You can’t judge a team based on an early season game. In 2016, the Hokies turned the ball over five times and lost to Tennessee at the Battle at Bristol. That team went on to win the Coastal division and took Clemson to the last possession in the ACC Championship Game. Last season, the Hokies beat Florida State on the road 24-3 then went on to have their first losing season in 26 years. In short, don’t judge a season based on an early season game. Some teams get better and some teams don’t end up looking as good as they first looked. You have to let the season play out.
The Hokies have two more games to tune up before they play their next conference game against Duke. They need to use these games as an opportunity to get healthy and fix the issues we saw against Boston College. Old Dominion is the type of team the Hokies need to be able to get a comfortable victory against. The Hokies need to prove that last year’s massive upset was no more than a fluke.
The Old Dominion offense features some familiar faces. Former Virginia Tech OC Bryan Stinespring is ODU’s new tight ends coach. And former VT players Eric Kumah and Chris Cunningham are now starters for Old Dominion. Not to mention they will also be team captains for this game. If that’s not sending a message to the Hokies, I’m not sure what is.
Last year’s hero, Blake LaRussa, left football to pursue seminary school this past offseason. Jeremy Cox, the running back who ran for 130 yards against the Hokies last year is also gone. Replacing them is JUCO QB Stone Smartt and former VT recruiting target RB LaLa Davis. The player to watch on the ODU offense is former Hokie Eric Kumah. He led ODU in receiving yards last week against Norfolk State.
The ODU defense struggled against the run last year. This is a game where the Hokies run game should look to get going. Look for Keshawn King to have a big game. This defense brings back five starters from last year’s squad. This defense finished dead last in total defense in Conference USA in 2018. The Hokies need to show off some of their offensive talent and put up a lot of points. If Norfolk State can put 21 points against ODU, Virginia Tech should be able to put up a lot more.
Last year, the game at Old Dominion felt like a lot of problems revealing themselves at the same time. Up until that point, the Hokies were feeling good. That game revealed a lot of problems that the Hokies spent the rest of the year trying to work out. This time the motivation will be there to take care of business against the Monarchs. This is a game the Hokies should put away early.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 42, Old Dominion 14
The Hokies had an unexpected bye week after Hurricane Florence cancelled their game with East Carolina. While it was disappointing to not have a game played this past weekend, it does give the Hokies some needed rest and recovery headed into two consecutive road games, a Coastal division showdown with Duke and big-time matchup with Notre Dame.
This week the Hokies travel to the 757 for the first time since 1986 to take on Old Dominion. This game gives me some concern after the Hokies have been off for two weeks, they could come out rusty after a long layoff. The game is also on the road. Road games can always be tough. And this game is leading into big games against Duke and Notre Dame. The Hokies cannot be caught looking ahead.
Old Dominion has struggled so far this season. They were blown out in week 1 on the road against Liberty. They lost in week 2 to Florida International at home. And they lost this past Thursday to Charlotte on the road. Needless to say, it’s not the type of start ODU was looking for.
Looking at this team on paper, there isn’t a lot they do well through 3 games. They have a reasonably good red zone defense and they don’t take many penalties but that might be it. They have struggled on offense, defense and special teams. Keep an eye on a kid Virginia Tech was looking at in recruiting last year, running back LaLa Davis. He has some game breaking ability in ODU’s backfield. They also have a mobile quarterback in Steven Williams. Mobile quarterbacks have given the Hokies some trouble in the past.
The Monarchs should be better on defense. This is a defense that returned four seniors on the defensive line, and seven senior starters on the defense as a whole. Keep in mind that this is a team that finished ranked 92nd in total defense last season. They return a lot of pieces from a defense that was not very good last year. The leader of the defense is Lawrence Garner, their middle linebacker who leads the team with 42 tackles so far this season. Also keep an eye out for defensive end Oshane Ximines who can be disruptive coming off the edge.
This is a game where the Hokies need to bring their 1-0 mentality. They can’t get caught looking ahead to the Duke game. Especially on the road. This needs to be a take-care-of-business game against a team that has struggled through the first three weeks of the season. There should also be a sizable contingent of Hokies at Foreman Field. If the Hokies can bring their focus, this is a game they should be able to get past without too much trouble setting up a big division showdown with Duke.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 38, Old Dominion 10
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.
Overall S&P+ ranking: 25th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 67th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 13th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 47th
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