It was the right decision to let Justin Fuente go. The timing was strange but I’m sure there were reasons for that. Maybe the job needed to be open to have serious conversations with interested coaches. The Fuente era started with a lot of promise but lost momentum and finally reached the point of no return.
Overall: 44th Offense: 67th Defense: 25th Special Team: 32nd
Overall: 32nd Offense: 22nd Defense: 47th Special Team: 50th
Miami is a good passing team. They are 16th in the nation in passing offense. Tyler Van Dyke has been good for the Hurricanes. He’s thrown for over 2,000 yards, 19 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. The Hokies boast the nation’s 15th ranked passing defense. So it should be strength vs strength when Miami is on offense.
Miami’s run defense has been a bit leaky in recent weeks. The Hokies would be smart to keep the ball on the ground with Malachi Thomas and Raheem Blackshear. Tackling has been an issue for Miami this year, so VT would be smart to test them early and often in that area.
There may be some extra juice from the players to play under former VT player JC Price. They still have the opportunity to make a bowl game and the seniors will want to close the season strong. They don’t want to be the team that got their coach fired. So while this season has been up and down, I think we see some fight from these guys in the last two regular season games.
Virginia Tech had a chance to get back in position for a bowl game but couldn’t get it done. As soon as Braxton Burmeister went out, the Hokies offense couldn’t get going. They have three more opportunities to get two wins to qualify for a bowl. Their best remaining opportunity is this Saturday at home against Duke.
Overall: 50th Offense: 70th Defense: 32nd Special Team: 37th
Overall: 97th Offense: 89th Defense: 102nd Special Team: 97th
The Duke offense moves the ball well but they struggle to score in the red zone. This is a balanced offense. They run and throw the ball well but they tend to stall the closer they get to the red zone. The Hokies need to be able to stop drives and hold the Blue Devils to field goals.
The Duke defense may be the worst defense that Virginia Tech faces this year. Virginia Tech should be able to run the ball with Malachi Thomas and Raheem Blackshear. The question is who is going to play quarterback? Will Braxton be back? Will they go back to Kadum? Will Connor Blumrick be back from injury? If the Hokies can find a quarterback that can complete passes, they have a good chance to win.
This is a tough game to predict without knowing who will play quarterback for Virginia Tech. If the Hokies have Burmeister back, I like their chances. If he’s not back, I’m not so sure. Either way, I think Virginia Tech has more talent across the board than Duke. I’m also thinking that Virginia Tech will want to win on Senior Day. I think they find a way to get it done.
The Hokies have put themselves in position to win. But they can’t seem to close the deal. Last week, the offense finally showed up but the defense didn’t. At some point, both sides of the ball will show up and the Hokies will put another win on the board. The prospects of a bowl game are starting to look dicey.
Overall: 43rd Offense: 57th Defense: 38th Special Teams: 57th
Overall: 50th Offense: 47th Defense: 50th Special Teams: 94th
Georgia Tech is a solid offensive team. The throw and run the ball well. Like Syracuse, they are a team that creates running plays from their quarterback and running backs. A running QB gave the Hokies a lot of trouble last week. This is an area that has given the Hokies a lot of trouble for years now. The Hokies need to do a better job of spying the quarterback if they hope to slow down Georgia Tech’s offense.
The Yellow Jackets are not a good defensive team. This is a team the Hokies should be able to put up some yards on. Virginia Tech would be smart to lean on a similar gameplan to last week’s. Run the ball. Get Malachi Thomas involved and not force the issue in the pass game. There should be some space this week for the offense to operate. Georgia Tech’s defense looks like a better matchup for the Hokies than Syracuse did.
This looks like an even matchup. Georgia Tech has a better offense. Virginia Tech has a better defense. In even matchups like this, I like to go with the home team. Virginia Tech is dealing with a lot of internal turmoil and a road trip is not what they need to turn things around. It’ll be a close game. This game will come down to the 4th quarter and like the Notre Dame and Syracuse games, Georgia Tech makes enough plays down the stretch to get the win.
The Notre Dame game was a tough pill to swallow. The Hokies were so close to putting that game away but couldn’t make the plays in crunch time. Every year there are going to be close games and those games are the difference between good seasons and great seasons. So far, the Hokies are 1-2 in those games. That needs to improve as the Hokies get into conference play.
Overall: 49th Offense: 50th Defense: 46th Special Teams: 56th
Overall: 10th Offense: 9th Defense: 27th Special Teams: 15th
Kenny Pickett may be the best QB the Hokies see this season. He may not be the highest pick in the draft but he is putting up the best numbers at the college level. Pickett is one of the best in the nation in passing yards, passing TDs and passing efficiency. Virginia Tech has had trouble over the years with NFL-caliber quarterbacks. Kenny Pickett definitely fits that description. The Hokies defensive backs and linebackers better bring their A-game because Pickett is going to be tough to stop.
The Pitt rushing defense will be able to stop the run and make the Hokies one-dimensional. Tech will have to throw to move the ball against Pitt which means winning battles in one-on-one coverage. Braxton Burmeister is going to have to be able to throw the ball up and hope his receiver comes down with it. So far this year, the Hokies haven’t been winning many of those battles when the ball is in the air. This isn’t a game where the Hokies can afford to be tentative on offense.
Tech should have one of the better pass defenses that Pitt have faced. The Hokies’ secondary matches up pretty well against Pitt’s receivers. But it’s a balanced offense that will be tough to stop. They run the ball well which will set up some opportunities to go downfield to their deep ball threats. This Pitt offense has been a nightmare for opposing defenses because they run and pass the ball so well.
Is this a lost cause? Definitely not. Pittsburgh looked extremely mortal in their loss to Western Michigan. Maybe Pittsburgh will look a little rusty after their bye. Pitt has lost in their last two visits to Lane Stadium. The Hokies looked terrible in 2019 in the Duke game and came back the next week and beat a pretty good Miami team. Weird things happen in college football. On paper, Pitt looks like the better team but anything can happen on any given Saturday in college football.
It’s been awhile since the Hokies had a big win at home. This squad needs some momentum going into the 2021 season after a losing campaign last year. Nothing would jump start the season like a top ten win at home over a division rival.
Overall: 11th Offense: 4th Defense: 49th
Overall: 33rd Offense: 26th Defense: 51st
Justin Fuente usually does his best work early in the season. In 2017, his team beat WVU at FedEx Field in a big season opener on Labor Day weekend. In 2018, his team beat FSU in Tallahassee in another big-time showcase game on Labor Day. Even last year, his team took a pretty good NC State team to the woodshed in the first game of the season. All this to say, Justin Fuente usually has his guys ready to go early in the season.
Sam Howell is one of the best quarterbacks in college football. He may even be a top-ten pick in next year’s NFL draft. He’s that good. Looking at the matchups, Sam Howell has a solid advantage both in the QB matchup and also against VT’s secondary. He should have room to work across the middle with VT’s new linebackers and safeties. Watch early in the game how VT’s defense defends the middle of the field.
UNC has a talented and experienced defense, which should give the Hokies offense some trouble. This is a better group than the one the Hokies put up 45 points against last season. While the Hokies should be able to move the ball against this defense, they will get their share of stops throughout the game. North Carolina has a talented group on that side of the ball.
If the Hokies hope to have success, they need to stop the run. If the Hokies let the Heels get going on the ground, it’s going to be a long night. If they can stop the run and force Howell into 3rd and long, they should have some success keeping UNC from running up a lot of points.
The Hokies have a real shot in this game. They are catching UNC at the right time and Lane Stadium should be rockin’. But as we’ve all learned when the Hokies play against ranked opponents, it usually comes down to who has the better talent on the field. The Hokies will hold their own and keep the game close going into the 4th quarter. But Sam Howell and the UNC offense will prove too much and take the game with a late touchdown in the 4th quarter.
Last season didn’t exactly go as expected. A losing season, the end of the bowl streak, cancelled Spring practices, and Fall practices reduced due to contact tracing. Not exactly what anyone had expected going into last season. None of those things were ideal for a team in transition.
This season the Hokies hope to get back on track with a return to a blue-collar style defense we’re all accustomed to. Having practices in the Spring and Fall will help with that. So will having a year under their belt in Justin Hamilton’s scheme. Justin Hamilton having a year of experience running the defense doesn’t hurt either.
On offense, it will be difficult to replace two NFL draft picks in Christian Darrisaw and Khalil Herbert. This squad has solid contributors and guys who have been around the program for a while. But not as much star power as last year.
This is a make-or-break year for Justin Fuente. This program needs to show improvement over the past couple of seasons. Another year of .500 football isn’t going to cut it. Even 7 wins doesn’t necessarily mean he will be back.
Why will the Hokies be good?
Braxton Burmeister closed the season looking like a star. In the last two games of the season, he completed 73.5% of his passes and averaged 9.97 yards/attempt against Clemson and Virginia. After struggling with his completion percentage, he came on strong late in the season. If Burmeister can maintain that level of play and can stay healthy, it bodes well for the Hokies this season.
The Hokies have a veteran group of pass catchers in James Mitchell, Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson. Braxton Burmeister will have a reliable group of receivers to target along with guys who can stretch the field. This is a situation where the top guys must stay healthy otherwise the Hokies must rely on young and inexperienced players.
The Vice Squad returns. They lose the star power they had with Christian Darrisaw. But they still have a solid group headlined by Luke Tenuta, Brock Hoffman and Silas Dzansi. This group should have no trouble protecting Braxton Burmeister or opening holes in the run game. Vice seems to turn out a good group every year.
The Hokies will have one of the best cornerback tandems in the ACC. Jermaine Waller was one of the best cover corners in the nation in 2019. And Dorian Strong was one of the best freshmen corners in the nation last year. Waller and Strong look to lock down both sides of the field and make life easier on the defense.
Why will the Hokies be not-so-good?
In a word: depth. This is not a deep team at most position groups. There are a lot of position groups where if the starters get injured, there are no proven options. That looks a lot like last year’s team where a key injury or two puts some less-than-ideal options on the field.
Look no further than the quarterback position, if the Hokies lose Braxton Burmeister they are in trouble. That’s not to say they can’t win games with one of the backups. But the season outlook looks a lot more dicey with one of the other options behind center.
Last year, the defense didn’t have a feel for the new defensive scheme. Will that look better after a Spring and Fall practice? Will they have a better grasp of Justin Hamilton’s scheme in Year 2? Will they develop a defensive identity that was missing in Year 1? Can this group get back to playing the aggressive-style defense we’re used to? These are all question marks going into Justin Hamilton’s second season.
Tough games (<40% chance to win)
North Carolina, Notre Dame and Miami. The Hokies can win all these games. But these are games that will be tough sledding for a Hokies team short on depth. Wins against any of these teams should be seen as bonus wins at the end of the season.
Toss-up games (50-50 games)
West Virginia. Pitt. Georgia Tech. Boston College. Virginia. These are the games that will define the season. These games are the difference between 9-3 and 4-8. The Hokies need to win the majority of these games to have a good season.
Should win games (>70% to win)
Syracuse and Duke. This isn’t the season for this coaching staff to stub their toe on games like these. These are games where the Hokies have a clear talent advantage and they need to take care of business.
Must win games (>90% to win)
Middle Tennessee and Richmond. The Hokies don’t need to add to a list that includes James Madison, Old Dominion and Liberty.
Key games for the Hokies: North Carolina, at West Virginia, at Miami
Upset Alert: at Boston College
Game by Game Predictions
at West Virginia
at Georgia Tech
at Boston College
Final Regular Season Record: 7-5 (5-3 in the ACC) Expected finish: Tied for 3rd in the ACC Coastal
Last season, I expected UVA to win this game. I expected the Commonwealth Cup streak to end. I expected the bowl streak to end. It was the worst Virginia Tech team in a quarter century and it felt like the time had come. Luckily, the Hokies made enough plays to keep the Commonwealth Cup in Blacksburg. This year the stakes are even higher with a Coastal division title and a potential spot in the Orange Bowl on the line.
Special Teams: 34th
Special Teams: 40th
Bryce Perkins is a one-man show on offense. He has been able to hit on big plays in the passing game. Virginia has the 43rd ranked passing offense in the country. Where they have struggled is in the run game. They rely on their do-everything quarterback to find yards on the ground. The Wahoos have the 118th ranked rushing offense. Their offense is one-dimensional when Perkins can’t find rushing yards on his own. The Hokies will need to contain Perkins and make him throw the ball. The Hokies corners will have to cover one-on-one against the Wahoos wide receivers. Especially when Perkins leaves the pocket.
The highest coverage grades among Power-5 CBs (min. 31 tgt):
1. Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech – 90.3
2. Trevon Diggs, Alabama – 89.9
3. Patrick Surtain II, Alabama – 88.8
4. Derek Stingley, LSU – 88.2
5. Kristian Fulton, LSU – 88.0
6. Jaylon Johnson, Utah – 87.5
Virginia Tech will need to find ways to move the ball against an aggressive defense. They came up with a good game plan against Pitt’s aggressive front. They will need to do the same against a UVA team that blitzes even more than Pitt does. This is a game where the Hokies need to use the screen game and misdirection to slow down UVA’s front seven. Tech will also want to challenge UVA’s corners. The Hokies have a good matchup there and will need to exploit it with their big and talented wide receivers.
These rivalry games can be tough to predict. There are always unexpected turns, trick plays and turnovers that can play a big role in the outcome. The Hokies need to not get caught up in the extracurricular activities of this rivalry game. Expect the Hokies to put a lot of pressure on Bryce Perkins. That has been a game plan that has worked well for this defense in the last two weeks. Also, expect the Hokies wide receivers to get the ball in space against Virginia’s corners. The Hokies need to show up and play the same type of football that they’ve been playing for the last six weeks. This year, the Hokies have the better squad. They just need to show up and play their game. If they do, they have a very good chance to win this one.
Hokies are bowl eligible of an NCAA-leading 27th consecutive season. The first goal for any season is to make a bowl game. Start with that goal first, then worry about division titles. A bowl game was a good goal for this team — especially after waiting until their 12th game to make one last year. Their excellent play of late has them in the thick of the race for the Coastal division. But to get there they need to win two difficult games against Pittsburgh and Virginia.
Special Teams: 92nd
Special Teams: 39th
Pittsburgh reminds me of Virginia Tech teams from the mid-2000s. Elite defense. Pedestrian offense. Pittsburgh wins by keeping the opposition out of the end zone. Pittsburgh is giving up an average of 22 points per game in ACC games this season. Pitt’s defensive statistics are impressive. 11th in total defense. 7th in rushing defense. 9th in pass efficiency defense. To beat Pitt, you need to be able to complete passes against press coverage. Wide receivers need to win the one-on-one battles. This is a good week to get tight ends involved in the passing game. If the Hokies hope to have success on offense, they need to stay out of third and long. And use the screen game against an aggressive defensive line.
This is not the offense that you’ve seen from Pitt in the past. When you think of the Pitt offense you think of a run-heavy game. This year, the Panthers have not been able to run the ball and have turned to a pass-heavy offense. Pittsburgh’s offensive numbers are ugly. 106th in scoring offense. 106th in rushing offense. 96th in passing efficiency. This is an offense that does just enough to let their defense win the game for them.
This is going to be a close game. Pitt’s defense is good enough that the Hokies aren’t going to be able to go up and down the field on them. The goal for the Tech offense will be to not turn the ball over and try to grind out a few scoring drives to win the game. The Pitt defense is good but not unbeatable. Tech needs to take a methodical approach to their offense. Take opportunities as they come but don’t force it. The Hokies offense should be able to put enough points on the board to win. And the defense is playing well enough now to keep Pittsburgh’s offense mostly in check.
With the win against Wake Forest, the Hokies have put themselves in good position for a bowl game. And even a shot at the Coastal division title. The key for the Hokies is to keep the momentum going. Next up are key Coastal division games against Georgia Tech, Pitt and Virginia. The Hokies cannot afford to overlook Georgia Tech. They are an improving team under Geoff Collins. Tech needs to head to Atlanta with a take-care-of-business attitude.
Special Teams: 124th
Special Teams: 41st
Offense has been a struggle for Georgia Tech this season. Most expected a difficult the transition from the triple option to a spread offense. The Jackets have not been a threat in the passing game this season. But they can break a big play from time-to-time. Georgia Tech’s offense likes to run the ball and try to shorten the game. They want to keep the clock running. In order for the Hokies to be successful, they will need to stop the run and not get beat downfield with the long pass.
Georgia Tech is better on defense, particularly against the pass. The Jackets rank 119th against the run but rank 31st against the pass. It’s safe to say if you want to move the ball against Georgia Tech, your best option is on the ground. This is actually a pretty good matchup for the Hokies. The running game has looked a lot better with Hendon Hooker under center. The key for the Hokies will be to not turn ball over and give the Jackets struggling offense a short field.
Here are the last three games against Georgia Tech:
2016: Georgia Tech 30, Virginia Tech 20 2017: Georgia Tech 28, Virginia Tech 22 2018: Georgia Tech 49, Virginia Tech 28
The Hokies had a long stretch of success against Georgia Tech from 1990 thru 2015. But since then things have gone downhill. Virginia Tech were Vegas favorites in all three games but were on the losing end of upsets all three times. They need to change that. Paul Johnson was a thorn in the Hokies side for a long time. But he’s gone now. The Hokies need to go down to Atlanta and take care of business. On paper, this looks like a favorable matchup. The Hokies need to watch out for a motivated opponent playing on their home field. Georgia Tech is improving as the season goes on. They want to get that first ACC win at home. The Hokies need to go in focused to not mess around against an overmatched opponent.
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.