On Wednesday, the ACC released their full football schedule for 2020. The following are a couple components that stand out from a generally favorable schedule for Virginia Tech.
UNC Game Provides Early Test for ACC Coastal
Going into the season, Virginia Tech and North Carolina will arguably two of the teams in the Coastal Division with the most potential. However, an early matchup between the two on October 10th could make the road to an ACC Title game much more difficult for the loser.
Both Justin Fuente and Mack Brown bring back a large number of starters from teams that built a solid foundation during the 2019 season. Most importantly, starting quarterbacks Hendon Hooker and Sam Howell will both be returning to their respective teams after very good first seasons as starting QBs.
In addition, the tendency of these two schools to go head-to-head in recruiting adds a little extra flare to this annual matchup. Justin Fuente and former UNC coach Larry Fedora had somewhat of a rivalry with one another, and that carried over into last season's 6 OT game in Mack Brown's first season at the helm, albeit the relationship between Fuente and Brown is much more friendly.
Each team will have veteran players returning who are great examples of this recruiting battle. Virginia Tech's Tre Turner and Dax Hollifield are both North Carolina natives who received offers from the Tar Heels. Meanwhile, Hampton, Va. native Dazz Newsome chose UNC despite both his father and brother playing for the Hokies.
The Virginia Tech vs. UNC rivalry has been heating up for years, and 2020 could be the culmination of what started to take off in 2016 during Hurricane Matthew. Both teams have the potential to be nationally relevant, and the winner of this early October game will give themselves a leg up in the Coastal race.
Three Game Stretch Could Define Season
Overall, the ACC gave Virginia Tech a pretty favorable schedule in conference play. However, one three game stretch from October 31st to November 14th could be both the most difficult and the most important segment of Virginia Tech's schedule.
First, the Hokies travel to Louisville on Halloween (Saturday, October 31). It will be the first time since the 2006 Gator Bowl that the two teams have met, and the first trip to Louisville for Virginia Tech since 1992.
Last season, the Cardinals surprised basically everyone with a 7-5 (5-3) season that earned them second place in the ACC Atlantic. First year head coach Scott Satterfield won ACC Coach of the Year for his efforts, and Louisville looks to be even better next season.
Next, Virginia Tech will follow that game up with a trip to Pittsburgh on Friday, November 6. This will be the only stretch of back-to-back road games for the Hokies, but it comes at an extremely crucial time.
Virginia Tech has struggled historically at Heinz Field, and their last trip ended in a 52-22 beatdown by the Panthers in 2018. The Hokies will have to try and navigate a short week as they prepare for a tough one in Pittsburgh.
Finally, the Hokies will return home on Saturday, November 14 to battle Miami. Despite a down year in 2019 for the Hurricanes, two huge grad transfers in QB D'Eriq King and DE Quincy Roche will make Manny Diaz's squad immediate contenders in the Coastal once again.
If Virginia Tech wants to win the Coastal Division, they will need to manage this difficult stretch well. The Hokies will probably need to go at least 2-1 if not 3-0 during these three weeks to stay alive for an ACC Championship berth.
Two Non-Saturday Games May Help or Hinder the Hokies
This season, Virginia Tech will play two conference games on days other than Saturday. While one seems to set up as an advantage, the other could potentially be an added challenge.
On Thursday, October 22, the Hokies will take on Boston College in Lane Stadium. That can potentially be a positive for a few reasons.
For one, Thursday night football returns to Lane Stadium. Blacksburg has long been known to be one of the rowdiest places to play a night game, and the fans will most certainly want to continue that reputation in 2020 especially on a day of the week where Lane Stadium started to gain its feared reputation.
In addition, Virginia Tech has a bye week before taking on the Eagles. That gives them a few more days to prepare for a team who beat them last season.
Lastly, the Hokies will have nine days between this game and the game at Louisville, which begins the aforementioned difficult stretch of games. Having an extra day and a half or so to recover and prepare for that road trip could benefit Virginia Tech as well
On the other hand, the week right after Louisville sees the Hokies play at Pittsburgh on Friday, November 6. That will be a challenge as Virginia Tech will have one less day to prepare for their second straight road game.
On the flip side, Virginia Tech will not play again until Saturday, November 14 against Miami, so they will have an extra day of rest on the Hurricanes. Miami will be coming off a rivalry game with Florida State on Saturday, November 7.
Overall, Virginia Tech has an exciting schedule for 2020. Intriguing home matchups both in the non-conference and ACC play should lure fans in, and a large number of winnable games will have the Hokies expecting a return to 10+ win seasons.