After a long offseason and days of watching every other college football team open their 2018 season, the stage has been cleared for the biggest ACC showdown on college football's opening weekend. Both Virginia Tech and Florida State know that they have a chance to make their case as the top challenger to Clemson in the ACC especially after Miami's poor performance against LSU last night.
The question is can a young Virginia Tech team go on the road and pull off an upset at a Florida State team with a new head coach making his FSU debut? The staff of the TLP is split on whether the Hokies will be able to pull off the upset.
This is a matchup with plenty of unknowns as both teams have several new starters on defense while the Hokies have one of the youngest teams in the country and Florida State has a new coaching staff and offensive scheme with Willie Taggart and Walt Bell.
One position where both teams don't have an unknown player is at quarterback with Josh Jackson set for his second season as a starter while Deondre Francois returns after suffering a season-ending injury against Alabama last season. After a solid freshman season, Jackson should take multiple steps forward this season in his development while a healthy Francois could be one of the top 10 QBs in the country if he can jump back on the development path he was on prior to the start of last season.
Even though FSU has youth at WR, the presence of Francois combined with a strong running game led by Cam Akers will give a young Virginia Tech defense some problems. The Hokies fortunately have one of the best starting defensive lines in the ACC with three returning starters along with Houshun Gaines who played well when filling in for Vinny Mihota at the end of last season.
The Hokies will need their defensive line to control the line of scrimmage and allow the Hokies to not bring as many blitzes to provide some help for their young cornerbacks. In addition, VT will need their new starting linebacker group to step up to the occasion and be effective in both run defense and pass coverage. Rayshard Ashby has received plenty of praise this offseason while Dylan Rivers beat out top 150 recruit Dax Hollifield for his starting spot, but the Hokies will need both to step up on the big stage.
Offensively, Virginia Tech will need their running game to build off the momentum that they built at the end of last season with Deshawn McClease and Steven Peoples. While the Hokies' passing game has the potential to take a step forward with a returning Jackson and its deepest receiving corps of the Justin Fuente era, the Hokies will need a legitimate running threat to create some one-on-one matchups for the Hokies' bigger receivers.
This has all the makings of a one-score nail-bitter that will be a four quarter battle, but it's hard to deny the x-factor of this game being in Tallahassee especially given Virginia Tech's youth and inexperience. Combine that with the return of Deondre Francois and FSU's strong running game, and the young Hokies' defense will have a heavy challenge on their hands.
Josh Jackson and the Hokies' offense will keep it close, but Florida State's combination of Francois and Cam Akers will be too much while Brian Burns and FSU's defense will do enough to slow down the Hokies' offense.
Prediction: #19 Florida State 27, #20 Virginia Tech 20
The first game of the season will be a learning experience for both teams. Tech has one of the youngest teams in recent memory while Florida State is working with a new coaching staff. FSU quarterback Deondre Francois poses a big threat to a young Hokies’ secondary, but Virginia Tech’s offense is poised for a big game as well. This is a tough game to start with while both teams are still working out some kinks, but ultimately I think the Hokies lave Tallahassee with a season-opening win.
Prediction: #20 Virginia Tech 28, #19 Florida State 24
Labor Day game, top 20 matchup, national audience, what more could you want in an opening game. Well perhaps not to be playing a team that is as talented across the board as Florida State.
The Hokies are traveling to Tallahassee to take on Florida State in a very tough early season test. This is the third year under Justin Fuente and this is definitely the youngest, most inexperienced team of his tenure. The Hokies well have to grow up extremely fast if they want to get the win in Tallahassee.
Florida State, according to the experts, might be the most talented team across the board. Their offense is explosive the defense is stingy. However, there might be a small chink in the armor, well two to be exact. Typically, FSU's offensive line does give up some negative plays. The Hokies strength on defense is their front four. Ricky Walker and company will have to make some big plays to keep the Hokies close.
Willie Taggart is 0-3 all-time against Justin Fuente since both have been head coaches. This might work in the Hokies favor as decisions made in the play calling arena could influence this game across the board. I look for Fuente to try to use some trickery to keep the Seminoles off-balance and create some big plays.
Even with these two chinks in the armor, the reality is the Hokies are going to have a very hard time winning this game. The youth in the secondary and the fact this game is in an extremely hostile environment is going to be too much for the Hokies to over come. I feel this game being a 31-21 defeat for the Hokies with the game feeling not as close as the score shows. 0-1 but a short week to regroup, LETS GO HOKIES!!
Prediction: #19 Florida State 31, #20 Virginia Tech 21
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
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