Tag Archives: virginia tech

Pitt Preview and Prediction

Georgia Tech is the one game so far this season that the Hokies shouldn’t have lost. They simply made too many mistakes and couldn’t capitalize when opportunities presented themselves. Most teams will have a loss or two like that each season. These are the ones who think about weeks later and know how close you were to a win. They are the difference between a good season and a great season.

Either way, the Georgia Tech loss doesn’t greatly affect the Hokies postseason goals. Even with a win against Georgia Tech, their chances at a New Year’s Six bowl were slim. And they are still in the mix for the Citrus, TaxSlayer and Camping World bowls with two more wins against Pitt and UVA. The important thing will be to get the team refocused after two tough losses and take care of business against two teams that they should beat.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 24th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 90th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 7th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 29th

Pittsburgh

Overall S&P+ ranking: 92nd
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 72nd
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 94th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 83rd

The biggest issue that the Hokies will face from Pitt is their ground attack. Pitt uses a lot of jet sweep motion to spread out the defense then they run the ball with their big tailbacks. This is something that gave the Hokies trouble last season. Not to mention in their game against UNC, their quarterback scrambled more than he has all season. Expect this game to be like the Georgia Tech game. The Hokies need to stop the run and not get beat over the top.

Pitt’s run defense is bad but so is the Hokies run game. So those two things offset each other. If the Hokies want to move the ball in this game, they will need to do so through the air against Pitt’s average pass defense. Pitt likes to use a lot of press coverage which has given the Hokies trouble this year. The Hokies young wideouts will have to find space against tight coverage and make plays. The best outcome would be for Cam Phillips to have a great day on Senior Day.

The stats say Pittsburgh is somewhere in between Duke and North Carolina this season. Two teams that the Hokies blew out before they had their confidence stomped on by Miami. And before the recent rash of injuries the Hokies have suffered. On defense and special teams alone, this is a mismatch. The Hokies offense has been so stagnant in the last two weeks that it’s hard to expect much from them. And with the defensive injuries this past week, it’s hard to know what to expect from the defense. All I know is that Pittsburgh doesn’t pass the eye test to me. When I watched them last week, they looked a lot closer to UNC than they did VT. Even though it’s a bad matchup for the Hokies, they will find a way on Senior Day.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 34, Pittsburgh 20

 

 

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  

Miami Preview and Prediction

This is a huge game. If the Hokies lose, they are mathematically eliminated from Coastal contention. If the Hokies hope to repeat as Coastal champions, they will need to win this game on the road against undefeated Miami.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 15th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 70th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 4th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 34th

Miami

Overall S&P+ ranking: 14th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 20th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 31st
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 54th

As you can see, they are two very evenly matched teams. Both teams have put together impressive resumes against relatively soft schedules. No one would argue these aren’t two very good teams. Both teams are trying to build a resume ahead of the ACC Championship for a chance at the College Football Playoff. They could both be considered dark horses in the CFP race.

I’ve watched Miami’s games this year and they just don’t pass they eye test to me. At least not for an undefeated team nine weeks into the season. You always expect them to play better than they do. What has stood out to me is that they play down to their competition. Which means they can play up to their competition in a big game, and they probably will. So don’t expect the same Miami team that struggled against GT and UNC.

The Hokies offense is going to have trouble moving the ball against Miami’s defense. They aren’t as good as Clemson’s but they are probably better than Duke’s and BC’s. They will be a challenge. The Hokies will be able to put some points on the board as Justin Fuente and Brad Cornelsen will be able to scheme against an aggressive defense but I would not be surprised if the Hokies’ offense gave up a turnover or two. It will be important for the Hokies to not give the Hurricanes a short field and limit turnovers. Turnovers and special teams will be key in this match up.

The Hokies cannot have big lapses like they did against Clemson. They had a busted coverage which led to a 60 yard touchdown and a mishandled catch which led to a pick 6. That cost the Hokies 14 points in game decided by 14 points.

A key stat favoring the Hokies is that they rank 3rd nationally in third down conversions allowed. Miami ranks 118th in converting 3rd downs. That could be an issue for Miami but they do excel at finding big plays on offense. The Hokies need to focus on limiting Miami’s big play ability and force them to convert 3rd downs to move the ball down the field.

Bud Foster’s goal needs to be to make Miami one dimensional by stopping their running game. UNC was able to limit Miami to 1.8 YPC last week. If the Hokies can force Malik Rosier to throw the ball, that works in Virginia Tech’s favor and should limit Miami’s big play ability.

Miami is better than they have shown the last two weeks. It’s strange to see an undefeated team as a home underdog (probably has more to do with Vegas folks being high on VT recently but I digress). Virginia Tech’s average game performance is better than Miami’s average game performance. That doesn’t mean that Miami can’t put together a special performance on a big stage. We’ve seen that from them before. But all things being equal, I like the Hokies’ defense limiting Miami’s offense and Tech’s offense’s ability to find big plays. Special teams will be key in this game. Field position battles will matter in a close game. Expect a low scoring affair. This game will be classic Virginia Tech-Miami. Lots of big hits. Lots of emotion on both sides. It’ll be a fun one on ABC prime time. We will need Joey Slye to come up big in this game.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Miami 24

 

Duke Preview and Prediction

The Hokies put their best performance of the year together against UNC. They picked a good time to do it with all the #NC2VT recruits in town. As time goes on, I think you will see the Hokies make deeper in-roads into North Carolina. I think the game last weekend already helped with a couple of Virginia Tech’s top targets.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 17th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 59th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 8th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 47th

Duke

Overall S&P+ ranking: 79th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 88th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 55th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 95th

Under David Cutcliffe, Duke is always a tough out. They are tough. They are disciplined. And they play good defense. No 59-7 box scores this week.

Where Duke is struggling this year is in the passing game. Daniel Jones has not been able to find the success he had in his freshman year. You can call this season his sophomore slump. Expect to see the Hokies focus on shutting down the run and forcing Daniel Jones to beat them with his arm. Something he has struggled with so far this year.

Duke has an effective but not explosive running attack. The Hokies boast the 16th ranked rushing defense in the country. They should be able to slow down the Duke rushing attack and force the offense to come thru the arms and legs of Daniel Jones. I am more concerned about his legs than arm. Although, he only has 217 rushing yards for the season.

Where is Hokies will have issues in this game is on offense. They will struggle to put long drives together against this Duke defense. If the Hokies are going to have success, they are going to need to find a ground game. Duke’s defense is a little more susceptible to the rushing attack than the passing game. The Hokies will need to find ways to get their running backs involved in the gameplan.

At this point, Duke is the third best team the Hokies have played. This won’t be a cake walk like UNC but expect a game like the BC game. The Hokies will struggle to move the ball on offense and the defense will make life hard on Duke. This is a game where it would be a good if the Hokies can get off to a good start offensively. This game being played in the rain makes me nervous for sloppy conditions that can cause turnovers which could hurt the VT offense. But all things being equal – I like the Hokies offense, defense and special teams over Duke’s.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Duke 10

North Carolina Preview and Prediction

The North Carolina game is starting to become as important as the UVA game. Years ago  it 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

Boston College Preview and Prediction

Hokie Nation did a fantastic job last Saturday. GameDay looked great. Enter Sandman looked great. The ESPN folks went out of their way to talk about how great the atmosphere was. We don’t get that kind of love from ESPN very often. You can tell they still like our program but they are still waiting for us to be “back”. If the Hokies can get back to winning 10 games consistently again, there will be more ESPN love and GameDay appearances in our future.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 22nd
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 64th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 10th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 84th

Boston College

Overall S&P+ ranking: 96th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 124th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 33rd
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 62nd

This isn’t the tough as nails Boston College we’re used to. Trips to Boston in the past have given the Hokies a lot of trouble. Between 2006 and 2013, the Hokies lost 3 out of 4 trips to Chestnut Hill. After a big win in 2015 and two straight in the series, it looks like those days are in the rearview.

Boston College has struggled with recruiting in recent years and it’s starting to show on the field. The defense is still good but the offensive can’t do much… at all (see the offensive S&P+ ranking above). The most points they’ve scored in a game this year is 28 last week against Central Michigan. Against Power 5 opponents this year, they are averaging 12 points per game. Ouch.

In games like this I like to look at what the opponent does well. Boston College has a very strong pass defense only giving up 154 yards per game thru the air. The Hokies will need to move the ball on the ground to move the chains consistently. BC has also forced 7 interceptions in 5 games, which is 3 better than the Hokies have this year. When BC gets into the red zone, they score 87.5% of the time (56.3% TD). They also have a dangerous punt returner who is averaging more than 18 yard per return.

Other than that, BC is not a dangerous team this year. There is a reason the Hokies are favored by 16.5 points. Their stats remind me more of what we usually see from UVA than what we’ve been used to from BC. Simply put, they don’t have the offensive firepower to consistently put points on the board. Much less against a defense like the Hokies. But their defense is good enough to keep them in the game. Likely into the 2nd half and maybe into the 4th quarter if they play like they did against Clemson. But ultimately, if the defense is on the field too long, they will wear out and the Hokies take can advantage in the 2nd half. I like the Hokies to win by around the Vegas number. They won’t pull away until late in the game but eventually they will get the better of the BC defense.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Boston College 10

Clemson Preview and Prediction

The Terror Dome is back! Here we are. Hokies took care of business over the last four weeks and now they get an undefeated showdown against Clemson. Don’t kid yourself. Clemson is not overrated. They deserve to be ranked in the top two in the country. While the offense is still trying to get to the same level as last year’s, the defense might be even better than last year’s group. This team is for real and will pose a huge challenge for the Hokies.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 20th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 56th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 11th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 58th

Clemson

Overall S&P+ ranking: 6th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 25th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 3rd
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 108th

I’ve tried to think of a bigger home game than this one and you have to go all the way back to Boston College in 2007 to come up with anything as close to this one. Yes, the Hokies played the reigning national champs in 2015 but they weren’t ready to take Ohio State’s best punch. This time, the Hokies have a real chance to compete and win.

Let’s talk about the Terror Dome for a second. I can think of a few high-profile night games against top 5 teams since 2000 and this is how they have gone:

Miami 2003 31-7 Hokies
Miami 2005 27-7 ‘Canes
BC 2007 14-10 Eagles

The crowd was jacked up for each game but with very different results. For Miami 2003, the team fed off the crowd and Miami didn’t have a chance. The game snowballed on a super-talented ‘Canes team and the Hokies rolled to victory. That was a special night.

In the 2005 Miami game, the atmosphere was just as good or better than the 2003 game but it didn’t produce a winning result on the field. Whereas the 2003 team used the energy and momentum to ride to victory, the 2005 Hokies shrank when things started to go south. The crowd had almost no impact on the game. The ‘Canes controlled it from start to finish.

And in the 2007 BC game, the Hokies defense rode the electric crowd to an incredible defensive performance… until the last drive. All you can say about big games at Lane Stadium is that you never know what to expect or if the Hokies can use the crowd energy to their benefit. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t. Most important is that the Hokies get off to a good start.

Now on to the game itself. The Hokies can have success against the Clemson offense if they can stack the box and force Kelly Bryant to beat them with his arm. They also can’t let Kelly Bryant beat them with his legs. Containing Bryant on the ground will be key.

The Clemson defensive line is the best the Hokies will play all year. The starting line features four players who will likely be selected in the first three rounds of the NFL draft in the coming years. They will pose a huge challenge for the Hokies to block. Look for the Hokies offense to use misdirection, screens and read option to keep them off Josh Jackson. Don’t expect a huge game from the running back position. Yards will be hard to come by against this defensive line.

If there is an area that may be a weakness for Clemson, it’s in the secondary. They are a banged up group. Cam Phillips and the other receivers may be able to find some space. If opportunities present themselves, it’s important for Josh Jackson to make them pay by connecting on his intermediate and deep passes. The Hokies need to get big chunk plays when they can find them.

More than most games, the Hokies must win the turnover, special teams and hidden yardage battle. If the Hokies play Clemson even in these areas, Clemson will likely win. Virginia Tech needs to exploit any advantages they have over Clemson because all things being equal, Clemson has more talent. That means winning in the kicking game and forcing turnovers. If the Hokies can win there, they can win this game.

This is a no-lose situation for the Hokies. Win and it’s an incredible accomplishment over a top team. Lose and it’s expected. That means the Hokies are playing with house money. The Hokies need to play loose and easy because they don’t have anything to lose. Win or lose, what’s most important is for the Hokies to look like they belong. Just like they did in the ACC Championship Game. That will go nearly as far as winning the game itself. Whether the Hokies win or not, we know that Justin Fuente is building something special whether we see the results on Saturday night or in the future. But winning this game on national TV in front of a ton of highly-ranked recruits would be a huge springboard for the program.

The Hokies have what it takes to win. They can play with Clemson but picking this game objectively, I have to go with Clemson. They just have too much firepower across the board. But it will be a good game and the Hokies should be able to keep it competitive all the way until the end. This game has all the ingredients of a classic. So sit back, relax and enjoy watching the Hokies in the national game of the week. And who knows? Maybe we’ll see some Terror Dome magic.

Prediction: Clemson 27, Virginia Tech 21