This week's edition of The Opposing 5 takes a look at Rhode Island, Virginia Tech's second FCS opponent of the season. To provide insight into the Rams, we have Will Geoghegan of The Independent newspaper in southern Rhode Island joining us.
We thank Will for joining us and encourage you to give him a follow on Twitter @RhodyWill especially for Hokie fans living in the Northeast.
With that said, here's an inside at this week's opponent, Rhode Island.
1. Is Rhode Island's 1-4 record indicative of their quality or is this a team that's better than they look on paper and why if so?
They're certainly better than their record. Their three CAA losses were all heartbreakers. Delaware beat them in triple overtime, New Hampshire won on a last-second field goal and Stony Brook beat them on a 50-yard run with 11 seconds left. Three losses by 12 points.
If all three of those were wins, Rhode Island would probably be ranked in the top 15 and headed for the FCS playoffs. On the flip side, while their offense is very talented, their defense let them down in all of those key situations. That unit may not be better than it appears.
2. What is Rhode Island's offensive style?
They generally operate out of the spread offense. They don't use four and five wide sets all that much, typically rolling with a running back, tight end and three receivers. They're a much better passing team than running. At times this year, they've used their receivers in the backfield and given them direct snaps to switch things up in the running game.
3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Rhode Island defense?
For two years now, they've been pretty good at forcing turnovers, with 19 takeaways last year. They're already at 10 this year, which has them ranked in the top 20 nationally in turnover margin. In terms of weaknesses, they don't stop the run very well, giving up 233 yards per game, and they've been extremely susceptible to big plays.
4. Who are the star players to watch for Rhode Island?
Wide receiver Aaron Parker and offensive tackle Kyle Murphy were both preseason All-Americans and have been drawing NFL scouts to practices and games all year.
By virtue of his position, Parker is the more noticeable of the two. He doesn't wow with measurables, but is seemingly always open. And even when he's not, he rarely loses when going for a 50-50 ball. He ranks second all-time in school history in career receiving yards and is second in FCS this season in receiving yards and yards per game. He has also had big games against FBS foes, with nine catches for 144 yards this season against Ohio and seven for 128 last year against UConn.
5. What has to happen for Rhode Island to pull off the upset?
Continued success for quarterback Vito Priore and receivers Parker and Isaiah Coulter, major improvements on the defensive side of the ball and a sub-par game by Virginia Tech. If the Hokies play an 'A' game, they'll be fine. If they start throwing in some turnovers and struggle to move the ball, Rhode Island's offense can take advantage.
Virginia Tech 38, Rhode Island 20
Rhode Island's defense just hasn't been good enough this year to give them a chance at an upset like this.
Once again, we thank Will for joining us to give Hokie fans insight on this week's opponent, Rhode Island.