Virginia Tech embarks on their 2018 campaign on Monday night, heading to Tallahassee to take on Florida State for the first time since 2012. The Hokies have reason for optimism heading into 2018 but have even more reasons to be pessimistic.
Here’s how I see each game playing out this season, as well as where I think Virginia Tech will finish in the ACC and who some of Tech’s key players will be.
at Florida State, Sept. 3 at 8 p.m.
For the second straight season, Virginia Tech begins their 12-game slate with a key matchup. The Hokies dispatched West Virginia in a thrilling 31-24 victory. But this season, Tech has to travel and play in hostile territory against the 19th-best team in the country.
Florida State is an intriguing team. Willie Taggart must get the Seminoles back on track after an embarrassing 6-6 finish in 2017. He’s got two competent quarterbacks and years’ worth of elite-level recruits.
Virginia Tech will be starting eight new players on the defensive side of the ball, which could lead to Bud Foster’s defense being exploited by a creative offensive coach. Foster has no film to work off of that shows Taggart with this group of players. All he can do is piece together Taggart’s film from Oregon and USF with Florida State’s film from the last few seasons.
It’ll be an electric atmosphere. The Florida State fanbase is buzzing about Taggart’s arrival and the ‘Noles are motivated to put last season behind them. I think Virginia Tech’s defense is too young to keep Florida State’s offense in check, and the Hokies’ offense isn’t experience enough to cover for them vs. elite talent. It’ll be a close game all night long, but I think Tech ultimately loses this one.
Prediction: Florida State 31, Virginia Tech 27
William and Mary, Sept. 8 at 2 p.m.
After a lengthy trip to Tallahassee, Virginia Tech has to turn around five days later and play FCS William and Mary. The Tribe are entering their last season under Jimmye Laycock, who is retiring this winter.
Even if the Hokies lose to Florida State, turning around and beating William and Mary shouldn’t be difficult. Virginia Tech might not look all that great in this game, but there isn’t a reason to worry.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 38, William and Mary 10
East Carolina, Sept 15. at 12:20 p.m.
Virginia Tech fell down early vs. the Pirates in Greenville last season, only to leave with a 64-17 blowout win. East Carolina was one of the worst teams in FBS last season and though the Pirates should be better this season, they aren’t good enough to beat Tech inside Lane Stadium. Head coach Scottie Montgomery needs to make this game semi-competitive, or else the calls for his job will get even louder.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 41, East Carolina 13
at Old Dominion, Sept. 22 at 3:30 p.m.
The Monarchs are still in the process of turning themselves into an FBS program. Old Dominion made the jump in 2013 and head coach Bobby Wilder is still bringing in higher level players. The Monarchs are headed in the right direction, but success hasn’t happened overnight.
Quarterback Steven Williams didn’t put up good numbers last season in Lane Stadium, but the youngster showed promise. Now a sophomore, Williams should be better prepared to handle Virginia Tech’s defense. It still won’t be enough, however, and Virginia Tech will run over Old Dominion as the Hokies begin to find their stride.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 42, Old Dominion 14
at Duke, Sept. 29
Despite poor attendance and enthusiasm, playing at Duke is tough for some reason. Virginia Tech fans show up in droves every year at Wallace Wade Stadium but consider the result of the last few games played between these two teams at Duke.
2016: 24-21 win
2014: 17-16 win
2011: 14-10 win
Even last year’s 24-3 win over Duke at Lane Stadium was a soggy slugfest. Duke plays tough and no matter how bad they are, they’re tough to beat.
Duke quarterback Daniel Jones should rebound after a shaky 2017, when he completed less than 57 percent of his passes and threw just 14 touchdowns, compared to 11 interceptions. Jones is a talented quarterback who is mobile enough to give the Hokies’ defense fits. Still, Duke doesn’t have enough to get the job done.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Duke 20
Notre Dame, Oct. 6
Virginia Tech will see Notre Dame for the second time in three seasons to kick off October. If Virginia Tech enters this matchup with one or fewer losses on their record, this game would go a long way in pushing them into College Football Playoff Discussion.
Notre Dame fired on all cylinders in Week 1, knocking off Michigan. The Fighting Irish were good last season and despite losing a few players to the NFL, it looks like they’re good once again. Still, Notre Dame won’t run the table and as the season wears on, they will fade as they usually do. But will Virginia Tech fade at the same time?
Fresh off a fistfight with Duke, Tech will be a little worn down. If this game were in South Bend, I’d predict an easy Irish win. Instead, I think this one goes to the wire. In the end, Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush is a little too much to handle.
Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Virginia Tech 21
at North Carolina, Oct. 13
North Carolina stinks. The Tar Heels are dealing with off-the-field issues and head coach Larry Fedora is on the hot seat.
Carolina has talent but for some reason, they don’t put it together. They’ll be motivated to avenge last season’s 59-7 drubbing in Lane Stadium. But they won’t, and Virginia Tech will rebound from their loss to the Fighting Irish.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 34, North Carolina 10
Georgia Tech, Oct. 25 (Thurs.) at 7:30 p.m.
This game could very well be the turning point in Virginia Tech’s season. The Hokies have lost to Georgia Tech in each of the last two seasons and three times in the last four seasons. Georgia Tech has the Hokies’ number, specifically Justin Fuente’s.
Fuente made some questionable decisions last season in Atlanta that may have cost Virginia Tech a win. Georgia Tech’s annoying style of play and ability to maintain possession played too big of a factor and Fuente needs to be careful this time around. Don’t get too outside your normal gameplan.
TaQuon Marshall is an excellent quarterback in Georgia Tech’s offense and the Yellow Jackets have an outside chance to win the Coastal Division. But I think this is the year the Hokies get over the hump against Paul Johnson.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 28, Georgia Tech 16
Boston College, Nov. 3
AJ Dillon is good, but the rest of Boston College’s team doesn’t instill fear. Bud Foster has had little trouble with former coworker Scot Loeffler and things won’t change this time around.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Boston College 14
at Pittsburgh, Nov. 10
Kenny Pickett gives Pittsburgh a tough option who can get the job done with his arm and legs. He showed some gusto vs. the Hokies in last season’s affair and he could mess with the Hokies’ defense back in Pittsburgh.
The Panthers have historically been a thorn in the Hokies’ side but at this point in the season, I think Virginia Tech will have passed Pittsburgh by a mile. Still, playing in Heinz Field is always weird and this game won’t be easy.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 26, Pittsburgh 24
Miami, Nov. 17
The showdown of the year. Miami blasted the Hokies in 2017 and coming into 2018, the ‘Canes were the media’s darling team to challenge Clemson for the ACC Championship.
Well, Miami can hold off on the playoff aspirations for now. LSU ran over the Hurricanes 33-17 and exposed Malik Rosier as a limited passer. Nick Brosette ran right through Miami’s vaunted defense, which swallowed the Hokies last season.
Miami has won this matchup three out of the last four seasons, but their run as Coastal champs is coming to an end. Virginia Tech will top Miami in the cold November air in Blacksburg and set themselves up for an ACC Championship appearance.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 38, Miami 21
Virginia, Nov. 23 (Fri.)
I’m not picking Virginia until either A) they final win a game vs. the Hokies or B) they start an elite mobile quarterback.
Well, Virginia hasn’t beaten the Hokies yet and Bryce Perkins doesn’t fit the definition of elite. Virginia Tech will dominate.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 42, Virginia 13
Season Prediction: 10-2 (7-1 ACC)
I’ll willfully admit I never expected to predict Virginia Tech to win this many games. And honestly, I should have predicted Virginia Tech to drop one of the games that they shouldn’t. But the Hokies are positioned well with this schedule. Once the Florida State opener is out of the way, Virginia Tech gets an easy stretch of games before having to face off with Notre Dame.
After that, they get a slate of easier ACC opponents before squaring up with Miami to decide the Coastal Division. Of their three premiere matchups, Fuente and Foster are too good to lose all of them.
If Virginia Tech finishes 10-2, they’ll win the Coastal and get waxed by Clemson in the ACC Championship. The Tigers are too good and by that point, Trevor Lawrence might have cemented himself as Clemson’s starting quarterback. But if Tech gets to that point, this season would be an unqualified success.