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NC State vs. Virginia Tech: Complete preview, prediction

This is the season-opener for Virginia Tech.

NCAA Football: Belk Bowl-Virginia Tech vs Kentucky Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Tech Hokies are set to open the 2020 college football season on Saturday in Blacksburg against the North Carolina State Wolfpack. This game was originally scheduled for Sept. 12 until the Wolfpack had to postpone due to COVID-19.

The Hokies were set to play last week, but had their own COVID-19 issues leading them to move the Virginia game into December.

NC State did play last week, defeating Wake Forest 45-42 in a game that featured very little defense.

When: Saturday, Sept. 12

Time: 8 PM ET

Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.

TV: ACC Network

Odds: Virginia Tech is 7-point favorites, per BetMGM

Series history

Virginia Tech leads the all-time series with a mark of 27-18-4 over NC State. The two teams last met on Oct. 9, 2015 in Blacksburg and the Hokies came out on top in a rather easy 28-13 win.

Since the Hokies entered the ACC back in 2004, the two teams have met just five times. The Hokies are 4-1 and have won the past four meetings. NC State won the first meeting back in 2004 in a defensive slugfest.

Perhaps the most memorable recent meeting between the two schools occurred back in 2010 when Virginia Tech defeated NC State 41-30. That game featured a pair of future NFL quarterbacks in Tyrod Taylor and Russell Wilson. The Hokies picked off Wilson three times in the win and handed the Wolfpack their first loss that season.

When NC State has the ball

The Wolfpack were impressive on offense in last week’s win over Wake Forest. Bailey Hockman filled in at quarterback and did an admirable job, completing 16 of 23 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown.

But will he start this week?

Presumed starter Devin Leary missed several weeks of practice and could be back this week. As of now, it appears Hockman will get the start.

The Wolfpack’s running game really impressed in the win over Wake Forest. The ‘Pack ran for 270 yards with Ricky Person leading the way with 99 yards and two scores. Zonovan Knight ran for 94 yards while Jordan Houston chipped in with 54 yards on the ground.

Virginia Tech’s defense will be without All-American cornerback Caleb Farley, who opted out of the season due to COVID-19 and safety Devon Hunter, who was arrested last week. True freshman Keonta Jenkins will start in place of Hunter, while Armani Chatman takes Farley’s place in the lineup.

Will the Wolfpack continue to run or try and take advantage of Virginia Tech’s young secondary? Jermaine Waller, another All-ACC corner, could miss this week for the Hokies, too.

All-ACC linebacker Rayshard Ashby figures to be a busy man in the middle of Virginia Tech’s defense.

When Virginia Tech has the ball

Hendon Hooker is back under center for the Hokies this fall. When Hooker took over early last season, the Hokies were a different team. He won six of his eight starts and his legs gave Tech’s offense an added dimension.

The Hokies lost some talent on offense such as Dalton Keene and Damon Hazelton, but return Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson at wide receiver and James Mitchell at tight end. The Hokies also have a pair of transfers in the backfield in Khalil Herbert and Raheem Blackshear. Herbert figures to be Tech’s top runner this fall, while Blackshear will be moved all around the offense to take advantage of his playmaking ability.

The Hokies have one of the top offensive lines in the ACC that features its share of youth, talent and experience.

The Wolfpack struggled against Wake Forest last week. NC State allowed Wake Forest running back Kenneth Walker to rush for 131 yards and three touchdowns. Virginia Tech will certainly look to test State’s defensive front with Herbert early in the game.

Linebackers Payton Wilson and Drake Thomas are very good for the Wolfpack. Defensive end Daniel Joseph picked up two sacks last week.

The pick

This game is tough to predict. Why? Well, we haven’t seen Virginia Tech play and head coach Justin Fuente said on Monday the Hokies would not have a full roster. So, who could the Hokies be without on Saturday?

The opening lines may have been a bit generous. Clearly, folks in the betting world are high on the Hokies.

NC State presents some issues for Tech’s retooled defense. The Hokies need to be stout up front with Dashawn Crawford and Jarrod Hewitt. However, expect the Wolfpack to try and attack VT’s secondary. This could be where the game is decided.

Expect Hooker to have a big game for the Hokies. The addition of Blackshear is massive for the offensive. He will play everywhere, opening things up for Mitchell, Turner and Robinson.

Ultimately, Virginia Tech’s firepower on offense will be enough for the Hokies to win their first game in 2020.

Virginia Tech 31, NC State 24