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Florida State Preview and Prediction

The Hokies have another big opening game on national television. Last year it was West Virginia. The year before it was Tennessee in week 2. The Hokies winning against West Virginia made a big statement. They need to start winning these games more often than not in order to grow the program to new levels. If the Hokies lose, everyone will say “same old Hokies.”

The Hokies focus in this game needs to be on stopping the run and forcing Deondre Francois to beat them with his arm. This was the game plan against Clemson last season but Clemson was still able to run all over the Hokies with big plays. The Hokies need to do a better job this time around. Play assignment football and wrap up their tackles. That’s a lot to ask from a very young defense – particularly from first time starters at linebacker. They can’t have Cam Akers and company run for big plays against them. Florida State has the running backs to create big plays out of mistakes from a young defense.

I expect good things from the offense. The Florida State defense has a lot of talent but I trust Fuente to have some different looks to throw at them. This has the potential to be the best offensive line the Hokies have put out in years. The Hokies have pass catching weapons that they didn’t have a year ago. Virginia Tech needs to be able to move the ball on the ground. That will require a big games from Deshawn McClease, Steven Peoples and Josh Jackson. A solid ground game will open things up through the air and make life easier on Josh Jackson. Florida State is also starting two young and smallish linebackers. Expect Fuente and Cornelsen to try to confuse them with RPOs and misdirection.

Teams that have been able to beat the Hokies in recent years have been able to do so by beating them through the air. The Hokies will need to limit big plays with their young secondary. If the Hokies are giving up big plays, the will have a tough time winning this matchup. The Hokies need to make Florida State drive the field to score. Big plays would be a big problem – like they were against Clemson last year. The Hokies need to prepare their young linebackers for the tempo that Florida State will play at.

The lack of depth on the defensive line is a big concern. The talent is there but there is not a lot of depth. Willie Taggart likes to play with tempo on offense which will takes it toll on a thin defensive line throughout the game. It will be critical for the Hokies to get off the field so they are not gassed by the fourth quarter. If they are on the field too long, that’s when you can expect big plays from FSU’s talented running backs.

This game will be closer than many experts think. Even though Florida State has a great home atmosphere, especially at night, they do have their issues too. I don’t expect the FSU offensive line to be able to handle the Hokies defensive line the way many are expecting which will limit the damage from their running backs. Their offense will have to rely on the passing game which means Deondre Francois will have to put up points with his arm. He will, but probably not as many as a some are expecting. It’ll be a tight, low scoring affair but I still think FSU just has too much talent and firepower at this point and they win it by one score. A big play on special teams could be the difference.

Prediction: Florida State 31, Virginia Tech 24

Camping World Bowl Preview and Prediction

For the second time under Justin Fuente, the Hokies have the opportunity to win their tenth game by winning their bowl game. This year it might be more challenging than last year. Oklahoma State is ranked 19th in the country and is one of the nation’s best offensive teams.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 24th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 99th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 6th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 38th

Oklahoma State

Overall S&P+ ranking: 11th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 4th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 70th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 76th

This is one of the more intriguing matchups of the bowl season. Two ranked teams. One is an elite offensive team. One is an elite defensive team. It’s always great to see two elite units matched up against each other.

One of the bigger storylines going into this game is the injuries for Virginia Tech. The Hokies limped to the finish at the end of the regular season. Going into the UVA game, VT was missing eight starters and had a banged up quarterback. For the bowl game, the Hokies will be missing Yoshua Nijman, Cam Phillips and Vinny Mihota. Those are significant injuries which will have a significant impact, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

This is the best offensive team the Hokies have faced since West Virginia in Week 1. Virginia Tech will have a difficult time stopping Mason Rudolph and James Washington. They may be the best quarterback-wide receiver combo in the nation. Greg Stroman and Brandon Facyson are going to have their hands full in their last collegiate game.

Oklahoma State is far from one-dimensional. Their spread attack opens up the running game and their rushing attack is ranked 38th in the nation. If there is one aspect of their offense that can give the Hokies hope, it’s that Mason Rudolph is not a running quarterback.

With Yoshua Nijman and Cam Phillips out, I’m not super confident in the Hokies offense. The Oklahoma State defense is middle-of-the-road but I’m not expecting the Virginia Tech offense to be able to keep up with the Cowboys offense. The Hokies will have to do it without their left tackle and their best wide receiver. It’ll be up to Josh Jackson and a bunch of young wide receivers. It’ll be tough to keep up with an offense that is sure to put points on the board.

If the Hokies hope to win, they will need to win on defense and special teams. Like they did against West Virginia earlier in the year. But Oklahoma State is significantly better on both sides of the ball than West Virginia. This will be a tough game. I would feel like it would be a pretty even matchup if the Hokies were completely healthy, but they are still a banged up team. They are not as banged up as they were for the UVA game, but they aren’t full strength either. I’m very concerned that this game might get away from the Hokies. I hope the defense and special teams can have a big performance to prove me wrong.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 38, Virginia Tech 17

 

Georgia Tech Preview and Prediction

Justin Fuente described Virginia Tech games this year as a “three-and-a-half-hour stomach ache.” Every game against Georgia Tech is a three-and-a-half-hour stomach ache. Their option attack limits the opposing team’s possessions and if you can’t make the most out of each and every possession, they can outscore you and beat you. Which they have done to teams often in recent years. That doesn’t sound like a good situation for a team known for getting off to slow starts offensively.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 18th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 83rd
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 7th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 25th

Georgia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 50th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 50th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 45th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 72nd

Expect to see a game plan from Georgia Tech similar to last year’s. Expect a lot of runs right up the middle from the B-back position and TaQuan Marshall. It’ll be up to Ricky Walker, Tim Settle and Andrew Motuapuaka to stuff the run up the middle. Something the middle of the Hokies defense had trouble with last year. The Hokies need to be able to push the option outside and have the Hokies defensive backs and linebackers shed blocks to get to the ball carrier. As usual, Georgia Tech will have some success but it will be important for the Hokies defense to keep them to 20 points or less. It’ll be tough situation for the Hokies if they get into a track meet with the Jackets.

Georgia Tech’s defense is solid but not spectacular. They have trouble generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Expect Josh Jackson to have time to throw but he will need to make the most of those opportunities since offensive possessions are limited when you play GT. It’s not uncommon for offenses to only have around eight possession when they play GT. So if you can’t get going in your first four possessions, you might only have four more the rest of the day. That’s why generating turnovers (i.e. more possessions) is important when you play the Jackets.

If there is one area where the Hokies have a clear advantage in this game, it’s on special teams. Just as with most games this season, the Hokies will need to play field position and try to set up big plays in the return game. There should be opportunities in this game. Georgia Tech’s special teams this year have not been particularly special. This game calls for a dose of #Shibestball.

This game makes me nervous because the Hokies just came off a very physical game against Miami where a couple of players got dinged up. Not to mention they had travel issues and lost a day of practice and they have to travel to Atlanta for this game. That’s not a lot of prep time for Georgia Tech’s offense. It helps that most of the players on defense have seen Georgia Tech’s offense last year but still you wish the Hokies had more time to prepare. I expect a close game but on paper the Hokies have the stronger squad. The Hokies defense has to show up and finish tackles though.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Georgia Tech 23  

North Carolina Preview and Prediction

The North Carolina game is starting to become as important as the UVA game. Years ago ┬áit was important for the Hokies to win the in-state rivalry with UVA to help with recruiting. These days, the state of North Carolina is just as important for recruiting as Virginia is. That’s why it’s important for the Hokies to beat UNC. Not to mention their recent academic fraud scandal and the bad things they’ve said about VT on the recruiting trail. They are an easy team to dislike.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 19th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 61st
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 11th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 53rd

North Carolina

Overall S&P+ ranking: 88th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 82nd
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 82nd
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 74th

North Carolina’s only win this year was over Old Dominion. Against the Power 5 teams on their schedule, they have lost by multiple scores. The Hokies defense will be the best defense that UNC has seen this year.

Let’s talk about UNC does well. They are actually a decent running team. The problem is Larry Fedora doesn’t like to run the ball. The are good at getting after the quarterback and getting sacks. And they are also good at forcing turnovers. So this is not a cake walk by any means. Especially if the Hokies get off to a slow start.

UNC is not very good defensively. They are likely better than Delaware, East Carolina and Old Dominion. But as far as ACC competition is concerned, they might be the worst defense left on the schedule. Expect the Hokies to be able to move the ball on the ground against North Carolina. Should be a good day on the ground for Josh Jackson and the Hokies remaining healthy running backs.

Things that concern me in this game are the Hokies being rusty coming off a bye and injuries at the wide receiver position. The Hokies have been getting off to slow starts all season. I’m worried we’ll see more of the same coming off a bye. I’m also wondering who is going to start at wide receiver with so many injuries. Hopefully, we’re pleasantly surprised but I worry about having to play a lot young players who will struggle with consistency.

I’m a slightly worried about this game for the reasons mentioned above. But if the Hokies have problems, the Heels issues are far bigger. They have lost 9 starters to injury who are out for the season. And the Hokies have the far better quarterback than the two the Heels could play on Saturday. Statistically, the Hokies are just better across the board. Kinda like the BC game. I see this being similar to that game. I hope the Hokies get it in gear and pour it on the Heels but I think that’s unlikely. This is another game where the Hokies need to get out with a win and get healthy before Miami and Georgia Tech.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 28, North Carolina 10

Midseason Awards and Outlook

Offensive MVP: Josh Jackson

Josh Jackson is the engine that makes the offense go. He has 1,700 passing yards, 13 TDs and 4 INTs. He’s on pace for 3,400 yards and 26 TDs.  Those numbers look similar to Jerod Evans’ record setting numbers midway thru last season. If he stays on that pace, it would set him up nicely for a possible ACC Rookie of the Year award and All-ACC selection. Very impressive for a freshman quarterback.

Honorable mention: Cam Phillips

Defensive MVP: Tremaine Edmunds

Tremaine Edmunds is leading the Hokies in tackles with 50. He’s one of the few players on the Hokies defense that the offense needs to be aware of on every snap. He goes sideline to sideline better than any linebacker the Hokies have had since Adibi and Hall. He also has 4.5 TFLs, 1.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Hard to argue anyone has been a bigger difference maker on defense than Tremaine Edmunds.

Honorable mention: Mook Reynolds

Special Teams MVP: Oscar Bradburn

As much as I want to give this to Greg Stroman, it has to be Oscar Bradburn. There are plenty of teams across the country with punters who shank punts or can’t get good punts off consistently. Our twenty-year old freshman from Australia might be the best freshman punter in the country. He’s averaging 43.8 yards per punt, nine punts were downed inside the 20 and eight punts have been greater than 50 yards. He played a big role in winning the field position battle against West Virginia. You normally don’t get that kind of production out of your punter, much less a freshman punter. Good on ya, mate!

Honorable mention: Greg Stroman

2nd Half Outlook

The first half of the season has gone according to plan. Hokies won against West Virginia in a big opening game. They took care of business against the rest of their over-matched opponents. And, as expected, took a loss to the defending national champs. So far, they are meeting expectations. What will take this season from good to great are wins against Georgia Tech and Miami. They also need to avoid the upset bug the rest of the way.

Things are setup well for the rest of the season, even if the Hokies lose to Miami and Georgia Tech they would still equal last season’s 9-3 mark. If they win one or both of those games they could finish at 10-2 or even 11-1. The key will be winning both of those games if the Hokies hope to make it back to the ACCCG. Even if they beat Miami and lose to Georgia Tech, the Canes could still win their remaining games and make the ACCCG with one loss to the Hokies. Looks like it’s going to be a tougher-than-usual year in the Coastal. Barring major injuries or a collapse, the Hokies are set up well for a good season (9-3 or better) and a trip to a quality bowl game. Hopefully, they can do what it takes to get a rematch with the Clemson Tigers in the ACC Championship Game.

Old Dominion Preview and Prediction

The Hokies are 3-0 with a big win over a good WVU team and wins over two overmatched teams. The Hokies hope to finish a perfect non-conference schedule this week against Old Dominion.

S&P+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 25th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 67th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 13th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 47th

Old Dominion

Overall S&P+ ranking: 100th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 99th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 85th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 88th

Why should ODU be a concern for the Hokies? First off, always worry about an in-state team with something to prove. The Hokies are the class of the state of Virginia. The Monarchs would love nothing more than to knock them off their perch. Don’t overlook a motivated in-state team. The Hokies found that out the hard way a couple of years ago against JMU.

ODU has only been an FBS team for the last 4 years. Last year, they won 10 games in Conference USA and won the Bahamas Bowl. They were a legit G5 team. This season they’ve taken a step back. ODU got blown out against the only P5 team that they have played (UNC).

In this matchup, the Hokies are going to need to focus on keeping the ODU pass rushers off of Josh Jackson. ODU leads the nation in sacks. They should present a challenge for the offensive line. One which I expect they will win considering ODU only got one sack against UNC.

ODU is in a tough spot trying to pull an upset in Lane Stadium. They have significant injuries on offense and they are starting a 17-year-old true freshman quarterback. Not to mention they have also had trouble moving the ball on the ground this season. Doesn’t sound like a recipe for success against the Hokies.

On paper, this matchup shouldn’t be close. The Hokies are statistically better almost across the board. In some cases, drastically better. ODU will be starting a young, true freshman quarterback in Lane Stadium against Bud Foster. Yikes! ODU is slightly better than ECU, so they will give the Hokies a little more resistance than the Pirates did but either way it won’t matter much. Hokies take care of business and move on to a big showdown against Clemson next week.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 52, Old Dominion 13