Not much has changed since the 2017 season in respect to the Old Dominion Monarchs. The two teams’ histories started on Lane Stadium that season, and a White Effect, Military Appreciation Game Day turned into a bright and sunny 38-0 Tech shutout rout.
The wise guys think that there will be a similar result in Norfolk on Saturday. This might actually be a tad bigger challenge than the 50:1 odds I see bandied about by those who chose to spend their money in certain ways. The last time that we checked, the spread was something ridiculous and there wasn’t much point in looking at it that early. We’ll see how the Wednesday odds sheets come in.
ODU is still coached by Bobby Wilder. He’s the guy who has taken the rebuild program from the basement of the FCS to the Group of 5, and Conference USA relevance. The decade move was more than rapid, and the program is still building.
The Hokies arrive at S.B. Ballard Stadium with a real need to stretch. The Hurricane Florence induced cancellation (or postponement – nothing has been said regarding makeups) of Tech’s ECU contest left the Hokies with an accidental bye week. Functionally ‘byes’ can be useful and often helpful in the 2nd or final third of a season, but a full two weeks off can really put a crimp in program momentum. Virginia Tech Head Coach Justin Fuente faced a few questions about the issue in his press conference on Sept. 17. He is a very exacting program planned coach, so there was some form of ‘bye’ week practice schedule guide that Fuente and staff operate. We’ll see how it works out. The rust creeps up quickly early in the season.
So, if we are so overwhelmingly favored, what are we facing that could reach up and bite us? On defense the names are Linebacker Lawrence Garner and Oshane Ximines. The ODU linebacker is a tackling machine this season with 42 in three games. Ximines is a 6’ 4” 255 pound sack machine. He’s got 24 over his career in the NCAA, and that’s good enough for 2nd on the active player list.
The Tech offensive line is going to have to account for these players because our improving offense is still not completely “there” yet. The passes are going to need to come out fast, and the runs will be tough getting past the 2nd level unless Brad Cornelsen gets his move away from trouble mojo going.
The ODU Offense is a bit better this season than it was last. Their teenage true sophomore, Steven Williams, is expected to start, with one more season under his belt. He’s not a stellar passer, but at 6’4” 210, he’s a load when it comes to running the ball. That’s something in the Hokie dander zone, and this game would be a really superior opportunity for the revamped Hokie D to get some QB stop experience.
There isn’t much doubt about the physical and skill level differences between Virginia Tech and Old Dominion. That’s the trap. Does Tech bring its ‘A’ game to Norfolk, and the very important 757 recruiting opportunity? Does Hokie Nation make a big appearance as a very nearly local “away” game? Our team really feeds off of those Orange and Maroon clad fans in the stands.
This one is going to be bigger than you’d think. One day, ODU will be a serious challenge in Tech’s traditional recruiting territories, and they might even be arguing for a piece of the Commonwealth Cup. Right now, ODU is 0-3 against Liberty, Florida International, and Charlotte. That resume isn’t going to attract a ton of attention this season. By my rough (very rough) count, ODU has 25 players from the 757, 8 from NOVA, 17 from the 804, and 7 from scattered places mostly 540 folks. It will not be long before those numbers start gaining in high school star ratings.
Winning in Norfolk is more important for Virginia Tech, than just the ‘W’ and some stats.