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

2021 Virginia Tech Season Preview

Last season didn’t exactly go as expected. A losing season, the end of the bowl streak, cancelled Spring practices, and Fall practices reduced due to contact tracing. Not exactly what anyone had expected going into last season. None of those things were ideal for a team in transition.

This season the Hokies hope to get back on track with a return to a blue-collar style defense we’re all accustomed to. Having practices in the Spring and Fall will help with that. So will having a year under their belt in Justin Hamilton’s scheme. Justin Hamilton having a year of experience running the defense doesn’t hurt either.

On offense, it will be difficult to replace two NFL draft picks in Christian Darrisaw and Khalil Herbert. This squad has solid contributors and guys who have been around the program for a while. But not as much star power as last year.

This is a make-or-break year for Justin Fuente. This program needs to show improvement over the past couple of seasons. Another year of .500 football isn’t going to cut it. Even 7 wins doesn’t necessarily mean he will be back.

Why will the Hokies be good?

Braxton Burmeister closed the season looking like a star. In the last two games of the season, he completed 73.5% of his passes and averaged 9.97 yards/attempt against Clemson and Virginia. After struggling with his completion percentage, he came on strong late in the season. If Burmeister can maintain that level of play and can stay healthy, it bodes well for the Hokies this season.

The Hokies have a veteran group of pass catchers in James Mitchell, Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson. Braxton Burmeister will have a reliable group of receivers to target along with guys who can stretch the field. This is a situation where the top guys must stay healthy otherwise the Hokies must rely on young and inexperienced players.

The Vice Squad returns. They lose the star power they had with Christian Darrisaw. But they still have a solid group headlined by Luke Tenuta, Brock Hoffman and Silas Dzansi. This group should have no trouble protecting Braxton Burmeister or opening holes in the run game. Vice seems to turn out a good group every year.

The Hokies will have one of the best cornerback tandems in the ACC. Jermaine Waller was one of the best cover corners in the nation in 2019. And Dorian Strong was one of the best freshmen corners in the nation last year. Waller and Strong look to lock down both sides of the field and make life easier on the defense.

Why will the Hokies be not-so-good?

In a word: depth. This is not a deep team at most position groups. There are a lot of position groups where if the starters get injured, there are no proven options. That looks a lot like last year’s team where a key injury or two puts some less-than-ideal options on the field.

Look no further than the quarterback position, if the Hokies lose Braxton Burmeister they are in trouble. That’s not to say they can’t win games with one of the backups. But the season outlook looks a lot more dicey with one of the other options behind center.

Last year, the defense didn’t have a feel for the new defensive scheme. Will that look better after a Spring and Fall practice? Will they have a better grasp of Justin Hamilton’s scheme in Year 2? Will they develop a defensive identity that was missing in Year 1? Can this group get back to playing the aggressive-style defense we’re used to? These are all question marks going into Justin Hamilton’s second season.

Tough games (<40% chance to win)

North Carolina, Notre Dame and Miami. The Hokies can win all these games. But these are games that will be tough sledding for a Hokies team short on depth. Wins against any of these teams should be seen as bonus wins at the end of the season.

Toss-up games (50-50 games)

West Virginia. Pitt. Georgia Tech. Boston College. Virginia. These are the games that will define the season. These games are the difference between 9-3 and 4-8. The Hokies need to win the majority of these games to have a good season.

Should win games (>70% to win)

Syracuse and Duke. This isn’t the season for this coaching staff to stub their toe on games like these. These are games where the Hokies have a clear talent advantage and they need to take care of business.

Must win games (>90% to win)

Middle Tennessee and Richmond. The Hokies don’t need to add to a list that includes James Madison, Old Dominion and Liberty.

Key games for the Hokies: North Carolina, at West Virginia, at Miami

Upset Alert: at Boston College

Game by Game Predictions

North Carolinahttps://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d7/North_Carolina_Tar_Heels_logo.svg/300px-North_Carolina_Tar_Heels_logo.svg.png
Middle Tennessee This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is logo-white.svg
at West VirginiaWest Virginia Mountaineers - Wikipedia
RichmondThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is logo-white.svg
Notre DameNotre Dame Fighting Irish - Wikipedia
PittsburghThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is logo-white.svg
SyracuseThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is logo-white.svg
at Georgia TechThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is logo-white.svg
at Boston CollegeBoston College Eagles - Wikipedia
DukeThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is logo-white.svg
at MiamiMiami Hurricanes - Wikipedia
at Virginia This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is logo-white.svg
Game-by-game predictions

Final Regular Season Record: 7-5 (5-3 in the ACC)
Expected finish: Tied for 3rd in the ACC Coastal

Virginia Preview and Prediction

The Hokies are struggling through a number of injuries but they found a way to win against Pittsburgh. If the Hokies want to win against UVA, they’re going to have to dig deep and find some unexpected heroes.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 33rd
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 92nd
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 13th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 31st

Virginia

Overall S&P+ ranking: 65th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 79th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 49th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 51st

UVA is a solid team. It has been impressive what Bronco Mendenhall has been able to do with this team after a 2 win effort last season. This roster did not look dramatically different from last season but he has been able to get his squad bowl eligible. That’s impressive.

When I’ve watched the Hoos this year, I’m been really impressed with Kurt Benkert. He is the engine that makes their offense tick. He will also be one of the best quarterbacks that the Hokies have seen all season. Lucky for the Hokies that he is not a running quarterback. But given how well he distributes the ball, the Hokies defensive backs and linebackers will have their work cut out for them. Particularly across the middle with Terrell Edmunds being out and Mook Reynolds potentially missing time.

If the Hokies hope to win, they will need to find a running game. They had some success against Pittsburgh but they will need to lean on it more than they did last week. Travon McMillian and Deshaun McClease will need to step up and make some plays.

Kurt Benkert had a great first half against Miami last week but couldn’t keep it up for 60 minutes. If he can have a full 60 minute performance against the Hokies, he can give the them a lot of trouble. He reminds of Will Grier at WVU. He can carve the Hokies up like few quarterbacks that VT has seen this season. He is an NFL caliber talent.

This will not be a beauty of a game to watch. If the Hokies hope to win this one, they will have to win it ugly. The VT defensive backs will have to step up and not allow Kurt Benkert to carve them up for big yards especially over the middle. The Hokies linebackers will also need to be aware of running backs and tight ends getting involved in the passing game. I’m expecting a game like the Pitt game. Defense and special teams will be critical. They may need to bail the offense out in this game.

The Hoos have all the pieces they need to win but they also need to contend with the 13 year monkey on their back. They’ve been close to winning in recent years but couldn’t make the plays in the clutch to pull out a victory. I expect a very close game and the team that can make the plays in the fourth quarter will come out with the victory.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, Virginia 21

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  

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

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