Category Archives: Preview

Delaware Preview and Prediction

Hokies were finally able to get a long-awaited win at FedEx Field. Feels even sweeter that it came against WVU. Losing to those guys would’ve be unbearable. Justin Fuente has done a good job of ending frustrating losing streaks since he got here – ECU, Duke, Miami, Pitt and neutral sites games. Now the Hokies hope to build off a big win in front of a national audience.

Former Liberty and Richmond head coach Danny Rocco is the head coach at Delaware. He takes over a program that went 4-7 last season. Rocco should be familiar with the Hokies from his time in Virginia. Not to mention his nephew, Michael Rocco, used to be the starting quarterback at UVA. So yeah, he’s familiar with the Hokies.

Delaware’s strength is on the defensive side of the ball. But they have not faced a difficult test yet this season. Their first game was against Delaware State. Delaware State is a team that went 0-11 in 2016. Delaware runs a 3-4 and fields a defense full of upperclassmen. They should give the Hokies a test but one that the starters should be able to overcome.

Where Delaware struggles is on the offensive side of the ball. Their quarterback, Joe Walker, has struggled much of his career. He is hoping for better results under a new head coach. Expect the Blue Hens to try to move the ball on the ground against the Hokies defense. Their starting running back is named Thomas Jefferson. You can’t make this stuff up. Start thinking up your clever tweets now. If Delaware gets the ball in the end zone, it’ll likely be against the backups.

The Hokies are in the tough position of trying to refocus after a big win and a short week. My guess is that the Blue Hens will not get the Hokies A-game on Saturday. But their B or C-level game is still good enough to win this game going away. I hope the Hokies show up with Justin Fuente’s 1-0 mentality. They need to take care of business early so some of the backups can get some much needed work. It will be important to build depth as the season goes on. It’s a good week to go 1-0.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 45, Delaware 10

Advertisements

West Virginia Preview and Prediction

I don’t like West Virginia. They are my least favorite college football team. That feeling goes back to the games between the Hokies and WVU in the early 2000’s. I am not a fan of their program or their fans. But playing them is what makes college football great. Evenly matched teams. Passionate fan bases. And a rivalry that matters to both sides. It’s sad that this rivalry had to take a 12 year hiatus but a break was needed.

It’s strange to dive back into this rivalry. If you were a freshman in 2005, you’d be 30 now. Safe to say there are a lot of Hokies that don’t remember this rivalry – which might be a good thing. The football part of the rivalry made for some exciting games. The animosity in the stands was not healthy for either school. We’ll see where we’re at on Sunday. I hope both fan bases have had some time to reflect and gain some perspective in the last 12 years.

Projected S&P+ Rankings for 2017:

Virginia Tech: 25th
West Virginia: 69th

Will Grier has proven that he can be an effective Power 5 quarterback. He has a nice resume dating back to his time at Florida. The VT secondary is the strength of the defense. Which makes me think that WVU will focus on Grier’s running ability. I have seen countless games where a running quarterback gives a Bud Foster defense fits. I imagine WVU will lean on the ground game instead of throwing into the teeth of the Hokies’ defense.

The left side of the West Virginia offensive line does not bring back a lot of experience. They are going to struggle to keep Virginia Tech’s starting defensive line off of Will Grier. This is why I’d expect to see WVU to lean on the running game in this game. They would be smart to keep the ball on the ground.

I’m worried about the Hokies offense getting off to a slow start. I like the individual pieces on the offense but I’m worried about them getting into a groove in the first game of the season. It’s like the Tennessee game last year. The individual pieces on offense were there but they did not come together in time for the Battle at Bristol. I could see something similar happening in this game. The defense is going to have to carry the load in this one.

What’s giving me the most confidence in this matchup is the VT coaching staff vs the WVU coaching staff. I have a lot of confidence in our guys compared to theirs. It’s a mismatch and that mismatch will show itself on the field. Bud Foster has not forgotten about this rivalry. An angry Bud Foster is a great Bud Foster.

At first, I was thinking the Hokies would win this game by around 10 points. The new offensive pieces and the FedEx Field factor make me a little nervous. But I still think the Hokies are the better team. This game is like the last game preview I wrote for the Belk Bowl – it’ll be a close game but I like the Hokies to win it. This is a great week to go 1-0.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, West Virginia 24

2017 Virginia Tech Season Preview

Justin Fuente had a great debut going 10-4 in his first season. This included wins over Coastal division rivals Miami, Pitt and UNC. He also brought back order to the ECU series with a resounding victory. Then he took the Hokies back to the ACC Championship Game for the first time since 2011. There they took the eventual National Champions to the final possession. Pretty good first season all things considered.

For all that Fuente did well in 2016, it will be challenging to repeat or exceed the same level of success in 2017. The Hokies will have a new quarterback and have to replace three of their top four receiving targets from 2016.  This will be a season where the Hokies will have to lean on the defensive side of the ball to have success. We’ve seen this story before.

Offense

Joshua Jackson should be a solid QB for the Hokies. He was close to playing himself into the starting job as a true freshman last year. Justin Fuente likes him because he makes good decisions. He is the type of quarterback who will make the correct read on each play and not turn the ball over. That is very important to Fuente’s offense. Joshua Jackson is the type of quarterback that Fuente has liked in the past. If he had the same supporting cast as Jerod Evans had, I could see him putting up similar numbers. Unfortunately, Isaiah Ford, Bucky Hodges and Sam Rogers are no longer around.

Healthy bodies at the running back position will also help Joshua Jackson. Last season, the Hokies had to rely on Travon McMillian, Sam Rogers and Steven Peoples. The other running backs on the roster were nursing injuries or off-the-field issues. This year McMillian returns along with Deshawn McClease, Peoples and newcomer Jalen Holston. It’s good to have healthy and capable options to choose from in the running game. You should see rushing yards from scrimmage improve from that position group. A lot of that will come from read-option plays like we saw last year.

Look for Cam Phillips to have a huge year as the Hokies’ primary pass catcher. I’m expecting him to be first or second team All-ACC this year. He should see around the same amount of targets as Isaiah Ford did last year. Phillip Patterson and Eric Kumah should fill that 2nd receiver role on the outside. They lack experience but will get better as the year goes on. There are a variety of options in the slot like CJ Carroll, Henri Murphy, Hezekiah Grimsley and Sean Savoy. This inexperienced group will need to step up for the Hokies to have an effective offense.

Defense

On defense, the Hokies should be stout. This is a defense that could be better than last year’s group which finished 18th in total defense. The Hokies have a talented secondary. They also boast one of the most experienced group of linebackers in the country. The biggest question mark is on the defensive line where there is not much experience or depth. The Hokies will need some young players step up.

The defensive line returns four players with starting experience. The starting line features Vinny Mihota, Trevon Hill, Tim Settle and Ricky Walker. While all have enough talent to be front line starters, the depth behind them is full of unknowns. The good news is that the Hokies have a lot young players to choose from. In previous seasons, the Hokies have been able to work with lineups like this. A mix of experienced starters and inexperienced backups. They need to make sure to avoid the injury bug. That would cause major issues for this position group.

For the first time in a long time, the Hokies linebackers are a major strength. They are one of the most talented and experienced groups in the ACC. Andrew Motuapuaka was third team All-ACC and a statistical leader in the conference. Tremaine Edmunds was second team All-ACC and could choose to leave early for the NFL at season’s end. That leaves Mook Reynolds, who was one of the best hybrid linebackers in the conference in 2016. And came on strong at the end of last season. This is an elite group and one of the best in the ACC.

No surprise the secondary is full of talent. This is DBU after all. The corner position will cycle between Brandon Facyson, Greg Stroman and Adonis Alexander. Terrell Edmunds and Reggie Floyd will split duties at the safety positions. Add in all-everything true freshman Devon Hunter who can step in and provide support. This is a talented unit.

Special Teams

Special teams went back to being special under James Shibest. #Shibestball became a thing in 2016. I look forward to more special teams plays like the fake punt he drew up against Clemson last season. Joey Slye is back to boom the ball on kickoffs and be very accurate inside 50 yards on field goals. He has one last chance to prove he can make those 50 yarders. New Aussie punter Oscar Bradburn has a canon for a leg but he will need to adjust to American football. I wouldn’t expect a huge drop-off in the punting game. I think the Hokies should be able to win the field position battle in most games. I would also expect big things from Greg Stroman in the return game. He already has 2 career punt return touchdowns. It would be surprising if he didn’t add to that this year.

2017 Outlook

The good news for the Hokies is that the Coastal division is full of teams with question marks. Only UVA and Duke return their quarterbacks from last year. The team that is able to re-load the best on offense is the team that will win the division.

One of the Hokies biggest challenges this year, is to win all the games they should win. Last year, the Hokies should have beaten Tennessee, Syracuse and Georgia Tech. At the end of the season, the Hokies were statistically better than those three teams but they stumbled when they played them. The Hokies will look for more consistency this season. But it will be difficult with so many new faces on offense.

* Key games for the Hokies: Clemson, at Miami, at Georgia Tech

Date Opponent Prediction
Sun, Sep 3 West Virginia W
Sat, Sep 9 Delaware W
Sat, Sep 16 @ East Carolina W
Sat, Sep 23 Old Dominion W
Sat, Sep 30 Clemson* L
Sat, Oct 7 @ Boston College W
Sat, Oct 21 UNC W
Sat, Oct 28 Duke W
Sat, Nov 4 @ Miami FL* L
Sat, Nov 11 @ Georgia Tech* L
Sat, Nov 18 Pittsburgh W
Fri, Nov 24 @ Virginia W

Final Regular Season Record: 9-3 (5-3 ACC)
Expected finish: 2nd in Coastal Division
Final Regular Season Ranking: 19th
Predicted Bowl Game: TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, FL

TaxSlayer_Bowl_Logo_2014-Closed-PNG

Belk Bowl Preview and Prediction

The Hokies had a strong showing in the ACC Championship Game against Clemson. They took the Tigers to the final possession. You can tell that the Hokies are close to taking the next step. They may just be a year or two away. Closing strong in recruiting would go a long way towards getting this program to the next level.

The Belk Bowl. It is not a warm weather bowl but a good bowl nonetheless. If the ACCCG had been in Charlotte, I think the Hokies would have gone to Orlando instead. Either way, the Hokies benefit considering Charlotte is only 175 miles from Blacksburg. And within a 6-hour drive for most Hokies. You should see a big contingent of orange and maroon in Charlotte.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 24th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 50th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 20th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 44th

Arkansas

Overall S&P+ ranking: 53rd
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 40th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 76th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 47th

Arkansas reminds me a lot of Pitt. They have a bend but don’t break defense and strong running game. Their offense line is huge! This looks like the type of team that can run it at will on you. Like to the tune of 5 yards per carry. If they get in a groove early, they may be difficult to stop. Particularly with a new starter at defense end (Trevon Hill).

The Arkansas run game also sets up the play action pass down the field. Arkansas leads the SEC in pass yards per play. The run game can lull you to sleep while they go over the top. This is traditionally a scheme that has given the Hokies trouble over the years (see Pitt, GT).

Lucky for the Hokies, Arkansas does not have a running threat from the quarterback. The Hokies will need to focus on stopping the run to make the Razorback offense one dimensional.

On offense, the Hokies should be able to move the ball against the Arkansas defense. The Hokies spread rush attack combined with quarterback runs should have success. The Razorbacks are a little better at stopping the passing game but struggle on defense. It is critical that the Hokies take a lead early. They cannot play from behind in this game. If they do, the Arkansas running game can bludgeon them for long drives.

This is a tough game to pick. On paper, the Hokies are the better team. Offenses are pretty even. Hokies have a sizeable advantage on the defensive side of the ball. I’m concerned about motivation though. Hokies had a good season and played well in the ACC Championship Game. They are feeling good about themselves. Arkansas took a bad loss to Missouri in their last game and they are the underdogs in this game. They may have the advantage in the intangibles. They have more to play for than the Hokies do.

The Hokies are 1-6 in their last seven games against the SEC. They need to start winning games vs the big boys. This game is important for perception and for getting the Hokies back to winning 10 games a season. I think Justin Fuente will have this team prepared and ready to go. If they start the game well, I think they will be in good shape. But if they get down early, watch out. It could be a long day. I think this game will be like the Pitt game earlier in the year and the Hokies are able to pull it out in the end.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 37, Arkansas 30

ACC Championship Game Preview and Prediction

Hokies took care of business in a big way against UVA. There were some who had serious discussions last year about which school had the better hire. I think the early returns are pretty lopsided. At this point it seems like both programs are going in very different directions.

The Hokies are back to the ACC Championship Game for the first time since 2011. That’s a big deal in Justin Fuente’s first season as head coach. The Hokies are “ahead of schedule” as the experts like to say. I expected a 6-6 season this year because it’s difficult to go through a coaching change. I guess when it’s as smooth as Virginia Tech’s was, it’s not so difficult after all.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 27th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 58th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 16th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 50th

Clemson

Overall S&P+ ranking: 4th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 8th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 6th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 77th

Clemson is a beast. They deserve their #3 College Football Playoff ranking. This team is loaded on both sides of the ball. They don’t have many weaknesses. The Hokies are good but the Tigers are great. It’ll take the Hokies A+ game to knock off the Tigers.

Clemson has NFL talent all over the field. Everyone on the offensive side of the ball stands a good chance of being drafted in the next couple of years. Same with the defense except for maybe one or two players. Remember a lot of the names from the Clemson roster, because you’ll be hearing those names in the NFL in the coming years.

Are you tired of me fawning over Clemson yet? Me too. Where are Clemson’s weaknesses? Their turnover margin is not particularly good. When Deshaun Watson does throw the ball, he’s been known to throw interceptions. He has 14 on the year. Bud Foster is a master at forcing quarterbacks into mistakes. If the Hokies can make the Tigers one-dimensional by slowing down the run, they may be able to force some mistakes. Remember that Deshaun Watson is a dual-threat quarterback. He could give the Hokies a lot of trouble on the ground, if they call designed runs for him. In a championship game, I’d expect Clemson to take more chances with Watson on the ground.

Clemson’s special teams are only so-so. The Hokies would be wise to make some plays on special teams in this game. Either in the return game or on a blocked kick. This is an area that the Hokies can look to exploit and possibly change the trajectory of the game.

The reality here is that Clemson is just a better team. Maybe after a few good years under Fuente and some good recruiting classes, the Hokies can be on that level. But they just aren’t right now. There is a big-time talent and depth advantage for Clemson. Can the Hokies win? Sure. Pitt beat Clemson this year. But it’ll take a great effort from the Hokies and some fortunate plays/bounces/calls. I think this game will be like the 2011 ACC Championship game. Close in the first half but Clemson runs away with it in the 2nd half.

Prediction: Clemson 34, Virginia Tech 20

Virginia Preview and Prediction

The Hokies pulled out an epic comeback against Notre Dame. The biggest one since NC State in 2010. The second half was the best half of football this team has had since the first half of the Duke game. All season I’ve been waiting to see the team that had three excellent games against BC, ECU and UNC. There have been glimpses and spurts but it hasn’t been consistent. Putting together a complete game against UVA would be huge for this team.

UVA has only won two games this season. They beat Central Michigan at home and beat Duke on the road. They’ve been able to keep games reasonably close but haven’t been able to close the deal. This looks like a team that has been improving throughout the year but may not have all the pieces in place yet.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 27th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 58th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 19th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 41st

Virginia

Overall S&P+ ranking: 92nd
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 86th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 81st
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 86th

At quarterback, Virginia will be playing either Matt Johns or Kurt Benkert or both. Matt Johns has the higher completion rate but also has the higher interception ratio. Kurt Benkert has a better touchdown-to-interception ratio but he has the lower completion rate. Neither quarterback is much of a threat to run (thank goodness!). Both have had their moments this year but have been inconsistent overall. UVA is best in the passing game so they will need a big game from whoever is playing quarterback for them.

Running back Taquan Mizzell is a big weapon that the Hokies must account for. Particularly in the passing game. He is a threat to make plays out of the backfield. He has over 400 receiving yards this season in addition to over 800 yards rushing. UVA runs a lot of their offense through Mizzell. The Hokies need to keep an eye on him whether UVA is running or passing.

UVA has not been consistent on defense but they have three big-time players. The Hokies need to account for Micah Kiser (MLB), Quin Blanding (FS) and Andrew Brown (DE). These are UVA’s playmakers and have the ability to change a game. The Hokies will have to be able to win the one-on-one battles with them to have success on Saturday.

This is a huge game because it will likely decide whether the Hokies go to the ACC Championship Game. That would be a big step forward in Justin Fuente’s first season as head coach. UVA would like nothing more than to spoil those plans. They would also like to put an end to the Hokies’ 12 game winning streak in the series. Rivalry games are never easy. Throw the records out the window. Both teams want to win this game bad. The Hokies just have more talent and motivation this time around.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 30, Virginia 20

Notre Dame Preview and Prediction

It’s always frustrating to see the Hokies let an opportunity slip through their fingers. Having the Coastal wrapped up before a trip to Notre Dame and visit from UVA would’ve been nice. Oh well. The Hokies will just have a little extra motivation against their in-state rival next week.

Notre Dame. One of the pillar programs of college football. To me, Notre Dame is Rudy. A movie about a kid who idolizes a college football program so much, he’ll do anything to play for them. Pretty epic stuff. Besides that, they are a strong program but they are not what they once were. Either way, going to Notre Dame is a big deal. Just ask any older Tech alums. You would think the Hokies were playing at the Vatican this weekend.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 28th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 65th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 14th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 52nd

Notre Dame

Overall S&P+ ranking: 33rd
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 44th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 30th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 57th

A running quarterback. DeShone Kizer. Terrified yet? Kizer has not cracked 100 yards on the ground in a game this year. But if the Hokies history with running quarterbacks is any indication, this could be the week he does it. I got a text from a Notre Dame fan this week, he said Brian Kelly threw the ball 26 times in a hurricane this year. So I guess you never know what’s going to happen. But if the Notre Dame staff has watched film this week, you can expect to see a lot of designed runs for Kizer.

Notre Dame has a young secondary and a front seven that has had trouble pressuring the quarterback. You would think this could be a week that the Hokies could put up big numbers through the air. The current weather forecast calls for temperatures in the 30s, high winds and snow. Doesn’t sound like ideal conditions to throw the football in.

One big question mark in this game is how the Notre Dame defense is going to play. Since switching defensive coordinators to Greg Hudson, the defense has played well. Two of those games were against service academies. One was in a hurricane. And one was against a struggling Stanford offense. My guess is that they play better than expected and get assisted by the poor weather conditions.

Given the poor weather conditions, I’m looking for the team that runs the ball better. And I’d have to give the nod to Notre Dame. All the stats suggest they are the better rushing team. And the Hokies have had trouble stopping the run in the last three weeks. That plus the conditions make me think that this is not a good matchup for the Hokies.

I don’t like this matchup on paper. At all. It’s made even worse by the weather conditions. The Hokies can win this game if they are able to make plays on special teams and generate turnovers. The old Beamerball special. If not, I’m afraid this game looks pretty good on paper for Notre Dame. I hope I’m wrong. It would be great to go into South Bend and come out with a win.

Prediction: Notre Dame 24, Virginia Tech 17