The Virginia Tech Hokies travel to the Steel City Saturday for their annual rivalry game with the Pittsburgh Panthers. The defending ACC champions enter Saturday’s game with a 3-2 record but are coming off an embarrassing 26-21 home loss to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Meanwhile, the Hokies own a 2-3 record and are coming off back-to-back blowout losses to West Virginia and North Carolina and desperately need a win. Virginia Tech is 1-1 in ACC play, while Pitt is 0-1. Pitt’s only other loss this season came to the Tennessee Volunteers, quarterback by former Hokie Hendon Hooker.
When: Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Acrisure Stadium, formerly Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Weather: 55 degrees, partly sunny at kickoff
TV: ACC Network
Radio: Virginia Tech Sports Network. You can find a list of affiliates here.
Odds: Pitt is currently a 14.5-point favorite, per Odds Shark.
The Hokies lead the all-time series, 11-10. However, the Panthers have had the upper edge recently, winning two straight meetings and three of the past four. Tech’s last win in the series came in 2019 when Hooker led the Hokies to a 28-0 win over Pittsburgh in Bud Foster’s final home game at Lane Stadium.
Last season, Pitt dominated the Hokies in a 28-7 win, led by quarterback Kenny Pickett who passed for 203 yards and two touchdowns, while the Panthers rushed for 215 yards and two scores. Virginia Tech managed just 224 total yards, and its only score came when quarterback Braxton Burmeister found wideout Tayvion Robinson from two yards out for the game’s final score.
While Pickett may be gone, Pitt landed Kedon Slovis, a transfer from USC. Slovis isn’t Pickett, but he has completed 63% of his passes for 997 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. Slovis has been sacked nine times and isn’t a threat to run, which should be music to the ears of Virginia Tech’s defense.
Running back Israel Adanikanda leads the Panthers with 510 yards rushing and six touchdowns. He rushed for 140 yards in last season’s win over Tech. Pitt’s passing is without star wide receiver Jordan Addison, who was lured to USC.
Virginia Tech’s defense was outstanding in the early portion of the season but has struggled in the last six quarters against WVU and UNC. Blown assignments and missed tackles were highlighted against a sharp North Carolina offense last week. While the Hokies have been mostly good on defense, they haven’t forced turnovers. VT has only forced four turnovers on the year, and that needs to change if it plans on ending this slump.
The Panthers aren’t playing their normally stingy defense but still rank No. 31 in total defense. Pitt has 16 sacks on the season, and the defense is led by defensive end Calijah Kancey and linebacker SirVocea Dennis, who each have three sacks. Senior defensive end Habakkuk Baldonado is also an impact player.
Pitt plays a punchless Virginia Tech offense that struggles to pass the football and run the ball. The Hokies average just 18 points per game, and it feels like much less. VT averages just 109 rushing yards per game. Virginia Tech quarterback Grant Wells has struggled with consistency but does have a strong rapport with top receiver Kaleb Smith. The Hokies need to do a better job including wide receiver/quarterback Connor Blumrick and freshman tight end Daequan Wright in the offensive game plan. Those two can change the game, along with junior running back Keshawn King, who has had a bit of a breakout season despite the team’s struggles.
Pitt doesn’t have as strong of an offense as West Virginia or North Carolina. They want to play power football. The Hokies need to be disciplined and tackle well if they want to win this game. The Panthers aren’t some powerhouse in 2022, but the Hokies have yet to prove they can move the ball consistently for an entire game. The key here is Virginia Tech’s defense coming up with some turnovers. That worked for Georgia Tech last week.
We’ll share our staff predictions on Saturday morning.