This week’s guest is Phil Harrison of CollegeFootballNews.com and CampusInsiders.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFB.
What are your expectations for Ohio State this season?
It’s National Championship or bust. What was a young team last year is now a seasoned one, there is NFL talent across the board, and the ships being steered by one of, if not the best college football coach in the game today. Repeating won’t be easy, and there will be many land-mines along the way, but it all starts and ends with the College Football Playoff. Anything less would leave a sour taste in everyone’s mouth in Columbus.
What are your expectations for the Virginia Tech game?
I for one believe this is going to be a whale of a game. Virginia Tech was the only team able to crack the scarlet and gray code last year, and last I checked, Bud Foster was still calling the shots on defense. Sure OSU is a much different team than that fateful night in the ‘Shoe last year, but the it’ll be an electric environment in Blacksburg, with a team that has more than enough talent and coaching to make things very, very interesting.
What is the perception among Ohio State fans about VT’s program? What is the level of excitement like among fans about going to Lane Stadium to play VT?
The Hokies are well respected around the Ohio State program. In fact, over a decade ago, when Jim Tressel grabbed the keys to the OSU program, he was more than kind with his praise of Virginia Tech, stating publicly that it was one of the programs that he wanted to pattern the Buckeyes after. Yes, Virginia Tech has fallen on leaner times recently, but when you think of the Hokies, you think of great secondaries, NFL talent, and a hard-nosed and well-coached team that gets after it with bad intentions.
And the excitement level? Anytime you go to a place that you haven’t been before against a team the caliber of Virginia Tech, it’s something to get excited about. But to be honest, at least for Ohio State fans, it’s seen as a revenge game. All the Monday morning quarterbacks would be better served being satisfied with simply getting out of the Blacksburg night with a win.
What is your prediction for the game?
It’ll be a donnybrook. I would not be surprised one bit to see this be a fourth-quarter game. The Hokies may have struggled with injuries and consistency last year after the tussle in Columbus, but just like OSU wants to show everyone that last year was a fluke, Virginia Tech would like to show the world that it wasn’t. Both teams will trade punches defensively early on, but I do like Ohio State to wrestle it away at the end via a much more seasoned quarterback under center than last time the two met. Ohio State 27 Virginia Tech 20.
The Hokies are 4-3 overall, 1-2 in the Coastal. They are staring 4-4 and the battle for bowl eligibility square in the face. They have more injuries than you’d care to count. Their freshman mike linebacker will be making his starting debut on Thursday night. They are missing their top 2 running backs. The offensive line can’t stop committing pre-snap penalties. They have four freshmen starting on offense. The quarterback has thrown as many interceptions as he has touchdowns. But you know what? It’s Thursday night. It’s Blacksburg. The Hokies backs are against the wall. This is when this team does their best work.
If Bud Foster can’t scheme around having to start freshman Andrew Motuapuaka at mike linebacker, then Duke Johnson has the potential to have a huge day. The Hokies defense has to bottle him up like they did James Conner much of last Thursday night but they need to avoid all the missed tackles. They need better play out of Kyshoen Jarrett who had a rough night against Pittsburgh. The Hokies will need his help stopping Duke Johnson in the run game and Phillip Dorsett in pass game.
Brad Kaaya is off to a good start in his career at Miami. However, he has not been particular impressive on the road except for a good performance at Nebraska (where he also threw two picks). This is a game where if the Hokies defense can bottle up Duke Johnson then they put a true freshman quarterback against a Bud Foster defense. That’s a match-up that Bud Foster wins almost every time.
Overall, the Miami defense has been better than in recent year. They rank 22nd in total defense. Their achilles heel appears to be stopping the run. There is a little more hope for the Hokies this week with Marshawn Williams coming back from injury and Wyatt Teller and David Wang starting on the offensive line. The running game was much better in the second half of last week’s game with those two in the lineup. Not to say that the Hokies will be able to run the ball effectively this week, but the chances are certainly better than they were last week.
Another key to this game will be the Hokies ability to convert on third down. Miami’s third down defense is only ranked 79th in the country where they are only stopping opposing teams 39.7% of the time. The running game needs to try to keep the Hokies out of third and long. But if they do get behind the chains, Michael Brewer needs to make good decisions and accurate throws to get first downs against this Miami defense. This is something he has been able to do fairly well throughout the course of the season.
This game will ultimately be decided by penalties and turnovers. Both of these teams have issues with both. The team who can take care of the ball and not beat themselves is going to win this game. Here’s hoping the Hokies can put the issues that they had with penalties last week behind them.
Like I said at the beginning of this article, it’s Thursday night. It’s Blacksburg. It’s the Miami Hurricanes. If you can’t get excited about this one, you might want to take a second look at your fandom. This is the type of game where the Hokies always play their best. The players always get fired up for Enter Sandman, the fireworks and playing under the lights on national TV (and possibly #AllMaroonEverything?). We know this team can be really good but we also know this team can be pretty bad and the injuries are starting to mount. Let’s hope it’s a vintage Thursday night performance in Blacksburg and the Hokies can get themselves back in the Coastal race.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Miami 13