ACC College Football Preview – Virginia Tech Hokies

Virginia Tech Hokies
The Virginia Tech Hokies finished the 2017 campaign with a 9-4 overall record, 5-3 in the ACC, and 6-7 against the spread. They return 7 offensive starters after averaging 28.2 points per game last season. They return 5 defensive starters from an extremely effective unit that averaged 14.8 points allowed per game.

Virginia Tech leads with their defense so we shall start there. They held five teams to single digits last season and held an additional three teams to under 20. Most of their best defensive performances were in home games.
The losses may affect this unit early. This unit had two players go in the first round of the NFL Draft – Brothers Tremaine and Terrell Edmunds, who played Line Backer and Safety. They also lost another secondary member in the seventh round and a defensive lineman in the fifth. On the bright side, they return significant experience with three fourths of the defensive front. They also had a top 35 recruiting class with some talent at Linebacker and in the Secondary. Overall, the unit should be one of the best in the conference.

On the offensive side of the ball, the team is led by Sophomore Quarterback Josh Jackson who threw for almost 3,000 yards last season and 20 touchdowns as a Freshman. He now has a year of experience under his belt and also benefits from the return of his second and third receivers from last season – Sean Savoy and Eric Kumah. He also adds talented transfer Damon Hazelton who has some size and ability and had 505 yards as a true freshman in 2016. The Hokies are also expected to rotate three capable backs, so the offense will be balanced. The running game was near the bottom of the conference in 2017, but one of the more talented runners, Steven Peoples, missed significant time last season. Overall, we believe the offense will be stable, but not spectacular, and a lot will depend upon the defense and special teams helping with field position and turnovers.

The Virginia Tech total wins over under sits at 8.5 and the odds to win the ACC current sit at +650, which makes them fourth choice behind Clemson, Miami, and Florida State. With respect to the season total of 8.5, we predict Virginia Tech will win 9 or 10 games. There are three difficult matchups on their 2018 schedule, but two of the three (Notre Dame and Miami) are home games. The only home loss last season was against Clemson who was ranked #2 at the time. The other difficult game is on the road against Florida State, but it is in Week 1 and Florida State has a new coach and new system, which suggests Virginia Tech has an upset chance. The line on Week 1 currently sits at Virginia Tech +5.5, which is not unreasonable. Whey we further like the over 8.5 arises from the reality that even if Virginia Tech goes 0-3 in these difficult matchups, they can sweep the board in the remaining 9 games and still land on the over. The only game other game we see a potential upset, although a longshot in our opinion, would be the road game against Pitt. Therefore, the Hokies would need to lose all three difficult matchups, two of which are at home, and also lose Week 1 against FSU and on the road against Pitt. We predict at least a 2-2 record in thee four games which would put the season win total at 10 if the remaining games work out as planned. We recommend the over 8.5.

The trickier spot is the odds to win the ACC. We have some concerns about the Hokie offense. However, it would not be shocking if the Hokies were able to finish with a better record in the ACC Coastal Division than Miami. We think at this point on paper, Miami is a better team, but not so much better that Virginia Tech does not have an upset chance. If they finish ahead of Miami and face Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, two strong defenses will face off in a likely low scoring game in which a timely turnover can be a huge difference maker. At 6.5-1, we think there is sufficient value to play a small bet on the Hokies.

As discussed, the season opens against the Florida State Seminoles in Tallahassee. With a new head coach and new offensive system, growing pains can be expected. This presents a good opportunity for a more stable program to potentially pull off a road upset in the opening week. The line opened at Florida State -5.5 but has risen to as high as 7 at some books. Both teams are expected to be excellent defensively and in a low scoring affair 5.5 to 7 points will be n added bonus. We will look at Virginia Tech as a potential opening week play and update subscribers as we get closer to Week 1.

Week 2 features the home opener against William & Mary, a team that Virginia Tech has blown out in its recent matchups. There is likely not going to be a point spread listed for this game.

Week 3 is a home game against Eastern Carolina. The teams faced off last season in Eastern Carolina with Virginia Tech winning by 47 points while laying 24. We expect the line to similar or higher this year and would like to see how Week 1 progresses before making a recommendation. If the offense is effective against Florida State in Week 1, we are prone to lay the points, even if high in this spot as we anticipate Eastern Carolina will struggle to move the ball against the Hokies defense.

Week 4 is a road game against Old Dominion of Conference USA. The Hokies defeated Old Dominion 38-0 last season at home and we expect a similar type result this year. We will provide a recommendation as we get closer to Week 4 and see how high the line will be.

The first month of the season closes out with a Week 5 ACC matchup on the road against Duke. Duke Head Coach David Cutliffe has a knack for keeping his team in games against Virginia Tech. Over the last five years only one game was a blowout – namely last seasons’s 24-3 Hokies victory at home. This year’s game is sandwiched between what is likely to be a blowout against Old Dominion and a difficult high profile game against Notre Dame. We do not like the term “looking ahead” as it overgeneralizes things and often leads to faulty predictions. However, be wary of laying too many points on the road against Duke. Duke returns 8 starters from a decent defense that allowed less than 21 points per game last season and we can imagine this game becoming a low scoring grind. If Duke receives anywhere close to double digit points in this spot, we would ultimately look at Duke as a play for us in Week 5.

Pete Rinato