Sep 14, 2013; Greenville, NC, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies receiver Demitri Knowles (80) is congratulated by teammate Willie Byrn (82) after a first half touchdown against the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
The Virginia Tech Hokies kick off the 2014 college football season with what should be their easiest opponent on the schedule as they take on the William & Mary Tribe. On the final Monday before the start of the 2014 College Football, we kick off our countdown of the Hokies’ top 5 toughest opponents for 2014.
In determing the teams that made the top 5, we used a couple different factors beyond just how good the opponent of the Hokies is. Another key component is whether the game is at home or on the road as the Hokies have always traditionally been dominant at Lane Stadium. Also, the timing of games on the schedules also makes an impact as we have seen upsets before after let-down losses.
That last point pushed the East Carolina Pirates to coming in at number 5.
Before we talk about how East Carolina is a very underrated team that could win the American Athletic Conference, the timing of the East Carolina game might not be the best. This game comes one week after the Hokies’ game in Columbus against the Ohio State Buckeyes and that could be a trap game if the Hokies suffer a bad loss in Columbus.
Shane Carden will want to pull an upset.
The Hokies have had scheduling catch them off guard in the past as after the close but crushing loss to Boise State on Labor Day night in 2010, the Hokies faced JMU five days later and we know how that game ended. The Hokies’ coaches will probably be more prepared for this type of game if the Hokies have a bad loss in Columbus.
The Pirates are a very talented team and they are led by a very good quarterback in senior Shane Carden. Last year, Carden and the Pirates’ offense only had one game in which they scored less than 24 points and that was against the Hokies when Carden threw 3 interceptions and the Pirates only scored 10 points.
Despite that struggle last year, Carden will see this game as an opportunity to make a statement and prove that East Carolina is a sleeper to be a big surprise while also getting some revenge. Carden is a big time passer and threw for over 4,000 passing yards last season to go with 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Carden is also very efficient and completed 70.5% of his passes last season but the Hokies have the secondary to really cause Carden issues though Carden might not have to have too good of a game.
Senior wide receiver Justin Hardy is one of the fastest wide receivers in college football and is an all-around playmaker whether it is on offense or special teams. Hardy will be relied on a lot by Shane Carden in this game but Hardy could do some damage. However, this will come down to the matchup and Hardy could be shut down if they use Kendall Fuller to primarily mark Hardy.
Nov 30, 2013; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies running back Trey Edmunds (14) scores a touchdown against the Virginia Cavaliers in the second quarter at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Defensively speaking, the Pirates are built around a decent front 7 which had three players on Phil Steele’s four preseason All-AAC teams. Terrell Stanley leads the ECU defense as he had 10 tackles for loss and 7 sacks as a sophomore last season. Montese Overton leads a solid linebacker corps as Overton had 10 tackles for loss and 6 sacks as a sophomore. ECU has a solid defense but the Hokies have the talent at wide receiver and tight end to possibly do a whole lot of damage if the quarterback play is there.
The quarterback play might not be where it needs to be at the beginning of the season and this has let-down game upset potential. However, I think that the Hokies will get the job done with a strong performance by the secondary along with a very balanced offense against a ECU front 7 that is better on pass defense than run defense. Trey Edmunds will get a couple of touchdowns on the ground while Kendall Fuller will shut down Justin Hardy and lead the Hokies to victory.
On top of that, the Hokies will have a solid passing game with Joshua Stanford and the Virginia Tech wide receiver corps being too much to handle for ECU. Virginia Tech will be tested some but the Hokies will get a victory.