Hokie fans have had this game circled on their calendars since before the kickoff against West Virginia. It’s finally here. Hokies vs. Tigers in primetime.
When and Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA, 8:00 pm ET
How to Watch: ABC
Line: Clemson -7 (via Sportsbook Review)
I really don’t even know where to begin with this game, but I’ll try. First of all, no matter the result, this game is huge for the Virginia Tech Program.
Virginia Tech has not played a Saturday night home game since 2005 against UNC. Just think about that for a minute. It has been 12 years since the Hokies had a primetime game on a Saturday night in Lane Stadium.
Another occurrence that used to be common is ESPN CollegeGameDay coming to Blacksburg. Yet as our own Artesha Johnson reported, even that hasn’t happened since 2007. All that to say, it has been some time since the Hokies were really in the national spotlight.
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Enter Justin Fuente. He has only coached in 18 games for Tech, and yet he has an astounding 14-4 record. In two years, Fuente is already well on the way to bringing the Hokies back onto the national stage.
Now, let’s get to the game itself. There’s no denying that Clemson is extremely talented, especially on defense. They have four players on the D line that are listed as top 5 NFL prospects at their respective positions (Chris Coleman, TSL). That’s incredible.
Their defense, especially the line, will be a huge factor in this game. The Hokies will have to get some misdirection going, be it from screen passes, end arounds, or whatever else.
Really, it doesn’t matter how the Hokies do it. What does matter is that Virginia Tech doesn’t allow the Clemson defensive line to pressure Josh Jackson on every play.
Another way to open up the passing game is to rack up some yards on the ground. Tech’s “running back by committee” scheme has worked well so far, but it will be put to the test in this game.
As far as Virginia Tech’s defense, I believe stopping the run will be the key. Kelly Bryant’s passing numbers have been far from exceptional (2 TDs, 3 INTs) through 4 games. However, he has run for another 7 TDs.
Running quarterbacks have always seemed to give Bud Foster fits. In addition, Clemson has two very talented backs that can split the workload.
Overall, I expect Bud to load the box and force Bryant to beat the Hokies’ secondary with his arm. If Bryant can do that, Clemson will win. If not? Well, the Hokies have a good chance.
I believe this game will be very competitive. There are two main reasons for this. First, Clemson is not as talented as they were last year, and Virginia Tech took last year’s team to the brink in the ACC Championship game.
Second, the Hokies have the advantage of playing at home. Blacksburg will be rocking in a way we haven’t seen in a very long time, and that gives the Hokies a great chance.
In the end, I can’t feel good about picking Virginia Tech to win. Nonetheless, I expect a very competitive game, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Hokies pull off the upset.
Score Prediction: Clemson 21, Virginia Tech 17