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Virginia Tech Hokies Fall 2018 Preview: THE SCHEDULE Pt. I

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The Preview completes with a total preseason review of the schedule. We’ll divide this into two parts because the season is long, and there is a whole lot to consider. No one better complain about some value judgement over our strength of schedule. This is plenty. I just keep thinking that I really don’t want it to rain. GO HOKIES!!!!

Sean Savoy gets the ball and might be trying to run faster than the rain.
John Schneider - SB Nation

It’s about time to get these previews wrapped, and the last man on the field, squad in the barn, issue on the table, play in the playbook is; the schedule. We know two thirds of our current schedule, there are absolutely no surprises in the entire lot. We have seen every one of these teams in the last two seasons, EXCEPT Florida State. We don’t see FSU all that much in most cases. Our Atlantic Conference regular playing partner is Boston College and there is usually 2 other cross overs scheduled, this season that’s Notre Dame (a sort of an ACC team) and Florida State. In past seasons we’ve seen Wake and NC State. But this season, we see what we see.

We can’t really sugar coat this too much because this is not the world’s easiest schedule for the middle year of a rebuild. We face four first rate teams, and 3 really good ones. The four first raters are; FSU, Notre Dame, Miami, and Duke. The three really good programs are; Carolina, Boston College, and Pitt. That’s this season. Next season that list could be shuffled, but those seven teams mean that we have only four games where we are heavily favored and expected to push some garbage time across the field.

Of the remaining four teams, ODU is a building program currently in the mid-major category. It won’t be there long. ECU is not so good, right now; their inexplicable firing of Ruffin McNeill seems to have been a “problematic” action. There is one quiet no slouch push that worries me more than Virginia ever did and that’s William and Mary. (Yes you saw that correctly.) None of these teams are going to be cakewalk pushovers. The last team on the list is probably the lowest program on it. Virginia just can’t seem to get its football act together. We hear rumblings about how Mendenhal has turned the program around; but for them it seems that if they went 1-11, they’d call it a winning season if the one in that W/L was us. So, they aren’t going to roll over and play dead. They didn’t last season, either.

So, here is the chart, and what we are up against along with some times and coverage things:

Virginia Tech 2018 Football Schedule

Date Conference Opponent Location TV Coverage
Date Conference Opponent Location TV Coverage
Sep 3 (Mon) 8 PM ACC at Florida State Tallahassee FL TV: ESPN
Sep 8 (Sat) 2 PM FCS NonConference William & Mary Blacksburg TV: ACC Network Extra
Sep 15 (Sat) 12:20 PM FBS NonConference East Carolina Blacksburg TV: ACC Network
Sep 22 (Sat) 3:30 PM FBS NonConference at Old Dominion Norfolk VA TV: CBS Sports Network
Sep 29 (Sat) TBA ACC at Duke Durham NC Coverage not listed
Oct 6 (Sat) Probably Primetme Sorta ACC vs Notre Dame Blacksburg Broadcast - probably NBC
Oct 13 (Sat) TBA ACC at North Carolina Chapel Hill NC Coverage not listed
Oct 25 (Thu) 7:30 PM ACC vs Georgia Tech Blacksburg TV: ESPN
Nov 3 (Sat) TBA ACC vs Boston College Blacksburg Coverage not listed
Nov 10 (Sat) TBA ACC at Pitt Pittsburgh PA Coverage not listed
Nov 17 (Sat) TBA ACC vs Miami Blacksburg Coverage not listed
Nov 23 (Fri) TBA ACC vs Virginia Blacksburg Coverage not listed
The whole season in a grid. Hokie Sports

Face it; the Florida State game is very unfortunate in its placement. That schedule was determined ages ago by a group in the athletic department that I have routinely accused of not having a clue about football. Splashy starting contests are “brilliant” if you are marketing major but stink like an outhouse in summer to everyone who knows anything about college football. This sort of scheduling insanity has plagued Virginia Tech for a decade or more, USC, Alabama, and LSU? The only explanation is prime time money that flows into happy pockets regardless of the Win or Loss.

This season Florida State is a complete cypher. Willie Taggart has replaced Jimbo Fisher as head coach. Fisher headed, for ludicrous money, to Texas A&M while allowing the Seminoles to bumble around the football field, not winning much of anything and then getting a back door pity bid to a bowl game. The truth is that Taggart’s record at each waypoint of his career (Western Kentucky, South Florida, and then one par season at Oregon) is not awe inspiringly impressive. We’ll see how he does out of the gate with a rebuilding FSU program. While the ‘Noles are dangerous, the groupthink is greatly overestimating their potential and their fan pride feeds it. The Hokies have a reasonable shot at defeating FSU, not the often stated low percentage prediction. Home turf gives the Seminoles an edge, but it’s not any sort of guarantee, either.

Game two is near and dear to my old 1977-1981 Hokie soul. No one who saw the 1978 William and Mary game will ever forget the last second ‘Hail Mary’ David Lamie pass to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. It was nearly their revenge for the 1977 Tobacco Bowl (things weren’t so PC back then) 17-8 loss. A long desperation throw in the last seconds foiled it all. At this point we should mention W&M Head Coach Jimmy Laycock. He’s been in that position since the 1980 season, and once The Tribe stepped back to FCS football, W&M dominated his division for large parts of that tenure. He’ll end up in the College Football Hall right along with his friend Frank Beamer. One thing that I know, the Tribe takes games against the Hokies seriously. They were a major in-state rival during the 1-A Independent age, and the games have always put the FCS/FBS aura in another dimension. Laycock’s teams have always buckled up and fought hard.

Game three is at home against East Carolina. ECU has struggled since they pushed out McNeill, but I don’t trust them to lie down and play dying cockroach. Up until two seasons ago they were always a serious threat, and the losses of 2014 and 2015 still smart. The Hokies need to push themselves hard on both sides of the ball for this one. It’s going to be critical for settling both the offense and defense down as the ACC regular schedule looms.

Game four is in Norfolk at ODU’s cozy and rather new stadium. They are an up and coming Conference USA team but everyone in the know just thinks will be a push over. I am not thinking that way, and I rather doubt the coaching staff will be, either. ODU plays football in our division and at levels that challenge the Power Five teams with great regularity. They will be at home and maybe even trying to show up their high school competition and teammates. One day ODU is going to want a piece of the Commonwealth Cup competition. They’ll want to make an emphatic statement on Sept 22nd.

September 29th is the start of the ACC push. I do include the Irish in that because eventually the Notre Dame Football program will have to join a conference, and they already are in the ACC for every other sport. I would think that they’d be better off in the B1G, but speculation is what it is.

Game five starts in Raleigh, NC. Duke roared for the first third of 2017 until they walked into a Miami Hurricane. They couldn’t buy another W (including losses to Virginia and Army) and then they certainly didn’t fare any better walking into Noah’s Flood at Lane Stadium. They did recover to win their last two, including one good one over Georgia Tech, and unlike us they won their Bowl game over Northern Illinois. So, David Cutcliffe sorted it out and drives into 2018 with a winning streak, a bunch of returning players, and a real sore spot for our 24-3 victory in the downpour. There is absolutely nothing that he’d like better than to put one up on Justin Fuente (2-0 vs Duke). The Blue Devils are dangerous in 2018.

Game Six is going to be played in front of a packed Lane Stadium, live, probably on Primetime NBC, and the golden domers are going to be out for a bit of revenge. Two seasons ago Notre Dame was struggling. Last season that all changed, and the Irish put up a 10-3 record including a Citrus Bowl 21-17 finish over LSU. We have the home field advantage that will shave some points off the spread, but my guess is that by the time the Wise Guys push their numbers out, we’ll be in double digit positives; UNLESS Murphy visits them, and we learn to run and offense.

As we have seen, there is a definite spread of talent and program depth in Tech’s first six opponents. Oddly, I don’t think that we will have reached a critical point. There will be two major hurdles to overcome in the second half; Georgia Tech and Miami. There is very little doubt that by the end of the first half, we’ll get a very clear picture of what to expect for the remainder of 2018 and where the Hokies will end up.

Catch Part II, tomorrow.

GO HOKIES!!!!

Duke in 2018. Just before the camera had to get put up
John Schneider - SB Nation