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After back-to-back home losses to Liberty and Miami, Virginia Tech heads on the road looking to bounce back and avoid going below .500. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh just returned from a COVID freeze this Tuesday but are looking to get a big home win as they get things back started.
With that said, here are our picks for the Hokies against Pittsburgh.
Virginia Tech's defense found their rhythm last week and should be able to take next steps against a Pittsburgh offense that has 0 rushing attack, averaging 3.0 yards per carry. Kenny Pickett is also having a solid but unspectacular season throwing the football though Tech will have to keep an eye on star freshman playmaker Jordan Addison and big play machine DJ Turner who is averaging over 16 yards per reception. If this becomes an even marginally high-scoring game, it favors the Hokies.
One fascinating battle to watch will come in the trenches between Virginia Tech's elite offensive line and Pittsburgh's talented defensive line led by star pass rusher and 757 native Patrick Jones II who almost certainly will be playing with a chip on his shoulder today.
The Hokies will need to stretch the field both vertically and horizontally today to prevent Pitt from loading the box and keep Pittsburgh's defensive line out of rhythm. This includes using the jet sweeps with Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson along with some pitch plays to Raheem Blackshear and screens that should open up the box and maybe give Pitt defensive linemen hesitation on where to go.
The biggest question mark here is how ready to play will Pittsburgh be given that they just resumed operations this past Tuesday? Yes, some may compare it to Tech being more than ready for N.C. State, but the Hokies had more than a week to prepare after resumption and there's a different energy when it's the first game compared to being a mid-pack, late November ACC game.
The Hokies are the more talented team and that will win out as the Hokies have solid days on both sides of the ball to cruise to a comfortable victory at a Pittsburgh team that will be affected by their COVID layoff ending just this week.
Pick: Virginia Tech 27, Pittsburgh 14
The Hokies' inability to close games and mediocre coaching was on full display last week against the No. 9 Hurricanes, but they face a team that has struggled with both those issues this week as well as they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers.
Pittsburgh is a team that, perennially, no one knows how good they actually are. This is especially true this year, as they have lost close games to Boston College and NC State, while blowing out an albeit bad Florida State team. They are probably in the same tier as the Hokies, which is not an endearing comparison for Virginia Tech.
Pittsburgh's offense was supposed to be led by Kenny Pickett this season, but the draft-eligible quarterback has been sporadic at best. He does not have the help of a typically strong Panthers run game either, as his top running back Vincent Davis is averaging a putrid 3.0 yards per carry. Pickett will push the ball downfield however, and receiver Jordan Addison will be his primary target when he decides to do so. Justin Hamilton's gameplan should revolve around taking away Addison and bring pressure to affect Pickett's accuracy. The Hokies' defense has played better as of late, so they should show some juice against a bad offense.
Pittsburgh's defense matches up very well with the Hokies' pieces on offense, which is especially concerning given Tech's inability to consistently scheme up easy yards for the offense. They have elite team speed, especially in the front seven which will make it tough to run horizontally and they should be able to bottle up most quarterback designed runs. The Panthers allow 79 yards a game on the ground which is not conducive for a Virginia Tech win. The Hokies need to get the ball to their perimeter early, especially because Pittsburgh is not afraid to leave their corners on islands.
I like the Hokies' chances to win the game if they Keep Pittsburgh's point total under 20. I think they get the job done using some big plays in the passing game from Tre Turner, but it will be close and not pretty.
Pick: Virginia Tech 21, Pittsburgh 20
Here we are at 4-4. I don’t think anyone thought Virginia Tech would be sitting at .500 entering their ninth game, after starting off this season hot with a 2-0 record.
Last week, the Hokies suffered a heartbreaking one-point loss to, then number nine, Miami. Following the game, there was a feeling of self defeat, as Virginia Tech led by as much as 11 during the second half and couldn't hang on, being shut out in the fourth quarter.
At this point, the Hokies might just be playing for pride since an ACC Championship game appearance seems long gone. However, these last few games will be incredibly crucial for Justin Fuente, as finishing below a .500 record could mark the end of his time in Blacksburg.
Virginia Tech needs to have a bounce back game after dropping three of the last four. While Pittsburgh isn’t Clemson or Notre Dame, the Panthers should not be counted out.
This will be a tough, but very winnable game for the Hokies and I expect the Hokies to return to Blacksburg with their fifth win.