Despite being blown out by Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech enters November still in control of their destiny in the ACC Coastal. However, the Hokies face a Boston College team that, with a healthy AJ Dillon, looks like the second best team in the ACC and a legitimate top 20 team.
With that said, here are the keys to the game for the Hokies against Boston College.
Contain AJ Dillon
AJ Dillon is undoubtedly one of the best running backs in America with the sophomore once again healthy after two games. That showed last week when Dillon ran for 149 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries not only showing that he can handle a massive workload, but that he's back to being quite productive.
Overall, Boston College's offense is fairly well-rounded with Anthony Brown proving to be a quality passer, but Dillon is the offensive playmaker for BC. For the Hokies, finding a way to contain Dillon without having to load up the box and give Boston College one-on-one matchups on the outside without safety help will be critical in this game.
Virginia Tech's front 7 is banged up with the status of Dylan Rivers and Jarrod Hewitt both being unknown. Rayshard Ashby seems likely to play while Khalil Ladler will miss the first half after a controversial targeting penalty last week. With those potential absences, the Hokies will need the defensive line to bounce back in a big way though going against a more traditional blocking scheme should help guys like Ricky Walker and Houshun Gaines. In addition, VT will need whoever is in at linebacker to be more aggressive and simply try to get a tackle rather than going for a big hit.
If the Hokies can find a way to contain Dillon, Virginia Tech will give themselves a good chance to win. If not, Dillon could carry Boston College to a big win that makes Boston College's game against Clemson the game of the week next Saturday.
Establish the Run
Outside of their games against William & Mary and Old Dominion, Virginia Tech's running game has shown some flashes, but hasn't been very good overall. At times, Ryan Willis has saved the rushing numbers with his own scrambling as he did against North Carolina, but the Hokies haven't been able to establish their rushing attack on a consistent basis.
Virginia Tech's rushing attack did show some flashes in the first half against Georgia Tech especially from Steven Peoples who had 6 carries for 51 yards. However, the Hokies' major deficit forced their hand on the offensive end with Peoples barely getting any carries afterward. Meanwhile, Deshawn McClease's struggles continued with the 757 RB only having 3 yards on 3 carries with a total of 17 yards on 10 carries in the past two games.
Against a talented, experienced Boston College defense, Virginia Tech will need a balanced offensive attack to create some one-on-one matchups for Damon Hazelton and company on the outside. The Hokies have been able to get away with Willis' scrambling at times, but against a BC defensive line loaded with talent including star DEs Zach Allen and Wyatt Ray who are two of the ACC's best pass rushers, the Hokies have to get their rushing attack going.
If not, it will be a much tougher task for Ryan Willis and Virginia Tech's passing game.
Play With Discipline and Focus
The lack of discipline Virginia Tech has showed this season has been appalling to stay the least. From lots of missed tackles to unnecessary penalties and muffed punts, the Hokies have had plenty of discipline and focus issues that have gotten in their own way and helped them beat themselves (in addition to Georgia Tech running right through Virginia Tech's defense last week).
Against a veteran Boston College team, Virginia Tech cannot afford to continue to make these same youthful mistakes as they did early in the season. Yes, the Hokies have one of America's youngest teams but when you face an opponent the caliber of Boston College, you simply can't afford to make those same mistakes especially when you've been making them week after week.
The Hokies have shown that when they are playing well and disciplined, they are the best team in the Coastal. However, the Hokies' maddening inconsistency and struggles with discipline in all aspects beyond just penalties to simply being focused on wrapping up and finishing a tackle has made this a roller coaster of a season for Virginia Tech and is why Boston College is the favorite in this game.
If the Hokies can play disciplined football, expect to see a Virginia Tech that looks like the top 25 team that they were to start this season. If not, it'll be another long day in Lane Stadium for a Virginia Tech team whose only home win is currently against William & Mary.
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
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