Photo Credit: ACC Media
After a surprising loss at Wake Forest, Virginia Tech heads on the road to Louisville looking for a bounce back game against a Cardinals team that has underperformed this season, but is showing why many thought they could be a breakout team after routing Florida State last week.
With that said, here's our picks for the Hokies against Louisville.
Louisville may be 2-4 but outside of their Georgia Tech loss, this team has shown that they are much better than their record suggests especially after their close loss at Notre Dame and rout of Florida State. Virginia Tech will be ready to bounce back, but this isn't a soft landing to try to get things going in a game that feels like its one that Tech should win given the records, but the records underrate Louisville.
Louisville is also not a great matchup for a Tech defense that has struggled to stop the run as they feature a great rushing attack led by Javian Hawkins along with a dual-threat QB in Micale Cunningham. Containing Hawkins is going to be a top key to this game for the Hokies to try to keep the Louisville offense in check.
Meanwhile, Louisville's defense is also starting to find their rhythm but they also haven't been great this season at stopping the run, allowing 4.9 yards per carry. Safe to say, we could see a pair of big games from Khalil Herbert and Javian Hawkins where both neutralize each other with their big numbers.
The problem for Virginia Tech is that they've had issues getting receivers separation and open to get their passing game going while Louisville hasn't had that issue as much. I do expect that to improve today especially with Tre Turner finding his form last week and getting more passes his way, but there are some schematic issues that history suggests may not get fixed that quickly.
The x-factor for Louisville is Tutu Atwell who could be a matchup issue for Tech unless they have a fully healthy Jermaine Waller, something that remains very uncertain. Brion Murray and Dorian Strong have been solid the past couple of weeks but Atwell is as good of a receiver as either have faced so far and with Cunningham being a legit mobile threat, those two may be in man coverage a lot in this game.
Even with last week, Tech has done a much better job of protecting the football with a +2 turnover margin compared to -8 for Louisville. Despite that, this Louisville team is better than many people think and has found their rhythm with only 1 turnover.
They're also a bad matchup for the Hokies because of what they can do on the ground along with taking advantage of the talent that is Tutu Atwell much better than Tech has their star WRs to open the game even more for Hawkins. Combine that with some of the offensive schematic issues that are self-inflicted especially in the red zone and I think Louisville sends the Hokies down to .500 even with a bounce back game for Hendon Hooker.
Pick: Louisville 38, Virginia Tech 34
The Hokies walk into a big test for their confidence and possible ACC championship game aspirations in Louisville on Saturday. The Wake Forest game last week was a failure on all levels - from the coaching staff to the players themselves, no one looked inspiring or competent in another loss to an unranked team while ranked under Justin Fuente. Despite their record, a 2-4 Louisville side will be tough to prepare for as they present issues to this Hokies side, especially on defense.
On offense, the Hokies simply will need to put up more than 16 points they had last week, and the good news is that they should. However, they will face an improved Louisville defense that has only given up 14 points per contest in the last two games.
Earlier this season when the Cardinals were struggling defensively they allowed 46 points to a mediocre Georgia Tech squad and 47 points to a talented Miami offense. Tech's run defense has been poor this year, but Louisville's run defense ranks just one spot ahead of them in yards allowed per rush. Again, we should expect to see a heavy dose of Khalil Herbert, as the Cardinals have allowed more explosive runs than anyone else in the ACC. If the offense is bad in this game, there are going to be many questions waiting to be answered for Fuente's offensive staff.
Defensively, the Hokies put up a stronger effort against Wake Forest but still were ineffective at getting off the field on critical downs and drew too many penalties to be considered successful. Louisville's offense is similar to the UNC side that put up an easy 56 points on this defense just a few weeks ago.
A mobile, strong armed quarterback in Malik Cunningham combined with an equally explosive runner in Javion Hawkins is not a combination that this Hokies' defense wants to see. Hawkins especially will cause issues, as he is averaging an impressive 6.0 yards per tote this year and my guess is he will have another successful day on the ground.
Overall, the Cardinals are not a great matchup for Virginia Tech. Louisville has the offensive firepower to outscore the Hokies, so it is imperative that Tech wins the turnover battle to steal an extra possession or two to impact the final score.
Pick: Virginia Tech 37, Louisville 35
After a meltdown against Wake Forest, Virginia Tech will look to rebound against Louisville. The Hokies currently sit at 3-2, while the Cardinals sport a 2-4 record.
Last week, Virginia Tech’s offense could never seem to get going. Despite having the least number of absences due to COVID all season, the Hokies struggled against a rather underwhelming Demon Deacon Squad.
Louisville most recently romped Florida State after a close loss to Notre Dame. Like Virginia Tech, Louisville has bounced in and out of the Top 25 this season, but has had trouble moving up the ranks.
This matchup features a potentially explosive Hokies offense versus a Cardinal defense that has averaged 27 points allowed per game this season. If there’s any team that would be ideal for Virginia Tech to reboot its offense against, it is Louisville.
I expect this game to be closer than expected just because Louisville is a decent team and Virginia Tech will still be looking to bounce back from last week.