The Virginia Tech Hokies enjoyed a much-needed bye week this past weekend. Well, enjoyed may be a strong word. The Hokies have dropped 3 straight and find themselves free-falling now at 4-5 on the season. The task doesn’t get any easier, as Virginia Tech welcomes the 3rd-ranked Clemson Tigers into Lane Stadium this evening.
Game Day Information
When: Saturday, Dec. 5, 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA
PXP: Chris Fowler
Analyst: Kirk Herbstreit
Sideline Reporter: Maria Taylor
Forecast: 35 F, Partly Cloudy, 5% Chance of Rain
Series History: Clemson Leads 22-12-1
Last Meeting: Clemson Won 31-17 on Sep. 30, 2017
Line: Clemson -22
An Historic Underdog
There hasn’t been a game I can ever remember where Virginia Tech fans have felt the Hokies have lost before the game even kicks off. That would be a fair statement for the majority of the fan base this weekend.
Virginia Tech comes in as a 22-point home underdog. While that shouldn’t be surprising, it’s certainly eyebrow-raising to see the Hokies’ opponent favored by that much. Tech hasn’t been a 20-point underdog since they matched up with top-ranked Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff back in 2013. To go even further, Virginia Tech hasn’t been a home underdog by this much since October 1988 against West Virginia in Frank Beamer’s 2nd season.
The Next Chapter
The Hokies and Tigers have had some battles over the past few seasons. Clemson has won 5 straight in the series dating back to 2011, where the Tigers beat down on the Hokies twice eventually to an ACC Championship. The two programs met up in the 2016 ACC Championship Game, where the Hokies were 20 yards away from tying or beating the eventual national champion Tigers in a 42-35 contest. Both sides then met up again the following year in 2017, where ESPN’s College Gameday paid a visit to Blacksburg in a 31-17 win for Clemson.
Both programs actually share a lot of similarities. Great fan bases, fantastic entrances, multiple ACC Championships, and the flagship program in each other’s states.
If you think about it, Virginia Tech was the Clemson of the ACC for a little while, and set the standard for what a program can do year in and year out. But ever since the 2011 ACC Championship where the Tigers mauled the Hokies 38-10, and the 3 Florida State championships that followed, Clemson has taken the conference by storm and has continued that success into the national contender it is today.
A Daunting Task
Virginia Tech now has the extremely difficult task of ending the 3-game losing streak, and play spoiler to the championship-hopeful Tigers. The Hokies are coming off an embarrassing 47-14 loss to Pittsburgh and continue to free fall as 5th-year head coach Justin Fuente’s seat continues to get hotter.
There weren’t many positives to find in the Pitt game, but redshirt junior quarterback Hendon Hooker has had a solid season.He will need to have the game of his life against a stacked Clemson Defensive Line full of NFL bodies.
Khalil Herbert had been having a fantastic season, but his production was down against Miami and Pittsburgh. This could be the lingering effect of the hamstring injury he suffered against Liberty. If Virginia Tech is to pull off the upset of the century, Herbert needs to return back to his Boston College game form, and guys like Raheem Blackshear and Jalen Holston must provide adequate backup to Herbert in the backfield.
Defensively, Tech struggled up at Heinz Field against Pitt. While the Hokies held the Panthers to mostly field goals throughout the first half, poor tackling and a 99-yard drive on 4 plays ended any hopes of a Virginia Tech win. The Hokies will have to do one thing they rarely have done all season in order to pull this one off – stop the run. Virginia Tech will need to have a 2017-like defensive performance if it is to have any chance against the Tigers.
Looking To Clinch
Clemson has won 5 straight ACC Championships, and they’ll look to clinch an appearance in their 6th-straight this evening in Blacksburg. The Tigers are good. Head Coach Dabo Swinney has taken Clemson to unprecedented heights in the national landscape of college football. Swinney boasts two potential Heisman candidates on the offensive end in quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne.
We’ll start with Lawrence. The potential 1st pick in the 2021 NFL Draft has raised an interesting question this week. Is he one of the best quarterbacks Virginia Tech Football has ever faced? Personally, I think he is. That’s quite a category too. The Hokies have faced guys like Andrew Luck at Stanford, Matt Ryan at Boston College, Aaron Rodgers at California, and Brett Favre at Southern Miss. The Cartersville, GA native threw for 403 yards and 2 touchdowns against a Pitt defense that shut down a solid Virginia Tech offense, so take that as you will.
Then you have Etienne. Etienne is everything you want in a running back with, possessing a rare combo of speed, power, and physicality in the backfield. I would expect him to have a field day against this undersized Virginia Tech front, and continue to prove why he should be on Zoom for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
Defensively, the Tigers are led by the next Bud Foster in Brent Venables. He’ll have more tools to play with this weekend against the Hokies’ offensive line, as Tyler Davis returns from injury. Others, like James Skalski, who recorded 4 tackles against Pitt, will also contribute to the Tigers’ defense.
Hokies’ Keys To The Game
Score Every Possession
The literal entire offense will have to have career days.
Stop The Heisman Hopefuls
Oh boy, that’s easier said than done. No one has really done it this year.
But Justus Reed, Jarrod Hewitt, and Emmanuel Belmar (If able to play) will need to have the game of their lives as they’ll need to apply pressure and keep the Tigers behind the chains all night to have a chance.
Play With House Money
Virginia Tech has absolutely nothing to lose in this game. If they have a 4th-and-1 at their own 40 to start the game, go for it. If it doesn’t work, oh well. But Justin Fuente has to give it a shot.
They’ll need a little luck in this one, and rolling the dice constantly may eventually work out in the favor of the Hokies.
I really don’t see any scenario of this one happening for the Hokies. Pittsburgh beat Virginia Tech 47-14, Clemson beat Pittsburgh 52-17. That’s a 68 point swing.
As the legendary Lee Corso would say, “Good enough for me.”
The Tigers will win big in Blacksburg.
Prediction: (3) Clemson 49, Virginia Tech 21
Other FQ Writer Picks:
Shayler (FQ Nebraska): (3) Clemson 47, Virginia Tech 14