Duke Preview and Prediction

This is a critical game for the 2019 Hokies. This team can’t afford to go 0-2 in the ACC. And if they lose this game, it’s hard to find 5 more wins on the schedule for the Hokies to go bowling. They will need 7 wins to go bowling this year since they play 2 FCS teams.

What scares me most about this Duke offense is Quentin Harris’ ability to scramble. Although the Hokies dealt with a mobile QB against Furman, this will be a big step up in competition. He reminds me of Anthony Brown who had a very good game against the Hokies in Week 1. This offense doesn’t have a lot of weapons. As long as the Hokies don’t struggle with Duke’s option and misdirection plays, they should be able to keep the Duke offense in check.

The Duke defense is solid. This group should be able to shut down the Hokies’ run game without too much trouble. If the Hokies want to have success, it will have to be through the air. You can count on Duke stopping the run with their front four and trying to force Ryan Willis into mistakes by mixing up coverages. Ryan Willis will need to make good decisions, limit turnovers and put the ball in his playmaker’s hands. If he can do that, the Hokies have a good chance to win this game.

The Hokies young offensive line will struggle against Duke’s experience defensive line. This is a game where the offensive line will have to give Ryan Willis enough time to throw. And he will have to make good decisions against an experienced Duke secondary. It will be difficult for the Hokies to find a running game against this Duke defense. The Hokies will need score close to 30 to win this game — which will be tough against this Blue Devils defense. The best hope for the Hokies is to keep this game low scoring and make enough plays in the passing game to pull this one out.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 28, Duke 24

Furman Preview and Prediction

The Hokies need to take care of the football. They are -6 in turnover margin two games into the season. The scoreline against ODU could have looked much better without the turnovers. The offense left points on the field with two turnovers in the 2nd half. Without those turnovers, the Hokies could have put up 10 or 14 more points. Then the scoreline looks a lot better. More like what most fans would’ve expected. But a win is a win. Plenty of programs would have loved to have avoided the upset bug on Saturday.
 
Next up is Furman. Furman is 1-1 after nearly upsetting Georgia State on Saturday. Georgia State is the team that upset Tennessee in week 1. This team can put up a ton of points and are top 25 in the FCS. This is not a team you can sleep on. This team upset  UCF in 2015. This team features a balanced attack. Sometimes they run a flexbone (ala Georgia Tech under Paul Johnson) and sometimes they run out of spread formations. For a Virginia Tech team that struggles with finishing tackles and filling gaps, this type of offense that could give them trouble. Far more than you’d expect from an FCS team. And likely the toughest FCS challenge they’ve had since JMU in 2010 or App State in 2011.
 
Furman has a dynamic quarterback in Darren Grainger. He runs Furman’s multiple offense well and is a threat on the ground and through the air. Furman’s offense looks like a tough matchup for Virginia Tech’s defense. Furman relies on misdirection and option concepts to get players of out position. I’m not surprised they beatdown Charleston Southern and almost beat Georgia State. This offense has put up some gaudy numbers in the first two weeks of the season. The Hokies defense needs to show up for this one. This offense can sustain long drives and score even against good defenses.
 
Defensively, the Paladins do not look as strong. They are tough to figure out. Georgia State put up 38 against Tennessee and 48 against Furman. Is Furman’s defense only slightly worse than Tennessee’s? This is a defense that you can put up numbers against, particularly in the passing game. I’m not hopeful for the running game considering Tech’s poor performance against ODU. If they couldn’t get the run game going against ODU, I’m not sure they will against Furman. Or anybody else for that matter.
 
This is as concerned going into an FCS game as I can remember being. I do not believe the Hokies will lose but I do not think they will cover a 22-point spread (or 21 or 20). I expect a similar performance to the ODU game. A win likely but far from inspiring. And that’s if the Hokies can put up big numbers through the air and outpace Furman offensively. If the Hokies have any stumbles on offense or turn the ball over, look out. This is a Furman team can that can eat up clock and put up some points against the Hokies defense. Furman is better than ODU. And we saw how that ODU game went. If the Hokies offense and defense can perform better than last week, they can put this game away early. If not, this one could go into the 4th quarter. Don’t sleep on this FCS team.
 
Prediction: Virginia Tech 38, Furman 24

Boston College Preview and Prediction

The Hokies get started trying to bounce back from their first losing season since 1992. First up is Boston College. The Eagles have regularly given the Hokies trouble with a tough defense and strong running game. This year should be no different but this is a different looking Eagles team that the Hokies faced last season.

On offense, the Eagles return star running back AJ Dillon. Dillon is a player to watch and key to the Boston College offense. He is the type of runner who is difficult to bring down and is a threat to take it the distance if he gets some space or breaks a tackle. The Hokies young defensive line needs to bottle him up if they hope to slow down this offense. The best gameplan against the Eagles would be to stop the run and force Anthony Brown and his receivers beat the Hokies through the air. Tech will need to be prepared to stop the run sideline-to-sideline as the Eagles like to get their wide receivers involved in the running game.

On defense, the Eagles are breaking in some new starters. Only four starters from last year’s squad return. If the Hokies are to have success, they will need to challenge Boston College’s young secondary. This is an inexperienced group that the Hokies should be able to exploit with their senior quarterback and talented weapons on the outside. The Hokies need to hit on some big plays in the passing game.

Boston College had one of the least efficient special teams in the country last season. The Hokies should prepare to make some plays on special teams to take advantage of this matchup. This is particularly true in the first game of the season where special teams are normally not in mid-season form. There are some yards and field position to be had in the return game.

The Hokies have a talent advantage in this matchup. Boston College is normally a hard nosed team that is a tough out but the Hokies should have the horses to take care of business in this matchup. The key for Tech will be to not turn the ball over and the defensive line will have to keep AJ Dillon in check. If the defensive line is ineffective at containing the run, it could be a long day (see the Pitt game last year). This is a matchup where the Hokies have more weapons on offense and a defense that has played more snaps together than the guys on the other side. I see this as a lower-scoring game where we will see a couple gaffes on both sides but ultimately the Hokies come out on top.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Boston College 24 

2019 Virginia Tech Season Preview

The Hokies are coming off their first losing season since 1992. Last season was a bad combinations of injuries, attrition and youth. The good news is that a lot of young players got the chance to play which should make the 2019, 2020 and 2021 squads better because of it.

Why will 2019 be better? Because the Hokies return 7 starters on offense and 9 starters on defense. This will not be the same extremely young and inexperienced team from 2018. They also have an very manageable schedule. It is one of the easier schedules in the Power 5. Both of these factors should lead to a significant improvement in their win-loss record.

Offense

Ryan Willis returns after a strong 2018 campaign. The Hokies struggles were not because of the offense last season. Ryan Willis threw for 24 touchdown passes in 10 games and he should be able to improve upon those numbers in 2019. He’s a good fit for this offense and should get some help from a strong core of receivers.

This is one of the better receiving corps in the ACC. The Hokies return Tre Turner, Damon Hazelton, Dalton Keene and Hezekiah Grimsley. They also bring on new receiving threats James Mitchell and Tayvion Robinson. This is a deep and talented group that should put up some good numbers in this offense.

The Hokies are still trying to find a go-to running back. It looks like 2019 will be another year where it will be running back by committee. The Hokies will get a lot of carries out of DeShawn McClease and Jalen Holston and will try to mix in some carries for speedy newcomer Keshawn King. There has been a lot of buzz this preseason around King’s speed and elusiveness.

The offensive line is another deep and talented group but they might need a couple of games to come together. They should be able to open up some holes for the running game. This is going to be a special group over the course of the next couple of seasons but   need a little more experience before they can reach their full potential.

Even with a lot of youth and first-time starters this was a top 50 offense last season. This season with more depth and returning 7 starters, this offense should produce even better results. Justin Fuente is hoping to get a full season from his returning starting quarterback. That is something that has eluded him in his first three years in Blacksburg.

Defense

The defense SHOULD be better than last year. At least you would hope so. This is a  defense that struggled with a lot youth and attrition last season. They return 9 starters and were able to bring in some depth players at positions of need. This defense was BAD at times last season. This season they should see a significant improvement.

The defensive line is still an area of concern. The defensive ends should be fine as they return Emmanuel Belmar and Tyjuan Garbutt with some youth behind them. The bigger area of concern is at defensive tackle. The Hokies are hoping to find success with returning starter Jerod Hewitt and JUCO newcomer Deshawn Crawford. Behind those starters, the coaches are hoping to find serviceable depth with a group of true freshman. The play of the defensive line will go a long way toward determining how successful this defense can be.

The linebacker group should be an area of strength for the Hokies. Dax Hollifield, Rayshard Ashby and Alan Tisdale should rotate in at the mike and backer positions. Bud Foster will have a couple options to work with in this group. They should play a bit faster this year after another year of experience in this defense.

The secondary has more options than they did last year. Reggie Floyd and Divine Deablo bring some experience at the safety positions. There is more depth and more options at the cornerback position. Caleb Farley should lock down one of those positions. Jermaine Waller is likely to start opposite Farley but Jovonn Quillen or Armani Chatman could also make a move for playing time. Jeremy Webb is another option as the year progresses and he recovers from two torn achilles tendons.

The defense will certainly be better than last year but don’t expect a vintage Bud Foster defense. The improvement in depth and experience will lead to better results but this is still a young group. If the Hokies hope to make it to Charlotte this season, this defense will have to produce a top 40 defensive ranking — which is possible, but not a certainty.

Special Teams

The Hokies need to find a reliable field goal kicker from beyond 40 yards. Brian Johnson will get another shot at it after going 12 for 18 last season. He was automatic inside of 40 years but struggled with longer kicks. Oscar Bradburn returns as a very reliable 2-year starter at punter. Hezekiah Grimsley and Tayvion Robinson will get the first opportunities at punt returner. The kick returners are anybody’s guess. There are a number of speedy options to choose from.

2019 Outlook

The Hokies need to get back to their winning ways. This team looks setup nicely for 2020 and 2021, but 2019 looks like a season where they are building toward better days ahead. That doesn’t mean another 6-6 season, but it probably means an 8-4 or 9-3 season. The offense is likely to be in the top 40. The hope is the defense can also produce a top 40 unit but it will need some young guys to step up, particularly on the defensive line.

Tough games (<40% chance to win)

Notre Dame and Miami. Both of these games present a major challenge. The Hokies will need to bring their A-game to have a shot at winning on the road against either of these two teams.

Toss-up games (50% chance to win)

Boston College, Pitt and Virginia. I see all three of these games as coin-flip games that could go either way. These games are the difference between 7-5 and 10-2. The Hokies need to take care of business against these three opponents.

Should win games (>70% to win)

Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. Even with the Hokies struggles last year, this is still a strong program that recruits well and regularly puts a good product on the field. These are the types of games the Hokies should win as long as they don’t overlook their opponents. These games have sleepy, trap game written all over them.

Major upset games (>90% to win)

ODU, Furman and Rhode Island. Yes, the Hokies lost to ODU last year. It was a major upset. Major upsets happen sometimes. But they are extremely unlikely. It takes a pretty strange set of circumstances to occur. These are games the Hokies should win way more often than not.

Key games for the Hokies: at Boston College, Pitt, at Virginia
Upset Alert: Pitt

Game-by-Game Predictions

Game Prediction
at Boston College vt-logo
Old Dominion vt-logo
Furman vt-logo
Duke vt-logo
at Miami

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Rhode Island vt-logo
North Carolina vt-logo
at Notre Dame nd-logo
Wake Forest vt-logo
at Georgia Tech vt-logo
Pittsburgh pitt-logo
at Virginia vt-logo

Final Regular Season Record: 9-3 (6-2 ACC)
Expected finish: 2nd in Coastal Division
Final Regular Season Ranking: 22nd
Predicted Bowl Game: Camping World Bowl in Orlando

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William & Mary Preview and Prediction

The Hokies got the season off to a hot start on Monday night against Florida State. It was an impressive victory on the road in front of national television audience. Now it’s time to refocus on a short week and get ready for William & Mary. You know the coaching staff will be preaching the 1-0 mentality this week.

The last time the Hokies played on four days rest was in 2015 after they lost to Ohio State on Monday night at home. They played Furman five days later and won 42-3. The five day turnaround is tough, especially after a big win. But if there is one thing the coaching staff preaches is to focus on the next game and go 1-0 this week.

William & Mary is coached by Jimmye Laycock. He is William & Mary’s Frank Beamer. He has been there for 39 years (whoa!) and is the 2nd winningest active coach in Division I. However, William & Mary has started to slide in recent years and only went 2-9 last season. They were also picked to finish 11th in this year’s CAA preseason poll.

William & Mary’s offense only averaged 15 point per game last season. They put up 14 points last week at Bucknell. Needless to say, this team struggles to put up points on offense. The Tribe have a couple of weapons with DeVonte Dedmon at wide receiver and Albert Funderburke at running back. Last season, William & Mary ranked 104th in total offense out of 123 teams in FCS.

The Tribe’s strength is on defense. They ranked 29th in FCS last season in total defense. They return their top five tacklers from last season. They ranked 13th in sacks last year. This is a team that does not take many penalties. They play disciplined football. This will be a good test for the Hokies offense this week. One they should be able to pass but William & Mary’s defense are not pushovers.

The concern here is a lack of focus and execution. It’s difficult to have a short week after a big win and bring your A game. Lucky for the Hokies, they face an opponent that has been struggling in recent years and only put up 14 points last week. This is a team that the Hokies should be able to dispatch without too much trouble, even if they aren’t 100% yet. The key this week will be to try to get up early in the game and give the backups some opportunities in the 2nd half. This is a game you want to put in the win column, not suffer any major injuries, and move on to the next game.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 34, William & Mary 0 

2018 Virginia Tech Season Preview

Talk about a bad offseason. Terrell Edmunds, Tremaine Edmunds and Tim Settle all declared early for the NFL draft. Adonis Alexander entered the NFL Supplemental Draft after being dismissed from the team. Mook Reynolds was dismissed. Galen Scott was forced to resign. Jeremy Webb tore his achilles tendon. The best news was Josh Jackson’s near miss with an academic issue. Wow. That’s a bad offseason.

But there is hope for 2018. There are a lot of talented young players who will get their opportunity to step up. The schedule isn’t that tough and the Hokies should be in position for another good year if they can get some young guys to step up – particularly on defense.

Offense

Josh Jackson is back 100% healthy after getting banged up in the 2nd half of last season. He’s a smart QB with a good arm and can run the ball when needed. He reminds me a lot of Bryan Randall. He’s never going to draw comparisons to Michael Vick or Lamar Jackson, but he has all the tools to get the job done. He’s good at taking care of the ball and no one knows the playbook like he does. This year he will have more help around him. He can be really good and put up big numbers with the right supporting cast around him.

Virginia Tech will get more production from the running back position. Gone is Travon McMillian but the Hokies have a couple of other guys who are good fits for the offense. I’m most excited about Deshawn McClease. McClease rushed for 265 yards in his last three games with over a 5 yard per carry average in each of those games. And…

That’s some pretty good company. Jalen Holston had his moments in 2017. Steven Peoples can always pick up the tough yards. And you have Coleman Fox who can add some energy and speed when he gets into a game. The guy to watch this season is Deshawn McClease and his progression in this offense.

The wide receivers are young but talented. Damon Hazelton, the sophomore transfer from Ball State, looks like a breakout candidate for the Hokies. Reports are he gave the scout team a lot of trouble last year when he was redshirting. Expect Sean Savoy to build on the big season he had last year. Also keep an eye on Phil Patterson who had the catch of the year in the Spring Game. He could also be a breakout candidate this year. But the guys I will be keeping my eye on are Hazelton and Savoy.

An underrated position group is the tight end group. Dalton Keene looks the part and you can expect to see him have a bigger role in the offense this season. True freshman James Mitchell is already getting rave reviews in practice. And Chris Cunningham will continue to be a dangerous red zone target. This year we will see more production out of this group in the passing game.

The offensive line looks good on paper. They lost Wyatt Teller who brought a lot of toughness to the group but this is a talented and experienced group. It’s also a group of guys playing in their positions of strength. It’s a good mix of experience and young talent for depth. That’s usually a good combination. This position group has 10 guys in the two-deep that are game ready. This should be a good group.

The offense should be better than last season. I think this side of the ball could see a bigger improvement than most are expecting. At Memphis, year 3 under Justin Fuente is when the offense really took off. A healthy Josh Jackson will make a big difference. Fuente has had two years to recruit his players into this offense. The product this year should resemble Fuente’s vision for his offense more than his first two seasons in Blacksburg. They’ll need it with so many young guys on the defense.

Defense

The defense is the area of concern for the Hokies this year. Youth everywhere. This is what you would have to call a rebuilding year. But the Hokies still have Bud Foster. Bud Foster can only cover for so many young players. The beginning of the year might be rough.

The starting defensive line looks really good but it is not a deep group. This is the one area of the defense where there is experience. But there is not much behind the starters. The young guys are going to have to step up to give the starters a breather. The depth is concerning but the Hokies have some young talent that should be able to step up to fill out the two-deep. The Hokies need to avoid injuries from the starters. The guy to watch on the line is Ricky Walker, he has All-ACC and All-American potential. Two breakout guys to keep an eye on are Houshun Gaines and Tyjuan Garbutt.

The linebacker group is young and inexperienced. The linebacker group will have three first year starters this season. But there is an injection of talent in this group. Expect the group to struggle early in the season but they should be pretty solid as the season goes on. I feel good about the talent level here but not the experience level. Names to keep an eye on here are Devon Hunter, Rayshard Ashby and Dax Hollifield.

The secondary is also young and inexperienced. Are you sensing a trend here? I like the talent but there is just not much experience here. This secondary will take it’s lumps early in the season but will build confidence as the season goes on. Don’t be surprised to see a lot of mixing and matching with the group to find the four starters the coaches want to roll with. You can expect Reggie Floyd and Divine Deablo to start at the safety positions. The corners will be manned by whoever can win the position battles this August. The breakout candidates in the secondary are Bryce Watts, Caleb Farley and Jovonn Quillen.

The defense will take a step back to start the season. You can’t lose the amount of talent the Hokies lost and hope to improve. I do think this will be a good defense but it will take a couple of games before it gels. This won’t look like a Bud Foster defense in the first half of the year. Too many young players. Good news is that there is a lot of speed and talent, and you’ll see it come together nicely in October and November.

Special Teams

Aside from Oscar Bradburn expect a lot of new faces on special teams. Brian Johnson should take over field goal duties. The Hokies will need to find new kick and punt returners now that Greg Stroman is gone. Bryce Watts and CJ Carroll should get an opportunity on punt returns. Jovonn Quillen is a candidate to return kicks along with Caleb Farley and Cole Beck (if he doesn’t get redshirted).

2018 Outlook

The Hokies biggest obstacle to a division championship is Miami. The good news about this year is that the Hokies get Miami at home and a lot of national experts like the Hokies chances in that matchup.

The Hokies have some big match-ups this years. They open the season with Florida State in Tallahassee. They get Notre Dame at home in week 6. Then they get Miami at home on the second-to-last week of the regular season. Those three games will be important in determining the Hokies’ season.

Watch out for games at Duke, Georgia Tech at home, Boston College at home, and Pittsburgh on the road. Those are games where the Hokies could stumble if they are not careful. The Hokies need to avoid the upset bug in 2018.

Key games for the Hokies: at Florida State, Notre Dame, Miami
Upset Alert: at Duke

Date Opponent Prediction
Mon, Sep 3 @ Florida State* L
Sat, Sep 8 William and Mary W
Sat, Sep 15 East Carolina W
Sat, Sep 29 @ Old Dominion W
Sat, Sep 30 @ Duke L
Sat, Oct 6 Notre Dame* L
Sat, Oct 13 @ North Carolina W
Thu, Oct 25 Georgia Tech W
Sat, Nov 3 Boston College W
Sat, Nov 10 @ Pittsburgh W
Sat, Nov 17 Miami* L
Fri, Nov 23 Virginia W

Final Regular Season Record: 8-4 (5-3 ACC)
Expected finish: 2nd in Coastal Division
Final Regular Season Ranking: Unranked
Predicted Bowl Game: Music City Bowl in Nashville

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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

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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

East Carolina Preview and Prediction

The game against Boston College was one of the most complete performances in years. It was close to a perfect performance on both sides of the ball. That won’t happen every week. So what is this team? The one that fumbled nine times in two games or the one that played near flawless football against BC?

Next up is East Carolina. A thorn in the side of the Hokies for years. Here are the last seven meetings between the two schools:

Sat., Sep 26, 2015, Greenville, N.C , L, 28-35
Sat., Sep 13, 2014, Blacksburg, Va., L, 21-28
Sat., Sep 14, 2013, Greenville, N.C., W, 15-10
Sat., Sep 10, 2011, Greenville, N.C., W, 17-10
Sat., Sep 18, 2010, Blacksburg, Va., W, 49-27
Thu., Nov 5, 2009, Greenville, N.C., W, 16-3
Sat., Aug 30, 2008, Charlotte, N.C., L, 22-27

Not exactly dominating, huh? The Hokie are 4-3 against ECU over this period. To ECU’s credit, they are 6-0 against the ACC in the last four years. These guys LOVE beating ACC teams and they’re good at it.

09/10/2016 East Carolina 33 – North Carolina St 30 W
09/26/2015 East Carolina 35 – Virginia Tech 28 W
09/20/2014 East Carolina 70 – North Carolina 41 W
09/13/2014 East Carolina 28 – Virginia Tech 21 W
11/23/2013 East Carolina 42 – North Carolina St 28 W
09/28/2013 East Carolina 55 – North Carolina 31 W

Everyone is feeling good after the shutout against BC. Keep in mind the last two times the Hokies played ECU, they were coming off big wins. In 2014, they had just beat Ohio State 35-21 at the Horseshoe. And last year, they had just plastered Purdue on the road 52-24. The Hokies lost both games against ECU coming off those big wins.

New coaching staff. New era. The Hokies rebounded well from a tough loss against Tennessee. Now how will they handle success? Can they string together two good performances in a row?

They key to Bud Fosters defense is keeping teams one dimensional. In 2014, ECU was able to throw it all over the field on the Hokies. In 2015, the Hokies could not stop the ECU ground game. This year, if the Hokies can stop the ECU ground game, the Hokies should be able to slow down their offense.

The ECU defense can be best described as middle of the road. They are a bend but don’t break defense. They’ve been good this year at keeping teams out of the endzone when they get to the redzone. The key to beating ECU is getting their offense off the field. Then when you have the ball, get it into the endzone. Finish your drives.

ECU’s offensive stats have been excellent this year. They rank 9th in the country in total offense. The Hokies will have their hands full trying to keep up with ECU’s receivers. Particularly Zay Jones who almost set an NCAA records for receptions last week.

This is a difficult game to pick. We have yet to see a passing offense this good this year. The Hokies lead the nation in passing yards allowed. They’ll get a big test on Saturday. As long as the Hokies can hang on the football, I feel good about their chances. ECU might be a bit surprised by the offensive firepower that the Hokies bring to the table these days. I think the Hokies defense will be able to stop the run and hang tough against the ECU offense. And the Hokies offense will have another good day against the ECU defense. Particularly in the run game.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 35, ECU 21

Boston College Preview and Prediction

Stop. Fumbling. The. Football. If the Hokies had been able to hold on to the football on Saturday, they likely would’ve won. Or at least would’ve had a good chance to win.

Oh well. On to the next one. Up next is Boston College. Here are their last 9 ACC games:

Florida State Seminoles Lost 14-0
at Duke Blue Devils Lost 9-7
Wake Forest Demon Deacons Lost 3-0
at Clemson Tigers Lost 34-17
at Louisville Cardinals Lost 17-14
Virginia Tech Hokies Lost 26-10
NC State Wolfpack Lost 24-8
at Syracuse Orange Lost 20-17
vs Georgia Tech Lost 17 – 14

0-9 in their last ACC games? Easy sledding, right? Not so much. Boston College had the #1 defense in the nation last year. This year, they have the #3 defense in the nation. And it’s not smoke and mirrors. They’re really good.

This might be the toughest defense that the Hokies play all season. They allow 48 rushing yards per game. And they’ve already played Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech only managed 2.7 yards per carry against them. This is a team that you cannot run on. If you want to beat BC, you have to beat them thru the air.

You know what else makes this an intriguing matchup? Scot Loeffler. He’s the Eagle’s new offensive coordinator. You can bet he knows our personnel pretty well and he know Bud Foster’s defense. If there is anyone who knows how to exploit our personnel on defense, it’s him. It should not surprise you if BC has a couple of tricks up their sleeve against our defense.

The Hokies are 2-9 in their last 11 home games vs the Power 5. It’s time for that to change. Boston College have lost their last 9 ACC games. You would think this should be an easy game. Not likely. BC is the type of team that can beat you with defense alone. Especially if you’re prone to making mistakes and turning the ball over. I still expect the Hokies to win but the offense is going to need to make some plays thru the air. This one won’t be easy.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 17, Boston College 13