to MTSU next week.” This is what fans expect from this program now. A big win followed by a heartbreaking loss the next week. This program needs to end that narrative and take care of business. On paper, this looks like a game that should be over by halftime.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 34, Middle Tennessee 13
It’s been awhile since the Hokies had a big win at home. This squad needs some momentum going into the 2021 season after a losing campaign last year. Nothing would jump start the season like a top ten win at home over a division rival.
Justin Fuente usually does his best work early in the season. In 2017, his team beat WVU at FedEx Field in a big season opener on Labor Day weekend. In 2018, his team beat FSU in Tallahassee in another big-time showcase game on Labor Day. Even last year, his team took a pretty good NC State team to the woodshed in the first game of the season. All this to say, Justin Fuente usually has his guys ready to go early in the season.
Sam Howell is one of the best quarterbacks in college football. He may even be a top-ten pick in next year’s NFL draft. He’s that good. Looking at the matchups, Sam Howell has a solid advantage both in the QB matchup and also against VT’s secondary. He should have room to work across the middle with VT’s new linebackers and safeties. Watch early in the game how VT’s defense defends the middle of the field.
UNC has a talented and experienced defense, which should give the Hokies offense some trouble. This is a better group than the one the Hokies put up 45 points against last season. While the Hokies should be able to move the ball against this defense, they will get their share of stops throughout the game. North Carolina has a talented group on that side of the ball.
If the Hokies hope to have success, they need to stop the run. If the Hokies let the Heels get going on the ground, it’s going to be a long night. If they can stop the run and force Howell into 3rd and long, they should have some success keeping UNC from running up a lot of points.
The Hokies have a real shot in this game. They are catching UNC at the right time and Lane Stadium should be rockin’. But as we’ve all learned when the Hokies play against ranked opponents, it usually comes down to who has the better talent on the field. The Hokies will hold their own and keep the game close going into the 4th quarter. But Sam Howell and the UNC offense will prove too much and take the game with a late touchdown in the 4th quarter.
Prediction: North Carolina 35, Virginia Tech 28