Virginia Tech made big news over the weekend when they announced that they would not be travelling to East Carolina to face the Pirates in 2019, 2023, and 2025. The move opened up an immediate scheduling vacancy in 2019 that Whit Babcock says will be a seventh home game.
Even though the 2019 season is still several months away, most FBS teams have full schedules with now five FBS programs still looking to add at least one more non-conference game. With that said, here's a look at the possible options for Virginia Tech for their 12th game in 2019.
The best team available that the Hokies could consider is Houston as the Cougars still have one spot remaining in their non-conference schedule. For Hokie fans, a game against a well-known Group of 5 program like Houston would likely be the most appealing and help improve a 2019 home slate that doesn't inspire a lot of buying interest.
However, a game against Houston is extremely unlikely especially if it were to be in Blacksburg.
Currently, the Cougars have a neutral site game at nearby NRG Stadium against Washington State and road games against Oklahoma and North Texas on next season's non-conference schedule. Given that non-conference slate, the Cougars are likely to look for either a Group of 5 or FCS opponent willing to play at Houston to round out their schedule.
If the Hokies are willing to be flexible in regards to a seventh home game this season (including refund fans who bought tickets for that prospective game $25), then a deal is possible.
Any deal would likely have to be a home-and-home with Houston being one of the premier Group of 5 programs in the country. Though a return game either way likely couldn't happen till 2025 given both teams' future non-conference schedules, both teams do have the future opening to make this work. In addition, both teams have an opening for this season on September 21st for a non-conference game.
This is a very unlikely scenario that would likely mean only six home games with a trip to Houston this season followed by a return trip to Blacksburg in 2025 unless VT is able to get Houston to move a future road game back with one possibility being moving a trip to BYU in 2020 to 2025 especially since BYU doesn't travel to Houston till 2023.
Don't expect this to happen, but it's definitely something that should be considered.
While there are six FBS teams including VT that need at least one more non-conference game in 2019, only two are options (ECU and Miami aren't possibilities).
FIU is the best realistic possibility for Virginia Tech and unlike Houston, likely could be brought to Blacksburg simply for a one-off game.
The Golden Panthers already have two home non-conference games and a September 21st opening that lines up perfectly with Virginia Tech's schedule. In addition, FIU currently doesn't have a Power 5 opponent on their schedule and with Miami coming to FIU in 2021, the Golden Panthers seem unlikely to look to add a cross-town trip to Miami in 2019.
This should be the first call for Whit Babcock as the Golden Panthers would be an interesting game especially with their improved play under Butch Davis who has FIU at 17-9 over the past two seasons with a pair of 8+ win seasons. Adding FIU would be like adding Marshall last season, giving VT a more respectable opponent and more importantly, avoiding playing two FCS opponents.
Virginia Tech is going to have to spend some money to bring in a seventh home game opponent so why not make it a solid Group of 5 team like FIU with a coach well-known to Hokie fans in Butch Davis instead of an out-of-state FCS program.
This is the most likely possibility and what Whit Babcock also stated in his comments over a conference call after the news.
Okay so it's almost certain that it will be an FCS opponent for the opening, something that VT fans rightfully will be disappointed about given the already weak schedule. However, reality is that making this type of move this late in the process limits the number of options on the table to almost zero.
While a game against JMU would likely be appealing to many, don't expect that to happen with the Dukes already having a full non-conference schedule for the upcoming season. In addition, it would be surprising to see the Hokies take on the same FCS school back-to-back seasons in William & Mary even if it would be at least interesting to see Mike London make his first return to Lane Stadium since being fired by UVA.
A second game against an FCS school isn't ideal for anyone but at this point, it's almost the only option and likely a cheaper option for VT to actually put together.
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
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