West Virginia Preview and Prediction

There was nothing pretty about that win over Wofford. It felt like we were watching the Spring Game on replay. Everything was very vanilla on offense. The Hokies were not able to and impose their will on an FCS team, but that’s where the Hokies are at this point. Tech needs to get back to a place where they can dominate teams from the FCS.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 61st
Offense: 106th
Defense: 19th
Special Teams: 18th

West Virginia

Overall: 58th
Offense: 42nd
Defense: 72nd
Special Teams: 56th

West Virginia has put up a lot of yards and a lot of points through three games. They are averaging 46 points per game. This is a balanced offense that has moved the ball very well this season. They have a big back who can pound the ball and a quarterback who completes a high percentage of his passes. Even if the Hokies are able to stop the run, this is an offense that can dink and dunk all the way down field. For the first time this year, the Hokies will tested by an offense that can go down field in the passing game. JT Daniels is a dangerous passer and the Hokies secondary needs to be ready.

If there is an area where the Hokies can have success it’s against West Virginia’s pass defense. This is a game where Grant Wells will need to take care of the ball and find targets downfield. He will need to get help from Kaleb Smith, Jaden Blue and Christian Moss. The Hokies need to keep WVU from stacking the box against the run game. Grant Wells will need to make them defend the whole field by throwing passes beyond ten yards. If the ‘Eers are able to stack the box, it’ll be a long night for the Hokies.

This has a big-game feel. The Hokies so far have been a bit of a roller coaster. They looked bad against ODU. Good against Boston College. And they didn’t show much at all against Wofford. The Hokies definitely have some weapons, but can they be consistent? These look like two even matched teams. This is one of those games where the team who makes the fewest mistakes (penalties, turnovers) will win. The Hokies need to hope that Grant Wells has turned the corner from his turnover issues in week 1. WVU’s defensive backs will make him pay on bad throws. On a neutral field, I’d pick WVU. But I’m betting on some old school Lane Stadium Thursday night magic.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, West Virginia 21

West Virginia Q&A with Couz’s Corner

This week we are joined by Justin “Couz” Walker from West Virginia football podcast Couz’s Corner.

Tell us about yourself and your podcast.

My name is Justin “Couz” (pronounced Kooz) Walker and I host a podcast/YouTube channel called Couz’s Corner. I talk primarily about West Virginia football, but also touch on a lot of Big 12 and national college football storylines. I will also touch on major West Virginia basketball games and storylines as well. You can also follow me on Twitter @couz206 and IG @couzscorner206.

Tell us about your team this year. What are your expectations for West Virginia this season?

Well, going into the season I had high expectations of at least 8 wins. After the debacle that happened last Saturday and WVU losing to Kansas at home, I am now concerned about the direction of the West Virginia program. The majority of fans are now wanting Neal Brown fired. I’ve now changed my expectations to a 4-5 win season. This team has a lot of holes, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The biggest concern is in the defensive backfield where we have a lot of new faces that don’t seem to be picking things up as quickly as we hoped.

What are your thoughts on playing Virginia Tech again?

I think it’s great for both programs, especially the fans. This became a great rivalry for both teams when they were in the Big East together. It’s a shame they don’t play more often. As a resident of the southern part of West Virginia, I’m within an hour of the Virginia Tech campus. So, I’ve always considered the VT rivalry as big as the Pitt rivalry. Adding the Black Diamond Trophy to the mix just made it even more special.

How do you view the Virginia Tech program?

I view them as a top 30-40 program all-time, very similar to West Virginia in brand value. As for the current state of the program, I think they are in a similar spot as WVU. A bad coaching hire has set the program back a few years, but they will get back on their feet very soon. I expect VT to be competing for ACC titles again in the next 3-5 years. As for this season, I think the Hokies’ schedule lines up well for them and they should be able to pick up around 6-7 wins and make a bowl game.

With no future games against Virginia Tech on the schedule, do you hope the two schools find a way to keep the rivalry going?

Absolutely. It’s a win for both programs and fanbases. Maybe one day we can even be in the same conference again. LOL.

What’s your favorite memory from the rivalry?

Personally, it’s the 2002 game when an unranked Mountaineer team went into Lane Stadium and upset the #12 ranked Hokies 21-18. The Hokies were driving in the final seconds to try and win the game when WVU Defensive Back, Brian King, intercepted a Bryan Randall pass in the end zone to seal the game for the Mountaineers. It was the first big win of the Rich Rodriguez era for West Virginia.

Would you like to see WVU join the ACC?

As a fan, yes. I’d love to see West Virginia playing teams like Virginia Tech & Pitt every year again. It would also be much easier for our teams and fans to travel to away games. However, it may not make sense financially. The ACC is stuck in that very long Grant of Rights deal and I’m not sure the Big 12 won’t end up earning more revenue from a TV perspective long term. The Big 12’s current deal will be up in the next 2-3 years and they can likely sign 2 more media deals before the ACC gets to sign their next one. This is an advantage in my opinion. 

What are your thoughts on coming back to play at Lane Stadium?

For me personally, it will be my first time attending a game at Lane Stadium. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the atmosphere there and as a rock music guy, I of course can’t wait to hear Enter Sandman blaring throughout the stadium. It’s also close enough to home that I won’t need to get a hotel room. That will be nice. However, for the WVU football team it’s not ideal. They already had to play their other biggest rival, Pitt, on the road. So, playing both of your power 5 rivals on the road in the same season makes for tough sledding when added to the Big 12 conference slate. 

What are your expectations for the Virginia Tech game? 

My expectations are for a close game. Both teams are in similar spots in their programs, except one is breaking in a new coach and the other is stagnant with their current coach who is now on the hot seat. I think it will probably be a game where both teams score in the 30’s. WVU has a solid offense now with J.T. Daniels at QB and Graham Harrell at Offensive Coordinator. However, the WVU defense hasn’t looked great so far in 2022, so VT will likely be able to move the ball. I think the game will come down to which team can make the fewest mistakes and turnovers.

What’s your prediction for the game?

My prediction is that the Hokies win by a score of 34-31. This West Virginia team is as talented a team as Neal Brown has had since coming to WVU in 2019. However, the team continues to make mistakes at critical times and the program is not in a great spot right now. I’m not sure Neal Brown and his staff will be able to pull the team out of this funk. With an already unhappy fanbase, if West Virginia loses this game after also losing to Pitt, it will be hard for the WVU admin to justify keeping Neal Brown around for another season. 

Boston College Q&A with AJ Black from Eagle Insider

This week we are joined by AJ Black from Eagle Insider.

Tell us about yourself and your podcast.

My name is AJ Black and I’m the publisher for Eagle Insider, part of the 247 Sports Network. I am also the host of Locked on Boston College, the only daily BC podcast out there and you can listen to that on Youtube or wherever you get your podcasts.

Tell us about your team this year. What are your expectations for Boston College this season?

Before Saturday’s game, I was pretty high on my expectations about the direction of the Eagles. I thought that their offensive line would be problematic, but had some faith that even with five new guys they would be serviceable and that would be enough to keep them competitive. Well, after Saturday’s loss to Rutgers, we got a first hand glance at how wrong I was. BC’s line was okay in the first half in pass protection, but once Rutgers dialed up the heat they fell apart in the second half, and the offense went with it. This is a major problem for the Eagles, and one I don’t see them fixing any time soon. 

What are your thoughts on the annual rivalry series with Virginia Tech being discontinued?

Given the three teams that Boston College ended up with, I’m fine with it. I was a student at BC during the ’07 and ’08 ACC Championship games and look back fondly to Matt Ryan’s heroics in Blacksburg, but I think the “rivalry” has run it’s course. Talking to multiple Tech fans and writers, there isn’t much juice left in it, so for BC getting three teams (Pitt, Syracuse and Miami) that they have history with is a fair trade off. 

How do you view the Virginia Tech program?

Love the hire of Brent Pry, and think he was a perfect fit for the culture and history that VT has put together. That being said, it probably will be a few years to get everything in order after a disastrous run with Justin Fuente. But if he’s given time, I think he will have the Hokies back to where they were under Frank Beamer in a few years. 

What are your thoughts on coming to Lane Stadium to play a night game?

Funny you ask this. On my podcast before the season and before the game time was announced, I had BC as a favorite in this game. But when I heard it was a night game, my expectations changed. Lane is a different animal at night, and ESPECIALLY given how BC’s offensive line has been playing, I think this is a perfect situations for the Hokies.

What are your expectations for the Virginia Tech game?

A bit of a mess? A low scoring affair, with mistakes on both sides. 

What’s your prediction for the game?

Given what I saw last week out of the Eagles, and the fact that VT lost to Old Dominion so they are going to be riled up at home and at night, going to go with VT winning this 24-14.

Old Dominion Q&A with Mike Langston of ODU Monarchists

Mike Langston is the founder of ODU Monarchists and an ODU alum. You can follow him on Twitter at @ODUMonarchists. You can also check out his podcast at the-monarchists.captivate.fm. Mike joined us this week for a game week Q&A.

Tell us about yourself and your podcast.

Our group, the Monarchists, is made up of about 18 folks and our significant others. I started the group as a Twitter Direct Message chat during a really bad season, so we could air our grievances with no filter and in private. That evolved into going to games together, tailgating as a group and we eventually started some social media campaigns to raise money for ODU athletics and Toys for Tots. And through those successes, we have done our best to find the next charity or ODU sport to support. So far, we’ve helped raise over $25k for ODU baseball, collected hundreds of toys and thousands of dollars for Toys for Tots, and over $30k for ODU football. We take a lot of pride in that. This past spring, Aaron Zielinksi and I decided to start a podcast to help support our fundraising efforts. And it’s taken off pretty quickly and we’ve landed interviews we didn’t think would be possible for a while. We’ve interviewed most of ODU’s coaches including Ricky Rahne and Jeff Jones, ODU’s athletic director Wood Selig, Sun Belt commissioner Keith Gill and Phil Steele. This fall we have lined up interviews with every beat reporter for ODU’s football opponents including Andy Bitter. We’re pretty excited for the future of the show and think Hokie fans will enjoy our discussion with Andy Bitter. It should be released on Tuesday (Aug. 30th) the week of the game.

Tell us about your team this year. What are your expectations for Old Dominion this season?

Last year, we were the youngest team in the country, coached by the youngest staff in the country, coming off a year where we didn’t play football due to COVID and the restrictions placed on Hampton Roads. That young team started out rough going 1-5 but showed big signs of progress from 2019. The defense was flying to the ball and finally wreaking havoc after a decade of what many referred to as NoDU football. Changing to the 4-2-5 allowed ODU to start playing “Speed D” and get the best athletes on the field to make plays. The offensive line benefited from an RPO based offense where they could pull and punish in the run game while disrupting blitz packages. We just lacked a consistent passing game early in the season, allowing teams to stack the box. After that 6th game, we made a quarterback change to Hayden Wolff, the offense got on a roll (PPG went up 9 points and ypg went up 100) and we pulled off 5 straight wins to qualify for a bowl game.

Most of that team returns. We replace our center, leading tackler and a couple starters in the secondary but pretty much everyone else returns and we’ve landed some good pieces in the portal to fill those holes. Our defensive line is the best unit and with the improved secondary, I believe our defense could be pretty good in the Sun Belt with 5 of our top 6 tacklers returning and great depth in all three levels. Offensively, we return a 1k yard back in Blake Watson, a preseason All-American at tight end in Zack Kuntz, 1k yard receiver Ali Jennings, Hayden Wolff at QB, and 4 of our 5 starting OL from a year ago. If the communication is good on the offensive line, this unit could be very good because they have P5 size/speed and another year of experience blocking in an RPO system. They’ll want to establish the run and open up passing lanes. Kuntz is a stud that can give defenses fits (Bruce Feldman had him on his freak list) at 6’8, with a 40 inch vertical and a 4.5 forty time. Ali is a speedy receiver who can take the top off of defenses. And Blake is a good all-purpose back but will need to be more active in the passing game. There’s a ton of talent in the receiver group but it will be important for a second option to become a legit outside threat opposite of Jennings. If a solid #2 deep threat emerges, this offense could be Top 3 in the Sun Belt.

ODU has a brutal schedule this season with Virginia Tech, UVA, Liberty and ECU plus a run through the best G5 division in the country. 6-6 is a realistic goal given the schedule but I wouldn’t be shocked if this team gets rolling early offensively and ends up 9-3.

What are your thoughts on playing Virginia Tech for the next 10 seasons?

This series is a great one for ODU. It provides our fans with an easy and fun road trip to make, something we didn’t have much of in CUSA. But even with the move to the more regional Sun Belt, it is still one of our easier trips to make as fans. More importantly, it provides a measuring stick for our program and how we are progressing. We still are a pretty young program, so getting to play Virginia Tech annually gives us a good idea on if we’re on the right track or not. It’s a game ODU fans circle as one they have to be at, especially in Norfolk.

How do you view the Virginia Tech program?

Virginia Tech has been the flagship program in the state for the last 20-plus years. While Fuente took some of that luster away, I think y’all made a great choice in Brent Pry and getting back to the standards Hokie fans have for the program should be coming soon.

How do you feel about Virginia Tech coming to play games in the 757?

I think it’s a net positive for both programs. Obviously, ODU gets a marquee game for our fans to get excited about and our players/recruits to play. Virginia Tech gets to visit/host the 757 recruits, allows their 757 guys a chance to play in front of family and gives an easier trip for all of their local fans to make. This year’s game being played on a Friday night in Ballard (while not ideal for recruiting purposes) will be electric. Our stadium may be small compared to Lane, but it can get pretty loud. It’s gonna be a lot of fun.

What are your expectations for the Virginia Tech game?

I expect this to be a defensive battle, a low scoring affair. It sounds cliche, but the offense that makes fewer mistakes will end up the victor. Special teams will play a big role as well. I know our staff puts a lot of emphasis on having talented players on the special teams units and it was the deciding factor in a lot of our games last year. KR Lamareon James is as fast as they come and if he can find a hole, he’s taking it to the house. I imagine with the similar background of Coach Pry’s staff and the Hokie ball history of Virginia Tech, the same could be said for y’all this year.

What’s your prediction for the game?

I think the Vegas line is about right but Virginia Tech has so many unknowns on both sides of the ball. ODU is familiar with Grant Wells and the two coaching staffs are very connected, that chess match will be fun for years to come. Both teams will lean on defense and special teams early so expect a good bit of ground and pound with sneaky explosive plays mixed in from both new offensive coordinators. Third down and red zone conversions are likely the make or break for both teams. First to twenty, wins. Hammer the under.

2022 Virginia Tech Season Preview

New era. Who dis?

Brent Pry has a lot of work to do. The Fuente era left a lot of areas that need improvement. The first area of focus needs to be to improve the roster. There are very few all-conference players on this team. If other ACC teams had the opportunity to switch players with the Hokies, I don’t know how many would. If Tech hopes to improve on last year’s 6-7 season, this coaching staff will need to work some magic with the roster.

Offense

The previous staff was a little too conservative on offense — especially in the 4th quarter. They relied too much on “expected outcomes”. Usually, those expected outcomes were plays that didn’t go for many yards. If the new staff can take the reigns off this offense, we should see more big plays than last season. At least get the ball into the hands of your playmakers.

I don’t know a whole lot about Grant Wells but what I see from him, he looks like he should be a solid QB for the Hokies. A good arm and accurate with some mobility. He’s not a game-changing talent but there’s enough there to win you football games. I see him as another Ryan Willis / Michael Brewer-type QB. You know what you’re getting from them and it’s enough to win you football games.

In the past few years, the Hokies have also had to rely on the backup quarterback. The Hokies have a solid backup in Jason Brown. Last year, he registered wins against Florida and Auburn. Although, like Wells, he is not a game-changing talent, he is able to win you football games in a pinch. Winning games in the SEC is nice to have on your resume.

The Hokies should feel good about what they have at running back. Malachi Thomas was impressive as a true freshman. In a scheme that is set up to let running backs shine, Malachi Thomas should be able to put up even better numbers. Behind him, they should get solid play from Jalen Holston. Holston will need to prove he can be more consistent than he was last season. With Joe Rudolph coordinating the run game, this is an offense that will be friendly to running backs.

The receiving room definitely has some question marks. The only known quantity that is expected to get serious playing time is Kaleb Smith. And most of his work has come as a backup the last couple of years. If this is going to be successful group, the newcomers will need to step up and fill the void. If the Hokies can’t get production out of those newcomers, this offense might be stuck in mud all season.

The offensive line doesn’t have a lot of depth but they will have elite coaching. Joe Rudolph is one of the best offensive line coaches in college football. He is the right guy to take a young line and mold them into functional group this year. This is a position group that needs to avoid the injury bug. An injury or two on the line would dampen the ability for this offense to move the ball.

The biggest change will be the new scheme and new coaches. These coaches will let the players go out there and make plays. The previous staff put the reins on the office too much. The staff needs to let their playmakers make plays.

Defense

There are some good pieces on the defensive side of the ball. Including a couple of players that have not reached their potential the last few years. This new, defensive-minded staff should be able to get more from this defensive talent. If we know one thing, it’s that Brent Pry knows how to coach defense.

The defensive line doesn’t have a ton of depth but they have enough that they should be okay. They should be able to go two deep at both at end and at tackle. Should injuries pile up, things might get a little dicey. For now, this is a solid group that could get All-ACC play from their two starting defensive tackles. The defensive ends will need to get more pressure than they did last year to improve this defense. Quarterbacks last year had too much time to throw.

Linebacker is the position group that concerns me the most on defense. Too many guys that haven’t been consistent in the past. Will the new staff be able to maximize their strengths? These linebackers will need to learn and adapt to the new scheme that they were not recruited for. The Hokies will need to get more sideline-to-sideline play from this group. There has been too much inconsistent play from this position group in the past couple of years. And there are questions about speed and coverage ability in this group.

I like the defensive backs group quite a bit. This is an underrated group. Dorian Strong has the potential to reclaim his play from 2020 when he was a freshman All-American. You also have Armani Chatman and Brion Murray who have been solid. Not to mention DJ Harvey who has the potential to have a breakout season. The big unknown is what to expect from the boundary safety position. If someone steps in that role, this should be a pretty good group.

If there is an area that should improve the most with the new coaches, it should be the defense. After finishing ranked 78th in total defense last year, expect a big improvement. The Hokies should be able to rely on the defense once again.

Final Thoughts

This team might not look great right out the gate. Those first few games might include a couple of squeakers. The offense will look rough at times. The hope is that the defense is able to carry this team at the beginning of year. If the defense is also struggling, it might be a long year. You can expect an improved defense and an offense that will get better week-to-week. That four game stretch in the middle of the schedule is going to be tough. This roster isn’t ready yet to compete in tough games like those. Especially the ones on the road. All the other games on the schedule are winnable but the defense needs to keep Tech in the game. This should look like classic VT — tough defense and a ground-and-pound offense. A good foundation to build on.

Tough games (<40% chance to win)

at North Carolina, at Pittsburgh, Miami and at NC State. Getting even a single win from this group of games is a bonus for this season. It would be great if the Hokies could pull an upset in that game at home against Miami.

Toss-up games (50-50 games)

Boston College, West Virginia, at Georgia Tech, at Liberty, Virginia. You can judge this season based on these five games. They will represent the difference between 9-3 and 3-9. If the Hokies can get three wins out of this group, they should be in good shape toward bowl eligibility. Based on how the home-road games break down, the Hokies have a good chance to post a good record in these games.

Should win games (>60% to win)

at Old Dominion, at Duke. The Hokies need to stop losing these type of games. Under the previous staff, the losses against ODU and Liberty were coach killers. The Hokies have to be able to win games against G5 opponents. That should be a given at a school with a strong football history like Virginia Tech. Duke is one of the weakest ACC teams this season and the game is at Duke which has always been friendly to the Hokies.

Must win games (>90% to win)

Wofford. The Hokies need to treat this game as a tune up, and not squeak by like they have been the past couple of years.

Key games for the Hokies: at Old Dominion, West Virginia, Virginia

Upset Alert: at Old Dominion

Game by Game Predictions

at Old Dominion (Fri.)This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is logo-white.svg
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at North Carolinahttps://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d7/North_Carolina_Tar_Heels_logo.svg/300px-North_Carolina_Tar_Heels_logo.svg.png
at Pitt
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at NC State (Thurs.)
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at DukeThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is logo-white.svg
at LibertyThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is logo-white.svg
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Final Regular Season Record: 8-4 (4-4 in the ACC)
Expected finish: 3rd in the ACC Coastal

Miami vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

It was the right decision to let Justin Fuente go. The timing was strange but I’m sure there were reasons for that. Maybe the job needed to be open to have serious conversations with interested coaches. The Fuente era started with a lot of promise but lost momentum and finally reached the point of no return.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 44th
Offense: 67th
Defense: 25th
Special Team: 32nd

Miami

Overall: 32nd
Offense: 22nd
Defense: 47th
Special Team: 50th

Miami is a good passing team. They are 16th in the nation in passing offense. Tyler Van Dyke has been good for the Hurricanes. He’s thrown for over 2,000 yards, 19 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. The Hokies boast the nation’s 15th ranked passing defense. So it should be strength vs strength when Miami is on offense.

Miami’s run defense has been a bit leaky in recent weeks. The Hokies would be smart to keep the ball on the ground with Malachi Thomas and Raheem Blackshear. Tackling has been an issue for Miami this year, so VT would be smart to test them early and often in that area.

There may be some extra juice from the players to play under former VT player JC Price. They still have the opportunity to make a bowl game and the seniors will want to close the season strong. They don’t want to be the team that got their coach fired. So while this season has been up and down, I think we see some fight from these guys in the last two regular season games.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 33, Miami 30

Georgia Tech vs. Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

The Hokies have put themselves in position to win. But they can’t seem to close the deal. Last week, the offense finally showed up but the defense didn’t. At some point, both sides of the ball will show up and the Hokies will put another win on the board. The prospects of a bowl game are starting to look dicey.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 43rd
Offense: 57th
Defense: 38th
Special Teams: 57th

Georgia Tech

Overall: 50th
Offense: 47th
Defense: 50th
Special Teams: 94th

Georgia Tech is a solid offensive team. The throw and run the ball well. Like Syracuse, they are a team that creates running plays from their quarterback and running backs. A running QB gave the Hokies a lot of trouble last week. This is an area that has given the Hokies a lot of trouble for years now. The Hokies need to do a better job of spying the quarterback if they hope to slow down Georgia Tech’s offense.

The Yellow Jackets are not a good defensive team. This is a team the Hokies should be able to put up some yards on. Virginia Tech would be smart to lean on a similar gameplan to last week’s. Run the ball. Get Malachi Thomas involved and not force the issue in the pass game. There should be some space this week for the offense to operate. Georgia Tech’s defense looks like a better matchup for the Hokies than Syracuse did.

This looks like an even matchup. Georgia Tech has a better offense. Virginia Tech has a better defense. In even matchups like this, I like to go with the home team. Virginia Tech is dealing with a lot of internal turmoil and a road trip is not what they need to turn things around. It’ll be a close game. This game will come down to the 4th quarter and like the Notre Dame and Syracuse games, Georgia Tech makes enough plays down the stretch to get the win.

Prediction: Georgia Tech 28, Virginia Tech 21

Richmond Preview and Prediction

First and goal. Three yard line. Two minutes remaining. Down six. Hokies can’t punch it in. That’s all you need to know about the WVU game. Hokies couldn’t get out of their own way and tossed away a chance to get a big road win. The game wasn’t the disaster that some are making it out to be, but the red zone offense is a concern moving forward.

SP+ Rankings

Richmond

Overall: 15th (FCS)
Offense: 100th (FCS)
Defense: 4th (FCS)

Virginia Tech

Overall: 37th
Offense: 34th
Defense: 44th

Richmond’s defense presents a good challenge to a struggling Virginia Tech offense. This group has some size. This is a solid group from the FCS. Normally, in these kinds of games you keep the ball on the ground and keep the clock moving. But after last week, Tech’s passing game could use some reps. This might be a good opportunity to air it out and let the quarterback and receivers get into a rhythm.

Virginia Tech’s defense should feast on the Richmond offense. This is not an explosive offense. Tech has generally done a good job at stopping the run this year. Tech’s talented secondary could pose some problems when Richmond decides to throw. Expect Richmond to have to go to the air if they want to move the ball on the Hokies defense.

Can Virginia Tech lose to Richmond? Yes, but don’t count on it. FCS teams beat FBS teams from time to time. But usually it’s a bad FBS team going against an above average FCS teams. Or a brutally bad performance from a good FBS team. The Virginia Tech team that lost to JMU ended up in the Orange Bowl that season. It happens. But it’s pretty rare.

Use this game as a tune up before Notre Dame. The Hokies need to get out of this game with a win then go into a bye week before Notre Dame. That’s a good opportunity to rest up and get healthy before a big non-conference game at home. If Notre Dame can get through the next two weeks without a loss, that would set up for a big matchup.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 35, Richmond 7

Middle Tennessee Preview and Prediction

A top ten win is what this program needed. Since the end of the 2019 season there has been a going-thru-the-motions feel to this program. Friday night seemed like a boost at the right time. What has been missing in past years is making a big win like this count by continuing the momentum. Andy Bitter did a great job of cataloging the games after a big win in his article in The Athletic this week:

2016: Beat No. 17 North Carolina 34-3, lost to Syracuse 31-17
2018: Beat No. 19 Florida State 24-3, lost to Old Dominion 49-35 in next FBS game
2018: Beat No. 22 Duke 31-14, lost to No. 6 Notre Dame 45-23

And that’s just in the Fuente era. VT has not been great about dealing with success when it comes. This week, the team needs to take on Justin Fuente’s 1-0 mentality and be ready to play.

SP+ Rankings

Middle Tennessee

Overall: 94th
Offense: 93rd
Defense: 92nd
Special Teams: 79th

Virginia Tech

Overall: 24th
Offense: 23rd
Defense: 40th
Special Teams: 91st

Former NC State quarterback Bailey Hockman is the quarterback for MTSU. Hockman had trouble last time he came to Blacksburg. I’m sure it was a particularly bad performance for him. But I also don’t think he’s looking forward to his return to Blacksburg.

Middle Tennessee appears over-matched size-wise. The Hokies should be able to win the battle in the trenches against an undersized opponent. I will say VT has lost matchups against undersized opponents before, but this time feels different. I’m taking the Vice Squad and this upgraded D-line over the guys at Middle Tennessee.

Focus. Focus. Focus. Can’t sleepwalk through this game. After the win against UNC, I saw casual college football fans on Twitter saying “let’s see them lose to MTSU next week.” This is what fans expect from this program now. A big win followed by a heartbreaking loss the next week. This program needs to end that narrative and take care of business. On paper, this looks like a game that should be over by halftime.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 34, Middle Tennessee 13

North Carolina Preview and Prediction

It’s been awhile since the Hokies had a big win at home. This squad needs some momentum going into the 2021 season after a losing campaign last year. Nothing would jump start the season like a top ten win at home over a division rival.

SP+ Rankings

North Carolina

Overall: 11th
Offense: 4th
Defense: 49th

Virginia Tech

Overall: 33rd
Offense: 26th
Defense: 51st

Justin Fuente usually does his best work early in the season. In 2017, his team beat WVU at FedEx Field in a big season opener on Labor Day weekend. In 2018, his team beat FSU in Tallahassee in another big-time showcase game on Labor Day. Even last year, his team took a pretty good NC State team to the woodshed in the first game of the season. All this to say, Justin Fuente usually has his guys ready to go early in the season.

Sam Howell is one of the best quarterbacks in college football. He may even be a top-ten pick in next year’s NFL draft. He’s that good. Looking at the matchups, Sam Howell has a solid advantage both in the QB matchup and also against VT’s secondary. He should have room to work across the middle with VT’s new linebackers and safeties. Watch early in the game how VT’s defense defends the middle of the field.

UNC has a talented and experienced defense, which should give the Hokies offense some trouble. This is a better group than the one the Hokies put up 45 points against last season. While the Hokies should be able to move the ball against this defense, they will get their share of stops throughout the game. North Carolina has a talented group on that side of the ball.

If the Hokies hope to have success, they need to stop the run. If the Hokies let the Heels get going on the ground, it’s going to be a long night. If they can stop the run and force Howell into 3rd and long, they should have some success keeping UNC from running up a lot of points.

The Hokies have a real shot in this game. They are catching UNC at the right time and Lane Stadium should be rockin’. But as we’ve all learned when the Hokies play against ranked opponents, it usually comes down to who has the better talent on the field. The Hokies will hold their own and keep the game close going into the 4th quarter. But Sam Howell and the UNC offense will prove too much and take the game with a late touchdown in the 4th quarter.

Prediction: North Carolina 35, Virginia Tech 28

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