As any football fan knows it is never too soon to look ahead. The 2016 season holds the standard expectations of home and away conference foes, in addition to a few surprises. Let us take a moment to look at what the Hokies will face in 2016.
Although the exact schedule still requires finalization there are a few things that the Hokie faithful can expect regarding ACC foes. Miraculously the Hokies still somehow again avoid games against FSU and Clemson in 2016. Next year, in the ACC, VT can expect to face the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Miami-Florida Hurricanes, Boston College Eagles, and the Virginia Cavaliers in Blacksburg. As far as away games go the Hokies will look to deal with the Duke Blue Devils, North Carolina Tar Heels, Pittsburgh Panthers, and the Syracuse Orange on foreign soil.
Outside of the ACC the Hokies will battle some rather exciting foes. In late September VT will face the East Carolina Pirates, as is tradition. ECU has become something of an inadvertent rival. The Hokies have faced the Pirates four times in the last five years. In those four matches the Pirates have been successful in two of the last four meetings. Although ECU represents a rising rival the Hokies do have other, more exciting matchups in 2016.
There is not a Hokie fan that isn’t aware of the Battle at Bristol when the Hokies face the Tennessee Volunteers at Bristol Motor Speedway. In middle November next year VT will travel to South Bend and face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. While not as exciting the only FCS team that the Hokies will face next year is the Liberty Flames.
So, let us look ahead. How might the Hokies perform in 2016?
The entire schedule for the season is still in flux, but some matchups have already been determined. The Hokies open the season against the Liberty Flames in Blacksburg, which should be a fantastic warm up game for Justin Fuente and the Virginia Tech Squad he is charged with leading. Immediately after that the Hokies travel to Bristol to face the Volunteers. Tennessee finished the regular season at 8-4, and their greatest quality win was against the then No. 19 Georgia Bulldogs. The Volunteers will be the first challenge the Hokies face in 2016, and without a doubt will be a decent test in determining the capabilities of the Hokie team.
Not that they have a chance to be forgotten, the ECU Pirates invade Lane Stadium on 24 SEP 2016. ECU has been a thorn in the side of the Hokies for, like, ever. I dislike them more than UVa and I am not even interested in researching the team’s history against VT. But, they have been playing the Hokies regularly over the last decade. They are, without a doubt, the biggest external conference rival the Hokies have. There is going to be a lot of mystery surrounding the Fuente led team, but I like to think that ECU, who struggled this season, will fail against the Hokies.
The Hokies will travel to South Bend in mid-November and face their biggest test near the end of their regular season. The Hokies have a penchant for showing up to games they are supposed to lose, and I expect the game to be exciting. If this year’s squad is any indication of then the Fighting Irish are likely to be aggressively pursuing a position in the CFB playoff when the Hokies face them.
Now, turning our gaze towards the ACC let us look at how the Hokies may perform. At Home the Hokies will face only one team that managed to beat them away this year, Miami. It seems safe to assume that the Hurricanes and their new head coach, Mark Richt, will present a complication for the Hokies. While GT earned the role of the most disappointing ACC team in 2015 it will be safe to assume that they will be more of a force than they were this year. Boston College and Virginia will likely fall to the Hokies as they struggle to find consistency. Although the Bronco Mendenhall hire by UVA might be the nudge the squad needs to push them out of mediocrity. The Cavaliers might be the most dangerous they have been in years during the 2016 season.
The Hokies have a pretty brutal away schedule. The games against Pitt and UNC will be extremely challenging for VT as the Hokies look to avenge their losses from this past season. Duke will be no slouch, and it has been a long time since VT has faced Syracuse. The majority of their tough ACC games will come away, and the Hokies will need to be prepared for that reality.
Much could still change and remains to be see prior to the start of next season, but that is my early take on next season. Go Hokies!