The Miami game was a tough way to lose. The Hokies looked like the better team for three quarters against a top ten team. Then the offense went into hiding in the fourth quarter. It’s easy to point fingers but you have to make the plays in crunch time to win the game. Miami did. Virginia Tech didn’t. It’s that simple.
This game comes down to can Hendon Hooker complete passes against man coverage? We know exactly what Pittsburgh in going to do. They will stack the box against the run and make Hendon Hooker beat them against press coverage. If Tech’s receivers can get open and Hendon Hooker can find them the ball, the Hokies should have success moving the football. But if Tech can’t run the ball and Hendon Hooker has trouble finding open receivers, it could be a long day offensively.
The Panthers struggle to run the ball and like to move the ball in the air. That plays to the advantage of the Hokies. Tech is better at stopping teams thru the air than on the ground. Kenny Pickett will have his work cut out for him against Virginia Tech’s secondary. Pitt ranks 71st in the nation in scoring offense averaging 27.6 points per game. Watch out for Jordan Addison in the passing game. He is Pitt’s go-to receiver.
This is a game where the Hokies want to get the tight ends involved. If James Mitchell is healthy, he would be the featured receiver. If he’s not able to go, the Hokies will need to lean on Nick Gallo. Expect this game to be a low-scoring affair, where the Hokies will HAVE to move the ball through the air. If all-else-fails the Hokies should run the Jerod Evans offense and have Hendon Hooker throw up jump ball after jump ball to his receivers. In the end, the Hokies will make a couple more plays offensively and win a one possession game on the road.
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.
This year’s Hokies have been the definition of inconsistent. One week, it’s the defense. One week, it’s the offense. I would argue the Hokies have only had two complete performances this season – against William & Mary and against Duke. Other than those games, you either get the Hokies offense or the Hokies defense or neither. If the Hokies hope to make a bowl this season, they need to close the season with a couple of complete performances.
Overall S&P+ Rank: 61st
Offensive S&P+ Rank: 37th
Defensive S&P+ Rank: 81st
Special Teams S&P+ Rank: 34th
Overall S&P+ Rank: 71st
Offensive S&P+ Rank: 50th
Defensive S&P+ Rank: 87th
Special Teams S&P+ Rank: 61st
This is the third consecutive game against a team with a strong running game. Hokies struggled mightily with Georgia Tech and looked significantly better against Boston College. They will need to be even better to stop the Pitt rushing attack. They are led by Qadree Ollison who leads the team with 819 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns. He is backed up by Darrin Hall who has big play ability and is averaging 7.4 yards per carry. He also had 229 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns against UVA last week. Pitt uses a lot of reverses and misdirection to confuse the opposing defenses. If the Hokies defense loses track of the ball carrier, then it’s off to the races.
Pitt’s defense has been a very up and down this year – just like the Hokies. In some games, they have looked excellent and in others they’ve looked mediocre or worse. You never know what you’re going to get from this defense. Their performance last week against UVA was probably their most complete performance of the year. This defense is better at stopping the run than the pass but they have struggled with both at times this season. This defense is good at getting in the backfield to generate sacks and tackles for loss. Watch out for Rashad Weaver getting pressure on Ryan Willis.
The Hokies remaining games are winnable but the Hokies need to put a complete performance together. This one isn’t a great matchup but it does look like a winnable matchup and the Hokies need to take advantage to get a win where they can. They need to avoid penalties and turnovers. If the defense shows up like they did against BC, and the offense can show up like they did against Georgia Tech, the Hokies should be in good shape. It’s difficult to predict games this year with a team as inconsistent as this year’s Hokies. If the Hokies want to get to a bowl game, this is where they need to go on the road and pick up a win in a place that’s been tough for them to get wins in the past. They are due for a complete performance.