The 2013 ACC football schedule came out last week, completing the Hokies 2013 schedule. There has already been massive
discussion debate about the value of the Thursday night games in Blacksburg, which have been omitted from the schedule this year. According to what we know now, it was Athletic Director, Jim Weaver, who made the request to the ACC to not host a Thursday night game in Blacksburg.
Anyway, this post is about the schedule that's going to be played this fall, not that. I will be using Jeff Sagarin's final Strength of Schedule ranking based on last season, and the bowl results, if any, to give us clues of what we can expect from the schedule this fall. The Strength of Schedule ranking may differ slightly from my last post reviewing the 2012-2013 season result.
Without further ado:
August 31 - Alabama (neutral site, Chik-Fil-a Kickoff Classic)
Alabama won the national championship, throttling Notre Dame in an old fashioned whipping that left Te'o grasping for air, 42-14. If there was ever a chance for Virginia Tech to take advantage of roster turnover among Alabama, this game would be it. Virginia Tech returns nearly every starter on defense (also minus Antone Exum who is questionable for return in time for the season opener). The secondary will be challenged by Alabama's physical receivers and two-time national championship quaterback, A.J. McCarron. Virginia Tech, unfortunately, will be breaking in some new offensive players, and it's hell of a way for new offensive coordinator, Scot Leoffler, offensive line coach and running game coordinator, Jeff Grimes, and wide receiver coach Aaron Moorehead to prove their hiring during the off season was worth it.
Alabama's Strength of Schedule: 19th.
September 7 - Western Carolina
What a way to show off the new scoreboard and sound system blaring Enter Sandman, right (should it be completed by the start of next season)? I kid, I kid, well, sort of. Western Carolina, according to internet search query, did not make it to the FCS playoffs. If Virginia Tech loses to Alabama, this game will give the team a chance to take out their frustration on Western Carolina. I expect to see the lunchpail defense show up in a big way, enough for Foster to insert backups and walk-ons to give them valuable reps. Ideally, the offense should be able to exploit the mismatch in talent.
Western Carolina's Strength of Schedule: 128th.
September 14 - at East Carolina
This was an add-on to the schedule after the ACC decided to go back to the 8 in-conference schedule, causing Jim Weaver to scramble to find a replacement. Weaver cited a good working relationship with East Carolina as the reason to schedule this game. East Carolina is no pushover. Their offense has always given Foster's defense fits, and their defense gives Tech's offense headache. East Carolina lost to UL-Lafayette in the New Orelans Bowl, 34-43.
East Carolina's Strength of Schedule: 112th.
September 21 - Marshall
Marshall makes another trip to Blacksburg this year. The last time these two teams met, Logan Thomas was in his first season as the starter (2011), and it was an offensive struggle. Expect to see the same due to the possibility that coach Beamer will be getting the team to be prepared for their game against Georgia Tech. Marshall did not get selected to play in a bowl game last year.
Marshall's Strength of Schedule: 104th.
September 26 - at Georgia Tech
This is the only Thursday night game on Virginia Tech's schedule, and it's in Atlanta. Traditionally, the winner of the Techno Bowl has gone on to represent the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship Game, but Georgia Tech, the loser last season, went by virtue of NCAA and self-imposed sanctions. I think the trend may continue this season. Georgia Tech's triple-option is a pain in the butt to defend, but Foster's defenses have gotten better at defeating it. This game will be the beginning of a tough stretch for the Hokies. Georgia Tech is also coming off an impressive beatdown of Southern California in the Sun Bowl, 21-7.
Georgia Tech's Strength of Schedule: 44th.
October 5 - North Carolina
One piece of good news is that Gio Bernard is gone. The bad news? Bryn Renner is back as quarterback and it is also Year 2 of Fedora's Offense. UNC was ineligible to participate in the postseason due to academic scandal under Butch Davis, so they are going to be hungry to participate in the championship game. The last time UNC was in Blacksburg, Tech survived a furious Tarheel rally in the 4th quarter to squeak out a win. I expect Foster to have the defense better prepared to defend UNC's up-tempo spread offense. The Hokies' offense should be much better at this point, flexing some serious muscle.
North Carolina's Strength of Schedule: 77th.
October 12 - Pittsburgh
Virginia Tech has the chance to avenge an ugly, ugly loss at Heniz Field from 2012. These two teams have always made it competitive when they play each other, so I expect to see the same this fall. Ray Graham may be gone, but under 2nd year head coach Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh will continue to make strides towards be a blue-collar, bruising offense that will rely on powerful running game. I think that Logan Thomas will also like to shake off his 3-interception game from last season. Pittsburgh lost to Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl, 38-17.
Pittsburgh's Strength of Schedule: 57th.
October 26 - Duke
The quirks of the ACC schedule has Duke making a return trip to Blacksburg...where they were devastated after Tech spotted them a 20-0 lead in the 1st quarter before the Hokies came roaring back for a blowout win. David Cutcliffe has made Duke a team that Tech can no longer overlook. Duke is playing with a chip on their shoulders. However, Duke loses their starting quarterback and the all-time ACC-leading receiver, Connor Vernon. Still, Virginia Tech should not have any trouble handling Duke, especially after a bye week following the Pittsburgh game. Duke lost a heartbreaker in the Belk Bowl to Cincinnati last season, 48-34.
Duke's Strength of Schedule: 51st.
November 2 - at Boston College
Another quirk in the scheduling has the Hokies make a return trip to take on the Eagles. The Eagles have a new set of coaches, but I get the feeling that they may make some noise this fall. If so, the Hokies cannot afford to slip in Chestnut Hill. Boston College did not go bowling a year ago.
Boston College's Strength of Schedule: 40th.
November 9 - at Miami.
The Hokies travel to Florida one week after spending a weekend in Massachusetts. Thanks, ACC. Anyway, until the Sharipo Affair is finally resolved, I think Miami won't be participating in the post season again. Meanwhile, Miami seems to be making huge strides with 3rd year coach Al Golden. They have a dynamic playmaker in Duke Johnson. Defensively, this could be a better unit fielded by Golden's squad. I think this game could go either way. Because Miami elected to self-impose a postseason ban, they did not go bowling or go to Charlotte for the ACC Championship.
Miami's Strength of Schedule: 43rd.
November 16 - Maryland
Good bye, Maryland. It was nice knowing you. It is kind of fitting that Maryland will play Virginia Tech in Blacksburg as an ACC member for the last time. Will Trey Edmunds, assuming he is the starting running back, run wild on Maryland like Darren Evans and Branden Ore before him? Will Maryland arrive to Blacksburg with a healthy quarterback? All questions that will be answered in November. Maryland did not go bowling a year ago.
Maryland's Strength of Schedule: 62nd.
November 30 - at Virginia.
How many days has the Commonwealth Cup been in Virginia Tech's possession? Will Tech beat Virginia, making it a TRUE Decade of Dominance? One big piece good news for Virginia Tech, they get to have a week off to prepare for the Cavaliers. Fans can't really complain about that (other than the Hokies might not need it). Virginia did not go bowling either.
Virginia's Strength of Schedule: 53rd.
The average of Virginia Tech's strength of schedule is 65.8, and Virginia Tech's final strength of schedule's rank is 47th.
Does that mean the schedule is set up for a return to a 10-win season? On paper, yes. However, beside Alabama, Virginia Tech is playing four bowl teams with a combined bowl record of 2-3. If Virginia Tech can survive three grueling opponents (Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Pittsburgh), and survive two long weekend road games, I don't see why Tech can't rekindle a 10-win season.
All of that is dependent on the health of the defense, particularly in the secondary and linebacker corps, and vast improvement from the offense. Perhaps it is fortunate that Tech avoids taking on Florida State and Clemson this year. I think we can expect a 8-4 record this year, but I expect the Coastal Division race to be tight until the end.
What do you think? What do you think Virginia Tech's final record will be? Who do you think is going to be the toughest/easiest opponents and why? Let us know in the comments section.