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Middle Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech: Official game preview

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It’s the first-ever meeting between the two schools.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Virginia Tech Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Tech Hokies are back in action on Saturday as they welcome the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders to Lane Stadium. The Hokies opened the 2021 season last Friday with a dominating — and thrilling — 17-10 victory over then-No. 10 North Carolina.

While Saturday’s atmosphere in Blacksburg will be difficult to replicate from a week ago, Lane Stadium will once again be packed as the Hokies look to get off to a 2-0 start.

Middle Tennessee also enters this weekend’s game with a 1-0 record. The Blue Raiders thumped Monmouth, 50-15, last week.

This is the first-ever meeting between the two schools.


The details

When: Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021

Time: 2:00 p.m. ET

Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Virginia

TV: ACC Network Extra

Odds: The Hokies are 20-point favorites, according to Odds Shark


When Middle Tennessee has the ball

The Blue Raiders have a familiar face under center in former N.C. State quarterback Bailey Hockman. The 6-foot-2, 206-pound Hockman started for the Wolfpack against the Hokies in Sept. 2020. In that game, Hockman completed seven of 16 passes for 82 yards with two interceptions. Hockman transferred after the season when it was clear Devin Leary would be back as N.C. State’s starting quarterback.

Hockman was outstanding in his debut against Monmouth. He completed 17 of 22 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns.

Freshman wide receiver Jaylin Lane caught four passes for 91 yards and a touchdown in the season-opener. He could be a challenge for Virginia Tech’s secondary, which dominated the Tar Heels in Week 1.

Middle Tennessee’s running game shouldn’t prove to be too much of a challenge for the Hokies. The Blue Raiders weren’t great running the football in 2020 and finished with 96 yards on 34 attempts in the opener.


When Virginia Tech has the ball

Quarterback Braxton Burmeister was outstanding in the first half last week. Burmeister wasn’t as polished in the second half, but part of that was Virginia Tech’s game plan to just sit on the football. Burmeister was very selective in when he ran the football, avoiding big hits. It was an encouraging opener for Burmeister.

All of Virginia Tech’s top offensive weapons played a part in last week’s win. Running back Jalen Holston led the team with 49 rushing yards, while splitting time with Raheem Blackshear and Keshawn King early. Blackshear should be more involved in the passing game moving forward. He presents a unique matchup problem for the opposition.

Wide receivers Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson each had big catches and runs last week. Tight end James Mitchell caught a touchdown pass and, like Blackshear, needs more targets in the passing game.

Virginia Tech’s offensive line kept Burmeister clean last week as the offensive line coach Vance Vice rotated players on the right side. Vice will likely continue to rotate there as he finds the best combination to go with Luke Tenuta, Brock Hoffman and Lecitus Smith.


Outlook

The Hokies shouldn’t have a problem winning this game. However, we’ve learned far too many times not to take any game lightly. This is a statement game for Middle Tennessee. The Hokies can’t let the Blue Raiders hang around.

Stay tuned for our staff predictions.