Photo Credit: ACC Media
Virginia Tech ended a long drought of beating ranked teams at Lane Stadium last season when they comfortably beat #19 Wake Forest. This time, the Hokies are the ranked team going on the road to face the Demon Deacons with Tech knowing that a loss would end their ACC Championship hopes.
This is the first time that these two teams have faced off in Winston-Salem since the infamous Frank Beamer meme when the game was 0-0 at the end of regulation before Wake won 6-3 in double overtime. However, this year's matchup should have lots of points.
With that said, here's our staff's picks for the Hokies vs. Wake Forest.
Expect plenty of points between Virginia Tech and Wake Forest with both having well-rounded offenses with Tech's run-centered approach and Wake having a major passing attack to lead the way.
Both defenses will be tested and forcing turnovers will be of great importance to try to keep momentum. Additionally, the Hokies will be better off if they can get control game of this early with their rushing attack. Fail to do that, and it opens the door for the Demon Deacons in a big way though Hendon Hooker is a more than competent passer.
Wake Forest will also likely have a chip on their shoulder after being upset last year by the Hokies and likely not forgetting. Of course, there are some key players who have left since then but Sam Hartman has proven more than capable at QB while star DE Carlos Basham is from Roanoke, VA and may play with a chip on his shoulder given that Tech overlooked him during the recruiting process.
In the end, talent matters and the Hokies are the much better team. Combine that with the x-factor of special teams that favors Tech and the Hokies will take care of business on the road in Winston-Salem.
Pick: #19 Virginia Tech 42, Wake Forest 31
The Hokies looked dominant against an underrated Boston College team, but now must hit the road to visit North Carolina once more against the Demon Deacons. Wake Forest, after a convincing win over Virginia, looks to continue their momentum and win their third straight.
The matchups generally favor Tech, especially on offense. The Hokies' offensive line has dominated the line of scrimmage consistently, and with the perimeter weapons Hooker has at his disposal along with Khalil Herbert's Heisman-level season, the Hokies should be able to score in bunches. Wake's defense has been shoddy against the run especially, allowing 4.6 yards per carry.
An underrated aspect of the Hokies' season is Brad Cornelson's improved playcalling, but a lot of that is due to having a reliable run game that opponents look to shut down. That has allowed jet motion to be more successful since defenses are more susceptible to getting outflanked, and Wake Forest's defense has been mediocre at staying disciplined off ball fakes. I'd expect some success off of play action this week as Hooker will have the time and space to throw the ball down the field.
Defensively, the Hokies' biggest weakness has been defending the run but for the second straight week they are playing a team without the ability to run the ball consistently well. Wake has only averaged 2.9 yards per carry in ACC games, and while their runners have talent it is more of a sustaining run game than an explosive one.
Last week, Boston College was not terrible offensively but the Hokies were able to pressure BC's Phil Jurkovec into mistakes and missed throws, which resulted in three momentum shifting turnovers. The Hokies' defense still isn't great, so turnovers will be essential this week - Wake has only one turnover in it's four games thus far, however.
Quarterback Sam Hartman has led a bit of a boom or bust passing offense for Wake. He is only completing 62% of his passes but I’d averaging 9.5 AY/A. Five of his receivers are averaging over 13 yards per catch. Divine Deablo will need another strong game as a post safety to limit Wake’s explosive plays. It would not be surprising if Justin Hamilton decided to go with more 2-high looks to discourage the explosive passing game.
Tech's strengths match up quite well with Wake Forest's weaknesses, which is why they should win this game. Vegas has the Hokies as a 9-point favorite, and that line feels about right.
Pick: #19 Virginia Tech 38, Wake Forest 28
The Virginia Tech Hokies return to the state of North Carolina after a bounce-back 40-14 victory over Boston College last week in Lane Stadium.
The script has been flipped since the last time these two opponents faced off against each other back on November 9th, where the Wake Forest Demon Deacons were ranked 19th in the country and were the team on the rise, this year that title belongs to the Hokies.
There’s no doubt that Khalil Herbert has made a name for himself in his first four games with the Hokies. The graduate transfer has ran for 598 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns, but has also posted an even more impressive 9.8 yards per carry this season.
Last week was no different for Herbert who ran for 143 yards on eighteen carries, but also reeled in one catch for twenty-nine yards and a touchdown.
The best news out of Blacksburg last week was the return of Hendon Hooker into the starting role as quarterback, and he did not miss a beat with his feet.
After having a limited role against the North Carolina Tar Heels back on October 10th, the junior quarterback played the entire game for the Hokies. In his performance he completed eleven of his fifteen passes for 111 yards and ran the football eighteen times for 164 yards and three touchdowns.
After taking a quick reflection into last week’s victory, the Demon Deacons are also on a roll as they pulled off their first ACC victory of the season against the University of Virginia, defeating the Cavaliers 40-23.
Quarterback Sam Hartman is starting to get comfortable in the role as the starter again after Jaime Newman transferred to Georgia.
He has helped lead the Wake Forest offense into one of the best in the ACC, with a 148.1 offensive efficiency which places them as the third best in the conference. The Demon Deacons are also the last team in the conference to not throw an interception on the year.
Last week, the Demon Deacons had a great support running game with Kenneth Walker III and Jaquarri Roberson, both of whom had their best performances of the season.
Walker III was absolutely dominant against the Cavaliers posting 128 rushing yards on 23 carries for 3 touchdowns. His act did not go unnoticed as the sophomore running back was named the ACC Running Back of the Week.
Roberson’s stats just seem to be on the incline for Wake Forest over these last few weeks, and he did it again last Saturday with seven receptions for 126 receiving yards.
The junior wide receiver is having a breakout season with the Demon Deacons; after posting season totals in his first two seasons with seventy-four and eighty receiving yards, in this season alone, Roberson has hauled in 314 yards in only four games.
The emphasis on this matchup will focus on the electrifying offenses of Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, both of which average over forty points per game into their young seasons.
If the Hokies want to win this week’s matchup, they are going to have to exploit the weak Wake Forest defensive line and make sure that Hartman’s arm does not beat the Virginia Tech secondary, which has done everything other than being fully healthy in 2020.
I do believe the Hokies pull this matchup out, and improve their record to 4-1 and pull off a winning record against the state of North Carolina.
Pick: #19 Virginia Tech 45, Wake Forest 34
The Hokies enter Saturday against the Demon Deacons ranked at nineteen. Virginia Tech is sporting a solid 2-1 record following the 40-14 blowout win against Boston College.
On paper, it looks like Virginia Tech should win this game pretty easily. Wake Forest enters this match-up sitting at 2-2. Other than demolishing Campbell, the Demon Deacons’ only semi-impressive win came against an unimpressive Virginia team.
The Hokies looked juiced on offense last week as starting quarterback Hendon Hooker made his return to the field, accounting for four total touchdowns on the day. With Hooker continuing to start under center, along with Heisman candidate Khalil Herbert in the backfield, this offense could start to get going early.
Virginia Tech has also consistently had fewer and fewer absences due to COVID each week, and if that trend continues this week, it can only benefit the team.
I expect this game to be closer than expected, as most inter-conference games not involving Clemson typically are, but I don’t think Wake Forest will threaten at any point.