The Virginia Tech Hokies return home this week after suffering a disappointing loss on the road against the Miami Hurricanes due largely to four turnovers. Despite the disappointing loss, the 3-4 Hokies are three-point home favorites by Vegas against the #23 Duke Blue Devils whose only loss came against Northwestern.
It’s also Homecoming in Blacksburg, and Virginia Tech will want to pull off an upset and improve their mixed chances of extending their bowl streak to 23-straight seasons. With that said, let’s take a look at the three Hokies we have our eye on ahead of this ACC Coastal showdown.
QB Michael Brewer
Michael Brewer makes his return to the starting lineup this week so it should be no surprise that he makes this list, especially after his brief fourth quarter cameo last week at Sun Life Stadium. Brewer made some very good throws in his limited time in the game, but also had one mistake with a late interception that showed he was still a little rusty.
Having Brewer makes his return means that we will likely see an offense much similar to the one the Hokies ran in the first half against Ohio State. Brewer is not the same mobile threat as Brenden Motley, and won’t be a guy that runs any read options, but Brewer brings toughness and knows how to escape the pocket when he needs to.
Brewer brings a lot more touch and accuracy to the passing game than Motley even if he doesn’t have as big of an arm as the Christiansburg, Virginia native. Brewer’s passing touch will allow Scot Loeffler to run a more-complicated passing offense though we may not see that in full just yet with Brewer having only practiced for a couple of weeks.
Virginia Tech’s passing offense should be better with Brewer, but they will be tested this week against a very good Duke defense led by safety Jeremy Cash who has been one of the top defensive backs in college football this year. This will be a big test to see how effective Brewer can be, and whether he can lead a midseason turnaround for Virginia Tech.
WR Isaiah Ford
Isaiah Ford was named to ESPN’s All-ACC Midseason Team along with Luther Maddy, and the stats back the accolade up with 32 receptions for 497 receiving yards and 7 receiving touchdowns. Ford has taken his game to the next level, and looks like a player that will definitely be playing on Sundays in the not too distant future.
Ford’s route-running skills have improved a lot this season, and only Pittsburgh’s Tyler Boyd may be a better route-runner than Ford in the ACC. Ford is not an elite speed threat, but he knows how to use the speed he has effectively to create separation and make some big plays for the Hokies.
Ford has also shown a high football IQ as someone that knows how to get open when his primary route doesn’t get the job done. Ford has found ways to get involved in the game throughout the season, and has become the primary target in a passing offense that includes the talented Bucky Hodges.
With Michael Brewer back, don’t be surprised to see Isaiah Ford have a big game against the Blue Devils. Yes, Duke is a tough defense, but Ford is one of the ACC’s top two wide receivers and that will show in this matchup.
MLB Andrew Motuapuaka
Andrew Motuapuaka has been making some good plays the last few weeks, and has helped the Virginia Tech rush defense gets its act together. Last week, the Hokies’ rush defense made Miami beat them threw the air, and unfortunately Brad Kaaya and the Hurricanes did exactly that.
This week, the Hokies face a Duke offense led by QB Thomas Sirk who has proven that he can make some plays with his legs. David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils coaches likely have a good understanding of Virginia Tech’s struggles with mobile quarterbacks, and will likely test the Hokies early.
The Hokies will likely on their linebackers to help contain Sirk and prevent him from doing much damage with Motuapuaka possibly in a spy role to keep an eye on the mobile quarterback. Motuapuaka has shown great instincts, and will need them in this matchup.
The Hokies have had too many struggles with mobile quarterbacks this season and need to make a statement this week. Motuapuaka will play a big role in whether the Hokies are able to contain Sirk or if Duke becomes the latest team with a mobile quarterback to do damage on the ground with their quarterback.