Just over two weeks from the first College Gameday of the year, the hype for football is through the roof. Today, my preview will be on our #21 team, the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Record: 10-4 (6-3 in ACC, loss in ACC Championship, win vs Arkansas in Belk Bowl)
Virginia Tech was a very good team last year, but their achilles heel in their losses was offensive inconsistency. In their wins they averaged a stellar 39.4 points per game, a figure that would have finished just outside the top 10 in the nation last year. In their losses however, they managed just 24 points per game, which would have been 96th in the nation. If their offense would’ve showed up every week, they would’ve been in the conversation for a New Year’s Six bowl at the end of the season. But they still managed 10 wins and a conference championship appearance, a good season by any standards.
Receiving: Cam Phillips, 983 yards, 5 TD’s
Rushing: Travon McMillan, 671 yards, 7 TD’s
Tackles: Andrew Motuapuaka, 52 solo, 62 ast, 114 total
Sacks: Tremaine Edmunds, 4.5 sacks
Interceptions: Terrell Edmunds, 4 Int
Virginia Tech doesn’t return a single player that threw a significant pass last year, and is leaning towards trotting out redshirt freshman Josh Jackson on opening day. They also lose their leading rusher (Jerod Evans) and their leading receiver (Isaiah Ford), so they will have to rely on a lot of new faces this year if their offense stays on pace with last year’s. Look for WR C.J. Carroll to breakout this year and get 750+ receiving yards along with a healthy amount of touchdowns with the depth chart finally opening up for him. The defensive line faces many of the same problems as the offense: replacing most of the production and questionable depth. They do return every linebacker from last season and most secondary players though, so leadership on this team will come from the back half of the defense. They will bring out some exciting young talent next year, including defensive lineman Tim Settle.
BIGGEST STRENGTH AND WEAKNESS
The Hokies biggest strength next year will be their linebackers. They bring back three seniors, including leading tackler Andrew Motuapuaka. Tremaine Edmunds is widely regarded as one of the best linebackers in the conference, and he will look to make a name for himself among NFL scouts this year as a junior. They also will rotate in multiple talented freshmen, like Nathan Proctor, to solidify an already stacked group.
Their biggest weakness will be Quarterback until we see results on the field. Josh Jackson was named the starter, but he hasn’t thrown a pass in college yet. Losing all of your significant passes from a year before hurts in production for sure, but also leadership. More often than not a freshman starter has an upperclassmen behind him that has done all this before to help them. That is not the case this year though, and it makes you wonder how Jackson will handle taking the reigns to his own offense.
Week 1: vs West Virginia WIN
West Virginia is one of few teams that returns less than Virginia Tech, and their defense was destroyed by upperclassmen leaving. Will Grier won’t be ready for this defense, and the Hokies put this game away with 10 minutes left.
Week 2: vs Delaware WIN
Delaware is a D2 team that isn’t spectacular in D2. This game won’t be close.
Week 3: @ East Carolina WIN
This will be where Josh Jackson really finds himself, and he will throw for 250+ yards and multiple touchdowns for the first time in his career. a 3-0 start as a starter isn’t bad either.
Week 4: vs Old Dominion WIN
By now, the hype around Jackson is rising and he is playing better with every game. The young D-line flexes their muscles in this game against a weak offensive line, and Virginia Tech coasts to the win.
Week 5: vs Clemson LOSS
Clemson is the first real test for Jackson, and he gets smothered by their insanely talented defensive line. Jackson starts feeling pressure and forcing throws, resulting in a double digit loss.
Week 6: @ Boston College WIN
Jackson struggles early in his first conference game on the road, but finds his footing early enough to beat Boston College by at least a touchdown.
Week 7: vs North Carolina WIN
North Carolina is struggling to find a quality replacement for Trubisky, and Jackson comes out the gates hot after a couple of shaky performances. Virginia Tech runs away with this one late.
Week 8: vs Duke WIN
The defense provides its first true shut down performance of the season agaisnt a below average Duke offense, and Jackson and company do enough to not blow this one.
Week 9: @ Miami LOSS
These two teams should be fairly even, but playing in a hostile environment is the difference in this one. Winning road games is hard enough without a true freshman starting Quarterback.
Week 10: @ Georgia Tech LOSS
Virginia Tech got beat up just seven days before in a physical game agaisnt Miami, and they now travel again to a hostile environment. The loss the previous week and venue for the game are a losing combination for the Hokies.
Week 11: vs Pittsburgh WIN
Pitt showed up for the big games last year, but Justin Fuente has his team ready in a trap game that could ruin the season.
Week 12: @ Virginia WIN
Rivalry games on the road are tough no matter who you are, but Jackson is tired of people saying he can’t play on the road and shows up in a big way.
Projected Record 9-3 (5-3 in ACC)
If young players show up in a few big games, Virginia Tech can easily win 10+. But their last four games are all lose able if Jackson goes into a downward spiral.
INSTANT IMPACT RECRUIT
Devon Hunter, an ultra-talented Safety will have the opportunity to play right away with the loss of Chuck Clark back there. He is a future NFL talent if developed and used correctly, so watch for him to be a potential ACC Newcomer of the Year.
Stay on the lookout for #20-1!