One of the most decisive two-game stretches in recent memory for Virginia Tech football begins today as the Hokies face Coastal in what is almost an elimination game in the Coastal.
The Hokies know that wins over Pittsburgh and Virginia the next two weeks will not only send them to the ACC Championship, but also likely lock up a spot in this year's Orange Bowl. Lose both and the Hokies will be going to a much less desirable bowl and see in-state rival UVA receive all the big rewards that are on the line.
Pittsburgh comes to Blacksburg knowing that a loss against the Hokies will end any hopes they have of winning the Coastal for the second-straight season. With less than ideal conditions expected, this game has the makings of an old school war of attrition rather than a high-flying offensive showcase. That's only fitting as legendary defensive coordinator Bud Foster coaches the Hokies inside Lane Stadium one final time.
Will the Hokies win and set up a winner-take-all Coastal showdown in Charlottesville next week or will Pittsburgh upset the Hokies to keep their Coastal picks alive? Here's our picks along with all of our pregame coverage.
- Keys to the Game (By Mike McDaniel)
- Key Matchups (By Grant Atkinson)
- Today's Recruiting Visit List (By Tim Thomas)
- Caleb Farley Works to Master Cornerback Position (By Andy Loce)
- Virginia Tech's Uniforms for Senior Day (By Tim Thomas)
The weather conditions may limit the offenses, but what's clear is that while Virginia Tech has an offense that can win football games, Pittsburgh's offense is one that can't be relied on often to win games should their defense struggle.
Part of that is due to a Pittsburgh rushing attack that has struggled immensely averaging only 3.6 yards per carry this season. While Kenny Pickett has been able to fill the void to a small extent, he hasn't been able to fill it that much and unlike Hendon Hooker, Pickett feels more like a game manager who hasn't taken the next step from being a QB who can keep you in games to a QB that can win games for you.
Combine that with speculation that Pittsburgh will be without their star receive Maurice Ffrench and Pitt's offense has lots of questions marks outside of their other talented receiver Taysir Mack.
Now Pitt's defense, especially their run defense, has been impressive this season holding teams to under 91 rushing yards on the ground per game. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech's rushing attack has come alive in recent weeks with four games of 200+ rushing yards in their past 5 outings, all 4 of which resulted in the Hokies putting up 40+ points.
Part of that has been due to an increased amount of variety in the rushing game including the addition of the jet sweep read option that has kept opposing defenses on their heels. Expect VT to try to use the jet sweep and that wrinkle to prevent Pitt from loading the box and keep the Panthers on their heels.
Pittsburgh has the defense to keep themselves in this game especially with the weather, but their offense leaves a whole lot to be desired and against a Virginia Tech defense that has played as we ll as we've seen a VT defense since 2017 over the past two games, this defense will rise up a shut down Pitt. Expect a low-scoring game with the Hokies coming out on top by a little more than most would have expected.
Pick: Virginia Tech 21, Pittsburgh 10
The Chase for the Coastal is in full effect now for the Hokies starting today with the need to focus on going 1-0 against Pittsburgh rather than looking ahead to next week's showdown with Virginia.
Flashback to September 27th when the Hokies were embarrassed on home soil against the Duke and VT seemed out of the Coastal hunt with an 0-2 start to ACC play. Since thenn the turnaround has been phenomenal as VT has won 5 of their last 6 including a 4-0 ACC record during that stretch to put themselves in control of their own destiny in the Coastal.
Against Pitt, expect a sloppy, ground-and-pound playbook that will test out how the defenses are able to respond to the run with the terrible weather that's expected.
For Virginia Tech, the impact of this game will be balanced on the ability to run the football through the miserable elements. The Hokies have skyrocketed through the NCAA rankings in rushing yards per game to 47th averaging 178.8 with the switch at quarterback from Ryan Willis to Hendon Hooker being a major reason why. Hooker's value in the rushing game will continue to be important against Pitt today.
For Pittsburgh, they know that they have to win out to have any chance at winning the Coastal crown while also needing Virginia to lose next week. But for the Panthers they have to also stay focused on the task at hand rather than get too caught up in the pursuit of a second-straight Coastal title. Pittsburgh will also have the challenge of playing in a tough Lane Stadium environment that knows the magnitude of this game quite well.
You could not write a better script for this game two weeks before the ACC Championship as two 7-3 teams will be battling out in treacherous conditions with the fate of their season on the line. Sure it won’t be the prettiest matchup, but definitely a gut check for both programs on Saturday.
In this game, I see two hungry teams that will be looking to make a name for themselves and the winner will be determined by who’s up for this game the most. For this game, I'm afraid that Virginia Tech will come into it overlooking the Panthers and be too zoned in for next Friday’s Commonwealth Cup. I expect the Panthers to come out and have the feeling as if they have nothing to lose, and for that reason, I see Pittsburgh pulling out a big road victory.