Liberty vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

This week we have a guest contributor @DriftVT from Twitter writing this week’s preview.

Before we get into the preview, please consider giving to a GoFundMe to support the families affected by the shooting in Charlottesville this week: https://www.gofundme.com/c/act/uva-shooting-help

After back-to-back collapses against NC State and Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech was completely outmatched by the Duke Blue Devils this past weekend. A game that left most Virginia Tech fans feeling demoralized. It was a tough game to watch, as Virginia Tech took the lead to start the game, and failed to score again. Losing even against the spread which was 9.5 in favor of Duke.

Moving forward to this week, Virginia Tech is playing the best program in the state of Virginia, in Liberty. Hugh Freeze has built a winning G5 program, and he was recently signed to an extension keeping him at Liberty for years to come. Until the SEC gives him a ring.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 98th
Offense: 123rd
Defense: 48th
Special Teams: 82nd

Liberty

Overall: 73rd
Offense: 81st
Defense: 49th
Special Teams: 87th

In order for Virginia Tech to contain this Liberty offense, they will need to slow down Demario Douglas. From Jacksonville, FL, Demario has 830 yards this season on 56 catches, which is already a season high for him. He is a shifty mismatch nightmare for defenses to contain and it begs the question, who will Virginia Tech put on him? Usually in this scenario, Chamari Conner or DJ Harvey will cover the slot in man coverage. I’d expect to see more zone this week as I do not believe the staff will be comfortable playing man coverage against him all game. 

On the offensive side of the ball, the Hokies still look completely lost. Everything looks difficult and forced. At least we have been able to snap the ball without false starting every play, which has been about the only improvement. In terms of what works; well, nothing really, outside of throwing the ball downfield to Kaleb Smith. Virginia Tech will have to do whatever they can to score at least 20 points to keep this game within reach. And they’ll need the defense to gift them a turnover as well. 

There are quite a few fans calling for Tyler Bowen to be fired, and while I am completely uninspired by his performance this season, I don’t think he will be let go. I think Pry would like to keep the same staff heading into next season, hoping to learn and grow as a unit. While a new OC could help, I think it might be too soon to cut the cord. 

Up until after the Georgia Tech game, I had said on Twitter just how far one of these games would help recruiting in Virginia if Pry could squeak one or two out. We thought we had it with Miami, then NC State, and then Georgia Tech. If we get blown out this weekend, it will seriously damage the moral of the fanbase and all the buzz around the program. I really think a win here, while unlikely, could go a very long way in repairing some of the damage done by previous staff. Remember, it is a revenge game for the Hokies. 

Even with that being said, here’s my prediction:

Liberty 24, Virginia Tech 13

Duke vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

For the third time this season, the Hokies have collapsed at the end of a game. A game they should have had in hand and failed to put away. This is a trend that has been present for the last few years. It’s a losing mentality. When this team encounters any adversity, they fold like a cheap tent. There are reasons like talent and depth that this team wears out late in game. But that’s only part of the answer. The other part is a psychology of losing that this team can’t seem to kick.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 91st
Offense: 116th
Defense: 48th
Special Teams: 49th

Duke

Overall: 76th
Offense: 61st
Defense: 80th
Special Teams: 53rd

It’s been a while but Duke is good at football again. Mike Elko has done an awesome job of getting the most out of the roster he inherited from David Cutcliffe. This is what VT fans were hoping for from the Pry era but it appears that Duke had a more ready-made roster. Duke has a very good rushing offense that will give the Hokies trouble. Particularly rushing from the QB position. Expect the Hokies to play a lot of zone to try to keep the Duke running game in check. There will be a lot of rushing yards from Duke QB Riley Leonard, especially from read option plays.

Duke’s defense is vulnerable against the pass. Unfortunately, VT’s passing offense is not consistent enough to take advantage of it. The Hokies show flashes here and there in the passing game but it’s not enough. If there was a game where the Tech should focus on airing it out a bit, it’s this game. The Hokies should focus on targeting Kaleb Smith, Dae’Quan Wright and Nick Gallo downfield. This is also a good opportunity for guys like Da’Wain Lofton and Stephen Gosnell to step up in the passing game. The Hokies won’t be able to score much in this game from their run-based offense. They will need some downfield throws to move the ball against a stout Duke defense.

It seems like everything has been a struggle for the Hokies this season. Do they have a chance in this game? Of course. But Duke seems like they are firing on all cylinders based on their roster. Tech is still trying to figure things out. The best thing for Tech to do is forget all the negative plays and bad energy and focus on going 1-0. This team has the talent to win but they need to put a complete game together. There are only three more opportunities to get that done this year. Let’s see if they can finish the season strong.

Prediction: Duke 31, Virginia Tech 17

Georgia Tech vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

That NC State loss was a tough one to swallow. Virginia Tech did what they needed to do to win but couldn’t close the deal. After NC State scored their first touchdown, the Hokies went into expect-to-lose mode. That game felt like a carryover from the Fuente era. We have seen more than a few games play out like that over the last few years. This program has a losing culture right now. They need to start changing that mentality if they want to move forward and build a winning program again.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 91st
Offense: 117th
Defense: 49th
Special Teams: 49th

Georgia Tech

Overall: 97th
Offense: 106th
Defense: 83rd
Special Teams: 89th

Grant Wells should be able to make plays against Georgia Tech’s secondary. The Hokies offense just needs to avoid being one-dimensional. Running into the interior of the line over and over again will not work. The Hokies need to open up their passing attack and press the edges of the defense with outside runs. VT should try more misdirection and read options. Right now, the offense is just to easy to read for defenses. The Hokies also need to try to get the ball in the hands of Keshawn King and Bryce Duke in open space. Whether it be via outside runs or quick screen passes. They were far too predictable on offense against NC State.

This game will come down to whether Jeff Sims is healthy enough to play and be effective. The Georgia Tech offense is much better with him behind center. Even if Jeff Sims is available, the Georgia Tech offense hasn’t had much to write home about this year. Like the Hokies, they are one of the worst Power 5 offenses in the nation. They run the ball a little better than they throw it but they are not really good at either. This is where the Hokies’ defense should have a significant advantage.

This game represents the Hokies best chance of getting a win the rest of the season. If the defense plays well and can limit the GT offense, I see the Hokies having a good chance to win. If Jeff Sims shows up and is healthy, he’s the best player on the field and could be the difference. All things being equal, the Hokies will put enough together on offense and defense to squeak a victory. I hope they find a way to play more than one quarter of offense this week.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 28, Georgia Tech 21

NC State vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

The Hokies offense caught fire in the fourth quarter against Miami. Does that mean they’ve turned the corner? We don’t know yet. Sometimes a good quarter means something and sometimes it doesn’t mean anything at all. The Hokies will need to build on that fourth quarter if they have any hope of beating a good NC State team.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 88th
Offense: 115th
Defense: 41st
Special Teams: 30th

NC State

Overall: 41st
Offense: 82nd
Defense: 12th
Special Teams: 25th

The key mismatch in this game is the NC State defense vs the Virginia Tech offense. It’s big-time strength vs big-time weakness. The Hokies struggle to move the ball against bad defenses and I’d call NC State’s defense a very good one. The Hokies looked like they were turning the corner against Miami but the Wolfpack defense could set them back to square one. The Hokies will have to get creative to try to move the ball against this defense. Running into the interior of the line over and over again is not going to work. They need to incorporate some misdirection and get their running backs out in space if they want to have success this week.

NC State is missing QB Devin Leary but it won’t matter. Virginia Tech’s defense is good enough to keep VT in the game. However, the NC State offense will not have to do much to get a win. The Hokies offense will not be able to move the ball very much against the ‘Pack defense. So if the ‘Pack are able to score more than 10, it might be game over for the Hokies.

These teams are mirror images of each other but NC State does everything that VT does but better. This NC State team reminds me a lot of how VT would play back in the day. The offense didn’t have to score much for the Hokies to win. They could rely on a turnover and short field to put some points on the board. Expect a low-scoring affair that may drop below the O/U of 40 — which is already pretty low. I expect for NC State to turn a couple of short fields into points. It won’t be a pretty game and NC State should find a way to put it away by a couple of scores.

Prediction: NC State 24, Virginia Tech 10

Miami vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

We saw some real improvement against Pitt. The offense scored some points. They were able to run the ball. And they were competitive into the 4th quarter. Can they do it again? Can this team hold up for a full 60 minutes? This team has been pretty good at taking games into the 4th quarter but that’s where things fall apart. Is it talent? Is it depth? Is it injuries? I’m not sure we know yet but it’s something that needs to get fixed if they Hokies want to chalk up more wins this season.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 86th
Offense: 118th
Defense: 44th
Special Teams: 30th

Miami

Overall: 54th
Offense: 48th
Defense: 61st
Special Teams: 18th

Miami’s passing offense has been very good against some bad defenses this season. They got tested against Texas A&M and only managed 9 points. Virginia Tech has had a good pass defense and the Hokies’ front seven should be able to get stops. Having Alan Tisdale return should be a nice boost to this defense this week.

Miami has stout defensive line that does not allow a lot of rushing yards. If the Hokies want to move the ball it’ll have to be through the air. The Hokies’ receivers need to be able to win one-on-one battles with Miami’s defensive backs. The Canes’ linebackers are great run stuffers but not as great in coverage. This would be a good game for the Hokies to use their tights ends and crossing routes in the pass game.

The Hokies defense should hold up pretty well against Miami’s offense. It would help to have Dorian Strong back but even if he’s not, they should hold their own. I’m more worried about the Hokies offense against Miami’s defense. Miami has the ability to make Tech one-dimensional. I don’t trust the Hokies’ passing attack in that situation. The Hokies will need some semblance of a run game to help their pass game be effective. This will be a close game and Miami slows down the Hokies offense enough to pull it out in the end.

Prediction: Miami 28, Virginia Tech 21

Pittsburgh vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

The offense has been bad for two straight weeks against not-so-great defenses. I respect that Brent Pry wants to instill his culture but he also has to find a way to make the offense work. In the first half, the Hokies put together a couple of nice drives (see the video tweets below). Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep up that level of consistency throughout the game. But you can see glimpses of an offense that is maybe starting to put things together.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 87th
Offense: 118th
Defense: 35th
Special Teams: 30th

Pittsburgh

Overall: 45th
Offense: 22nd
Defense: 76th
Special Teams: 121st

Pittsburgh has an efficient offense. Not as good as WVU or UNC’s but still pretty solid. Like those two teams, they are well balanced running and passing the ball. They have a running back to can pick up big chunk plays and a quarterback who doesn’t make many mistakes. A lot like WVU, this is an offense that can nickle and dime you all the way downfield. The Hokies defense will need to find ways to get off the field on third down. They held up well for three quarters against West Virginia. Now, they’ll to find a way to do it for 60 minutes — with a little help from the offense.

This looks like a traditional Pitt defense. Good not great. They are good at defending the pass and not as good at defending the run. With VT’s run blocking I’m not sure that matters much. Teams with good offenses have had success against this defense. Even Georgia Tech’s putrid offense was able to put up 26 points on Pitt. That might be an outlier but still, this defense has it’s weaknesses. It’s all a matter of if the Hokies can exploit any of them.

I’ve started to go into how-many-points-will-Tech-lose-by mode. For me, it’s less about wins and losses this year and more about showing improvement week-to-week. The defense is about what I expected. The offense is far worse than I expected. But teams rarely stay exactly the same all year long. There are ebbs and flows. I’m hoping as the weeks go by, we start seeing some more life from this offense. Until then, I’m in wait-and-see mode. I’m not going to pick Tech to score more than 10 points in a P5 game until they prove they can.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 33, Virginia Tech 10

North Carolina Preview and Prediction

That WVU game did not go as expected. The Hokies defense kept VT in the game for three quarters but the offense couldn’t get anything going. Tech’s offenses failures took its toll on the defense and WVU ran away with the game in the 4th quarter. If the Hokies want to remain competitive in ACC play, they will need to get better play from their offense. If they can’t, there may not be many more wins on the schedule.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 79th
Offense: 119th
Defense: 23rd
Special Teams: 29th

North Carolina

Overall: 67th
Offense: 10th
Defense: 113th
Special Teams: 10th

North Carolina is an elite offensive team. They rank 6th in the nation in passing efficiency and 8th in scoring offense. Drake Maye has picked up right where Sam Howell left off without missing a beat. This is one of the most dangerous offenses in the country. They show balance running and throwing the ball. They look like a better version of West Virginia on offense. The Hokies’ defense showed well against WVU for three quarters until they wore out in the 4th. Tech needs some help from their offense to keep the UNC offense off the field. They can’t continue to go three and out on every drive. The Hokies are going to have to make a couple of plays on Saturday to keep their own defense off the field.

The Hokies running game was anemic vs WVU. They could not get anything going. They rushed for 1.9 yards per carry on 18 rushing attempts. That’s not going to cut in against P5 opponents. The run blocking has been a mess all season and doesn’t appear to be improving. This is a group that needs to turn the corner, otherwise the VT offense will be stuck in the mud all season. We will need to see some improvements from that group starting this week. Joe Rudolph is known for being a great offensive line coach, so the hope is that group will improve over time. North Carolina has one of the worst defenses in the nation. The Hokies will need to find a way to put some points on the board this week. Tech is going to need Grant Wells to be more accurate with his passes. The UNC defense has been known to give up the big play. Grant Wells will need to be able to connect on his passes when his receivers find space in the secondary.

North Carolina is averaging 46.5 points per game. Their lowest scoring output was against Notre Dame last week and they still put up 32 points. The Hokies will need to be able to score into the 30s to win this game. The cannot expect another 17-10 game like last year. If the Hokies aren’t able to run the ball, they are going to be in BIG trouble this week. Tyler Bowen and Joe Rudolph are going to have to figure out a way to get their running backs the ball in space. They can’t continue to run into the line for less than 2 yards per carry. If the Hokies can’t find a way to run the ball like they did against Boston College, it’s going to be a long day for the Tech defense. If there is a lot of rain in the forecast, bet the under.

Prediction: North Carolina 35, Virginia Tech 24

West Virginia Preview and Prediction

There was nothing pretty about that win over Wofford. It felt like we were watching the Spring Game on replay. Everything was very vanilla on offense. The Hokies were not able to and impose their will on an FCS team, but that’s where the Hokies are at this point. Tech needs to get back to a place where they can dominate teams from the FCS.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 61st
Offense: 106th
Defense: 19th
Special Teams: 18th

West Virginia

Overall: 58th
Offense: 42nd
Defense: 72nd
Special Teams: 56th

West Virginia has put up a lot of yards and a lot of points through three games. They are averaging 46 points per game. This is a balanced offense that has moved the ball very well this season. They have a big back who can pound the ball and a quarterback who completes a high percentage of his passes. Even if the Hokies are able to stop the run, this is an offense that can dink and dunk all the way down field. For the first time this year, the Hokies will tested by an offense that can go down field in the passing game. JT Daniels is a dangerous passer and the Hokies secondary needs to be ready.

If there is an area where the Hokies can have success it’s against West Virginia’s pass defense. This is a game where Grant Wells will need to take care of the ball and find targets downfield. He will need to get help from Kaleb Smith, Jaden Blue and Christian Moss. The Hokies need to keep WVU from stacking the box against the run game. Grant Wells will need to make them defend the whole field by throwing passes beyond ten yards. If the ‘Eers are able to stack the box, it’ll be a long night for the Hokies.

This has a big-game feel. The Hokies so far have been a bit of a roller coaster. They looked bad against ODU. Good against Boston College. And they didn’t show much at all against Wofford. The Hokies definitely have some weapons, but can they be consistent? These look like two even matched teams. This is one of those games where the team who makes the fewest mistakes (penalties, turnovers) will win. The Hokies need to hope that Grant Wells has turned the corner from his turnover issues in week 1. WVU’s defensive backs will make him pay on bad throws. On a neutral field, I’d pick WVU. But I’m betting on some old school Lane Stadium Thursday night magic.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, West Virginia 21

Wofford vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

The Hokies picked up their first win of the Brent Pry era. They needed that win bad. Getting a home win is what this team and fan base needed. That first game in Norfolk was a little rough on everyone associated with this program. The improvement from week 1 to week 2 looked good. The team needs to continue to build on that — particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 65th
Offense: 98th
Defense: 30th
Special Teams: 43rd

Wofford (FCS rankings)

Overall: 70th
Offense: 102nd
Defense: 44th

The Mike Young Bowl. A couple of years ago when Wofford was running the triple option, this could’ve been a dangerous game. But the Wofford offense has fallen on hard times. This offense has yet to score a point this season. You read that right. That’s two shut outs in two consecutive games by FCS opponents. Based on this week’s Q&A, Wofford’s issues in their football program run deep. Makes the Fuente era at Tech look tame by comparison.

The Hokies need to focus on coming out of the gate fast. This game has slow start written all over it. An 11am kickoff coming off a big conference win is a recipe for a slow start. Tech needs to show this is a new era where each game is important and they come out focused and ready. This is a game that should be over by halftime but as the Justin Fuente era taught us, things don’t always go to plan. The best game plan this week would be to focus on running the ball. Score a couple of quick touchdowns then work out some issues in the passing game in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. If all goes to plan, then get the second team in for the 2nd half.

Here are the Hokies’ last two outings vs FCS opponents:

2019: Virginia Tech 24, Furman 17
2021: Virginia Tech 21, Richmond 10

I’m not one for style points, I’d usually tell you a win is a win. But this week this offense HAS to score more than 24 points. That’s not to say I’m advocating running up the score on an over-matched Wofford team. But this team needs to show they can score points against an FCS defense. This offense isn’t good enough to take any opponent for granted. This is a good opportunity to get some good reps in against a solid FCS defense. Tech would be wise to not let this opportunity get passed them.

What I am looking for on Saturday is a good start. If Tech still has zero points after the first quarter, that would be disappointing. The Hokies need to establish the run game. They should be able to run the ball with relative ease. The best game plan this week would be to focus on running the ball. Score a couple of quick touchdowns then work out some issues in the passing game in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. If all goes to plan, then get the second team in for the 2nd half. The goal here is to put the game away by halftime and let the reserves play in the 2nd half. Watching the Hokies show up focused for an FCS opponent would be an improvement from the Fuente era. I would also like to see Wofford score their first points of the season this week. Unfortunately, I don’t see it happening.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 38, Wofford 0

Boston College vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

Brent Pry’s first game as head coach did not go as planned. It’s frustrating but it was a weird football game. Turnovers, penalties, and some questionable penalty calls. I’m not making excuses but the stats say Virginia Tech should have won that game more often than not. Either way, the Hokies have some things to cleanup and that starts this week.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 69th
Offense: 100th
Defense: 35th
Special Teams: 43rd

Boston College

Overall: 76th
Offense: 108th
Defense: 43rd
Special Teams: 106th

As bad as the Hokies losing to ODU was, Boston College didn’t exactly have a great week either. They dropped their first game to Rutgers after accumulating only 29 yards rushing. Phil Jurkovec also threw for 2 interceptions. The Hokies are going to need to keep Boston College one-dimensional again this week. They will also have to stop Jurkovec’s favorite target, Zay Flowers. Doesn’t is feel like he has been at Boston College for the last ten years? He’s a talented wide receiver and one that will look to do some damage on Saturday. If the rain in the forecast holds, that may slow down BC’s passing offense.

The Hokies offense had a multitude of issues on Friday. They took penalties. They turned the ball over. And the passing game did not look in sync at all. Those all appear correctable but one week isn’t a lot of time. My biggest concern last week was the wide receivers not finding any separation. This offense will not work with only running backs and tight ends. Outside of an injured Kaleb Smith someone else is going to need to step up. Unfortunately, this offense doesn’t have a ton of time to figure it out. This will need to be a learn-on-the-job moment for the Hokies young wide receivers. Grant Wells needs more targets to throw to.

One positive on Friday was that the running game worked pretty well. Keshawn King ran for over 100 yards and averaged 5.8 yards per carry. If he can handle the load, the Hokies would be wise to feed him the football on Saturday. Boston College gave up 212 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns to Rutgers on the ground. The Hokies need to pound the rock while they figure out their issues in the pass game. Grant Wells also looked pretty good passing out of play action last week. A strong running game benefits the passing game. This offense would be wise to establish the run early and often.

The Hokies aren’t as bad as they looked on Friday. They still have a lot to clean up but there were the signs of what could be areas of strength. The defense looked very good. The run game looked good. The issues were penalties and turnovers. If the Hokies can clean those up and continue to play stout defense, they should be in good shape. A return to Lane Stadium comes at a good time against a beatable Boston College team. But first the Hokies need to show that they’ve cleaned up some of their issues from last week. If not, it could be a long season. Hammer the under.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, Boston College 20

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