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Independence Bowl Preview and Prediction

Frank’s last game. Frank Beamer is an institution at Virginia Tech. I think sometimes it’s easy to overlook Frank’s longevity and consistency at Virginia Tech. It’s remarkable, especially in this era of college football. 29 years. 23 straight bowl games. 7 conference championship. 5 division titles. That’s a hall of fame resume and Frank did it with as much class as anyone who has ever coached. He will be missed and today should be a celebration of what Frank has accomplished.

Now on to the game, Tulsa is one of the weakest teams to qualify for a bowl this year. The stats bear this out. Their defense is ranked 125th in the country. For your reference, there are only 128 teams in FBS. They have the 120th ranked rushing defense and 110th ranked passing defense. They allow 38.6 points per game this year. The teams that Tulsa beat on their way to 6 wins won a combined 17 games this year.

So you might be asking, any reason to be concerned going into this game? Well, Tulsa is ranked 14th in the nation in total offense and 11th in the nation in passing offense. Most of this was compiled against a very weak schedule but this team can move the ball nonetheless. Watch out for Keyarris Garrett who is Tulsa’s big playmaker at the wide receiver position. If the Hokies can’t cover him, he could have a big day.

One thing that Tulsa does well on defense is get into the backfield. They are ranked 41st in the nation in tackles for loss. The Hokies needs to stay ahead of the chains and not let themselves get into 3rd and long. That’s where Tulsa thrives on defense.

Keys to the Game for the Hokies:

  1. Stop the Run
  2. Cover Kayarris Garrett
  3. Protect Michael Brewer

Vegas says that the Hokies are the biggest favorite of the college bowl season with most outlets showing the Hokies as a 13.5 point favorite. On paper, it seems fair based on what both teams have accomplished this season.  The most comparable team to Tulsa that the Hokies have played this year is Purdue. The Hokies beat Purdue 51-24. I think the Hokies should have a big day as long as they show up ready to play. If they don’t, Tulsa’s offense is potent enough to make them pay early. Since this is Frank Beamer’s last game, I see the Hokies show up with a fire and put a 1993 Independence Bowl-style beating on the Golden Hurricane.  The Hokies should send Frank Beamer out a winner and we all get to see him on his player’s shoulders one last time.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 38, Tulsa 24

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Boston College Preview and Prediction

If you like crisp offensive football, don’t tune in on Saturday. This one is going to be ugly. Like Wake Forest 2014 ugly. Boston College has one of the worst offenses in FBS but they also have one of the best defenses. This is going to be a game where neither offense will be able to do much and the game will be decided by field position and turnovers.

If there was ever an offense that was going to make the Virginia Tech defense look good, this is it. The BC offense lacks talent at the skill positions and there really isn’t a player that scares you.  The only player that I’d be concerned about is Jeff Smith as a running QB. The Hokies have had a ton of trouble stopping running QBs this year and you know that the BC coaches have seen enough film to know to use Smith as a weapon.

As good as the BC offense is going to make the Hokies defense look, their defense is going to lay waste to our offense. I’m concerned about Michael Brewer and his surgically repaired collarbone. The Hokies haven’t seen a defense like this since Ohio State and this defense might even be better than Ohio State’s. This is a game where the Hokies offense needs to be patient and show balance. If the Hokies get behind early and have to throw often against this aggressive defense, look out. The best you can hope for is that the defense sets up the offense with good field position and the Hokies offense can put some points on the board.

This is a difficult game to pick. Both teams need this win in a big way as they are both looking to qualify for a bowl game. I’m going to go with BC to win because I think their defense against the Hokies offense is a mismatch and should be enough to pull out the victory. It’s good that this game is on Halloween because it is going to be ugly enough to terrify any college football fan.

Prediction: Boston College 16, Virginia Tech 9

Duke Preview and Prediction

The Hokies have to win this game if they hope to make a bowl this season. A loss would put the Hokies at 3-5 and would mean they would have to finish 3-1 in order to make a bowl. They do not want to put themselves in that position. On paper, this is a game where the Hokies are favored and if they play like they are capable of, they should win this game.

Duke’s offense is even more anemic than the Hokies’ offense. They rely on the running game and a running quarterback (uh oh). Even with the youth in the secondary, the Hokies should be able to limit the Blue Devils’ passing game. The key to this game will be limiting QB Thomas Sirks’ rushing yards and limiting the Duke RBs from getting involved in the passing game. As long as the Hokies’ defense can play disciplined defensive football in these two areas they should be able to limit Duke offensively.

In theory, the Hokies should move the ball better with Michael Brewer behind center but there are a couple of things about this matchup that concern me. Michael Brewer isn’t particularly mobile and Duke likes to show a lot of blitzes and coverages. Michael Brewer needs to be able to recognize the blitzes and get the ball out of his hands quickly. We cannot have a sack fest like we saw against Pitt.

The Hokies would be well served to lean on their running game. They need to feed the ball to Travon McMillian early and often. If he is rushing for 7+ YPC, don’t take the ball out of his hands. The Miami game would’ve gone much differently, if the coaching staff had kept giving Travon the ball.  This will help Michael Brewer and open up the play action passing game. Michael Brewer cannot be successful if he has to drop back on every down against an aggressive Duke defense.

This will be a tough challenge for the Hokies but it is a game that they can win. Let’s hope the team hasn’t packed it in. If they can play smart and disciplined football, they stand a good chance to win this game. This is a game where the defense will have to stand tall in order for the Hokies to win.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 17, Duke 10

NC State Preview and Prediction

The Hokies have been a disappointment so far. There is far too much talent on this team to be a sub .500 team. That’s even without the services of Michael Brewer and Kendall Fuller. The Pitt game was just embarrassing. We got Stanford’d… BY PITT! They just dominated line play on both sides of the ball. It was not a banner day for Virginia Tech football.

Now let’s get down to some realities about Virginia Tech football. This simply is not a good team right now. This team resembles Mike London’s Hoos more than they resemble the Hokies that we all know and love. The Hokies are 1-7 in their last 8 home games against Power 5 competition and that one win was against UVA. They aren’t exactly a powerhouse program right now and it required a 4th quarter comeback to pull off that victory.

I’m really struggling with whether this is just a bad team or if this is a team that is struggling through some injuries and youth and will come around as the season progresses. I’m honestly not sure but the signs don’t look good. I’m hoping that Michael Brewer can inject some life into a team that is struggling right now.

Well, time to move on to NC State. Jacoby Brissett is solid QB with good mobility. As we found out the last few weeks, the Hokies seem completely unable to stop a mobile QB. I don’t know what it’s going to take to change that.  Brissett only has 39 rushing yards for the season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he matched that on their first drive. Let’s hope the Hokies have found the lunch pail since last Saturday.

Let’s hope that Michael Brewer starts Friday night. The film is out on Brenden Motley and if the Pitt game is any indication, it appears like the offense is pretty limited with him at the helm. NC State has the type of secondary that Michael Brewer will be able to move the ball against if he can get better protection from the offensive line. This is the type of game where the Hokies need to put the ball in the hands of their playmakers and let them make plays. Isaiah Ford, Bucky Hodges and Ryan Malleck should be able to win a lot of matchups in this game, if the QB can get them the ball.

I have the same record as the Hokies in picking games this year. I’m going to start picking against the Hokies until they show me that they’re not a bottom feeder ACC team. I would used to say that a night game at Lane Stadium is a cure for what ails you. Now I’m not so sure. Here’s to hoping that Michael Brewer injects some life in the offense and that the defense has found the lunch pail. If not, it’s probably another week of one possession loss misery.

Prediction: NC State 24, Virginia Tech 17

Pitt Preview and Prediction

Virginia Tech is a .500 team. It’s been that way for the last three years and not much has changed. The loss of Kendall Fuller and Michael Brewer means that this year’s team will more than likely to be a .500 team again this year. From here on out, the Hokies need to win their home games and try to steal a win or two on the road. 

These teams are very closely matched. Neither team is really exceptional on offense or defense. They both clearly have their flaws on both sides of the ball. When you combine that with sloppy conditions on Saturday, you can’t really be sure what you’re going to get from either team. This is going to be an ugly game.

I hope this week Bud has spent some time working with the defense on how to contain a running QB. There’s a good chance we see Chad Voytik this week. Remember, he’s the guy who ran for 116 yards against the Hokies last year. 

The Hokies are a much better team than what they showed last week, injuries and all. Count me as thinking that the penalties will get cleaned up and we will see improved play from the secondary and linebackers in the coming weeks. There is talent there, but everyone has yet to put it all together. I’m going with the Hokies in a close game. They’re two evenly matched teams. I’ll go with the home team.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 23 Pittsburgh 20

Miami Preview and Prediction

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

Pittsburgh Preview and Prediction

Let’s examine the Hokies last three visits to Pittsburgh:

2012: #13 Virginia Tech 17, Pittsburgh 35
2003: #5 Virginia Tech 28, #25 Pittsburgh 31
2001: #12 Virginia Tech 7, Pittsburgh 38

That’s three times that a highly ranked Virginia Tech team has waltzed into Heinz Field and left with a lost. If the Hokies want to avoid it happening for a fourth consecutive time, they need to come prepared to play.

Virginia Tech’s front seven is small and fast. This works well against a lot of teams but Pitt has a very big offensive line and 6’2″, 250 pound running back. I don’t like how that matchup looks on paper especially with Luther Maddy out for the game.

You might say, is Chad Voytik going to beat us? Well, I didn’t think Tino Sunseri, Rod Rutherford and David Priestly would beat us either. His numbers this year aren’t terrible – 58.7%, 8 TDs, 5 INTs. If the Hokies want to take advantage of the matchup of the Hokies secondary vs Voytik – they need to jump out to an early lead and make him have to throw more than the Pitt coaches might feel comfortable with. That’s the formula for beating this Pitt team.

Statistically, the Pitt defense is very good. They rank 4th in total defense, 37th in rushing defense and 6th in passing defense. The Hokies haven’t been able to run on anyone this season, so don’t expect that to start this week with their top 3 running backs out for the game. That also means that once again, the success of the offense will reside squarely on Michael Brewer’s shoulders. If he takes care of the ball, more than likely the Hokies will win. If he reverts back to bad Michael Brewer, it will be difficult for the Hokies to win.  It’s really as simple as that. Let’s hope we see more of the Ohio State/UNC Michael Brewer than the ECU/GT Michael Brewer.

On paper this matchup looks pretty even all things considered. But given the Hokies bad mojo at Heinz Field, it’s hard to pick them. This game is going to look a lot like the UNC game – lots of penalties and just plain ugly football. I’m just not feeling good about the Hokies chances of going into Heinz Field in an even matchup and stealing a win. It didn’t work for those highly-ranked VT squads and I don’t think it’s going to work for the 2014 Hokies either.

Pittsburgh 27, Virginia Tech 24