After suffering a tough home loss to Clemson, Virginia Tech is heading on the road for the first time in ACC play this season to face Boston College. The Hokies may be heavy favorites, but they can't afford to sleep on a Boston College team that is desperate for a big win to help Steve Addazio's chances of keeping his job.
Virginia Tech has no margin for error in the Coastal at this point, and can't afford to lose a game like this to the worst team in the ACC. With that said, here are our keys to the game for the Hokies against BC.
Establish the Run Early and Often
Boston College gives up the second-most rushing yards per game among power 5 schools, allowing over 250 rushing yards per game. The only FBS defense that the Hokies faced that was worse at stopping the run was East Carolina among their FBS opponents. Like ECU, BC is outside the top 120 in the nation in rush defense, and it's a weakness that the Hokies must exploit as they did against ECU.
Virginia Tech struggled on the ground last week with only 90 rushing yards, but no one has as good of a defensive line as Clemson and it showed. While Boston College does have Harold Landry, the Eagles don't have much else outside of him to stop the Hokies on the ground.
Outside of Delaware, the Hokies have been quite effective on the ground with at least 220 rushing yards against West Virginia, East Carolina, and Old Dominion including a season high 287 rushing yards at East Carolina.
Though Steven Peoples's status is unknown, the Hokies still have Deshawn McClease and Travon McMillian, who should be out of the dog house. The Hokies also may try to wrinkle in Jalen Holston, if he's not sick, and Coleman Fox, who has looked great in garbage time appearances the past three weeks.
Against a BC defense that is significantly better at defending the pass than the run, it will be important for the Hokies to establish the run early and go to it often in this game. This matchup feels a lot like the ECU game, and I expect the Hokies to have a strong game on the ground led by McClease and McMillian with Peoples getting some extra rest.
Win the Battle in the Trenches
Winning the battle in the trenches is somewhat of an obvious key, but against a Boston College offense that will look to be physical and establish the run early, it will be critical for the Hokies' defensive line to shut it down early. The good news is that other teams with not as much talent have been able to limit BC's rushing game.
So far, BC's top 2 running backs have struggled with Jon Hillman averaging only 3.7 yards per carry on 87 carries, and AJ Dillon averaging 3.8 yards per carry on 79 carries. Boston College does have some offensive line talent at tackle headlined by junior left tackle Aaron Monteiro, but there is inexperience up the middle, especially at center with true freshman Ben Petrula.
This matchup seems like a great opportunity for Tim Settle and Ricky Walker to have a dominant performance and put up some big numbers, something they haven't done despite playing quite well through the first five games. Expect to see a lot of Vinny Mihota on the interior to give Settle and Walker some rest while Jarrod Hewitt may also get some extra reps if the Hokies can get some separation early.
If the Hokies can shut down the Boston College rushing attack, it'll make life a lot easier against a BC passing offense that hasn't been great with Anthony Brown only completing 54.5% of his passes so far and having 7 interceptions in only 5 games. This is a nightmare matchup for Brown against a VT secondary that is in the top 10 nationally in opposing completion percentage.
Winning the battle in the trenches will be important for the Hokies to avoid this game being more competitive than it should be.
Don't Overlook Boston College
Virginia Tech is definitely the better football team and should be able to comfortably win this game. However, the Hokies can't afford to be stuck on last week's loss to Clemson or look ahead to catching their breath during next week's bye just yet.
Virginia Tech has had let-down games before, but that wasn't an issue last season as the Hokies did not lose back-to-back games at any point. The Hokies were able to do a great job of moving on to their next opponent, and Justin Fuente's 1-0 mentality has worked well at keeping his team focused on the task at hand and not what is to come.
If the Hokies fail to stay focused on this game, then we'll see a much more competitive game. Even when the Hokies have kind of slept-walk into a game, we've seen that they can flip that switch and wake themselves up as they did after the first quarter against East Carolina with 57 unanswered points.
It's simple for the Hokies, show up and come out with a high level of intensity. If they do that, I have a hard time seeing anyway that this game could be close.
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