For the first time, Virginia Tech and Old Dominion will face off in a game that will have the attention of many across the Commonwealth, especially in the 757. Virginia Tech is going to be almost 30-point favorites going into this game, but Old Dominion will be looking to pull off a huge upset in their first game against the kings of the Commonwealth.
With that said, here are our key matchups for Saturday's in-state showdown.
VT Secondary vs. QB Steven Williams
At the ripe age of 17 years old, Steven Williams will make his first career start in college football tomorrow. The bad news, he has to do it against a vaunted Virginia Tech secondary that kept ECU to 11-for-30 passing last week. Making matters worse, Williams will be playing on front of a raucous, sold-out Lane Stadium.
Virginia Tech's secondary got off to a slow start last week, but by the second quarter, it was clear the Hokies' early struggles weren't because of having matchup issues but just due to a lack of aggressiveness. After the first quarter wakeup call, the Hokies' secondary fired on all cylinders and made life extremely difficult for ECU QB Gardner Minshaw.
This week, the Hokies will savor this matchup against a 17-year old starting QB and a receiving corps that already lost one of its best receivers, senior Jonathan Duhart, for the season. This is a big mismatch that just smells of a "blood in the water" type of game that could see VT's secondary have one of their best performances in a long time.
Williams threw for a good amount of yards and 2 touchdowns last week, but his poor 9-for-20 passing isn't a good sign, especially since he was facing a below-average UNC defense that doesn't have much talent outside of CB MJ Stewart. Part of that struggle could have been due to nerves but if nerves were an issue last week in Norfolk, playing in one of the craziest environments in college football probably won't take away those nerves.
This has all the makings of a mismatch even with Adonis Alexander out, something that Old Dominion is likely thankful for but knows doesn't make the task easier at all.
Cam Phillips vs. CB Brandon Addison
Cam Phillips has been one of the best receivers in college football this year and presents a tough task for cornerback Brandon Addison. Addison is ODU's top cornerback who is in his third year as a starter and has 22 pass breakups in 28 career games. Just like most cornerbacks, Addison should receive some safety help, but ODU will need Addison to have the game of his life and them some against the best receiver in the ACC.
Phillips has been able to stretch the field more than he has in any previous season averaging 15.4 yards per reception, 2.5 yards better than his career-high 12.9 yards per reception last season. Phillips has constantly found ways to get open and either take advantage of the space he's been given or make a move to create the space he needs. Saturday, Brandon Addison will have the nightmare of trying to figure out whether to give Phillips some room or press him, and have to deal with his speed and great route-running skills.
Addison will be one of the better cornerbacks that Phillips has matched up against in part because of his experience. Addison is in his third year as a starter, and that experience should be valuable facing one of America's best receivers. You can expect that Old Dominion will have Addison mark Phillips wherever he's lined up on the field.
Phillips is a near-impossible matchup for any cornerback in America currently, and it's hard seeing Addison having much of a chance at slowing him down. Cam Phillips has developed into one of America's best wide receivers and a nightmare for every opposing defensive coordinator.
VT Offensive Line vs. Old Dominion Defensive Line
This is a fascinating matchup to watch as Old Dominion leads the nation with 16 sacks while the Hokies have only allowed 3 sacks in 3 games. Old Dominion runs a 3-4 based nickel defensive scheme that only uses 3 down linemen but ODU's starting defensive linemen have been really good so far. The trio of ODU starting defensive linemen have combined for 9.5 sacks through 3 games including 3.5 sacks from both Bunmi Rotimi and Miles Fox.
Virginia Tech's offensive line will be tested in this game by a defensive line that is one of the best at the Group of 5 level. However, the Hokies have the talent led by veterans like Wyatt Teller and Yosuah Nijman who have plenty of NFL eyes watching. Virginia Tech has also seen new starters Kyle Chung and Braxton Pfaff be reliable through three games, but they will be tested on Saturday.
However, the Hokies' offensive line appears up to the challenge especially Nijman who has been quite good through 3 games.
Nijman has been fantastic through 3 games and is a serious contender to be an All-ACC First Team offensive tackle this season.
ODU has the talent to get some pressure on Josh Jackson, but don't expect the Monarchs to lead the nation in sacks after Saturday's game. Virginia Tech has one of their best offensive lines in the past decades, and that'll show on Saturday.
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