The 2022 college football season has finally arrived. The Virginia Tech Hokies open the season on Friday night with a trip across the state of Virginia to face the Old Dominion Monarchs in Norfolk.
It’s the first game for Brent Pry as head coach, and his opponent Friday is a familiar face. ODU head coach Ricky Rahne spent six seasons at Penn State with Pry on the same staff — the final two as offensive coordinator. Rahne took over the Monarchs after the 2019 season.
Here’s everything you need to know for Friday’s in-state battle:
When: Friday, Sept. 2, 2022
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: S.B. Ballard Stadium, Norfolk, Virginia
Radio: Virginia Tech Sports Network. You can find a list of affiliates here.
Odds: The Hokies are currently 7-point favorites, according to Odds Shark.
This is the fourth all-time meeting between the Hokies and Monarchs. ODU didn’t have a football program until 2009, and the Monarchs have come a long way in a short time. The Hokies hold a 2-1 edge over ODU, but it’s the one Virginia Tech loss in Norfolk back in 2018 that everyone remembers the most.
The Hokies were up 28-21 in the third quarter and everything unraveled in the fourth quarter. ODU outscored VT 28-7 in the final quarter, leading to a 49-35 upset win. It was the unofficial beginning of the end of the Justin Fuente era at Virginia Tech. Yes, Fuente would last three more seasons, but it became apparent then that the Fuente era wouldn’t work in Blacksburg.
The two teams met again in 2019 when the Hokies defeated Old Dominion 31-17 in an uninspiring fashion.
Virginia Tech offense vs. Old Dominion defense
There is mystery surrounding the Virginia Tech offense. New offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen will call plays for the Hokies. What type of offense will he run? Will he feature a power-running game? We know that new quarterback Grant Wells likes to sling the football. Wells was a multi-year starter at Marshall before transferring to Virginia Tech. Wells impressed Hokie Nation in the spring with an impressive performance in the spring game.
Virginia Tech will be without presumed top running back Malachi Thomas. Instead, sixth-year senior Jalen Holston should see the bulk of the carries. Chance Black, Keshawn King and others could also see time.
The Hokies have multiple talented weapons at wide receiver. Da’Wain Lofton is the player to watch here. The sophomore from Texas should flourish with Wells under center. Kaleb Smith also looks poised for a breakout season and showed in the spring he has some chemistry with Wells.
It will be interesting to see Virginia Tech’s new offensive line. And how much will Bowen use the tight ends? The Hokies have talent at tight end, but the previous staff never seemed to know how to use them.
ODU’s defense returns multiple starters. While the Monarchs did well against the run last season, they struggled to defend the pass. Will the Hokies choose to focus on attacking ODU through the air or attempt to establish the running game? One thing is certain; fans will be happy if Bowen finds something that works and sticks with it instead of trying to do things “his” way.
Virginia Tech defense vs. Old Dominion offense
The Monarchs return 10 starters on offense. This group has the potential to be really good. Quarterback Hayden Wolff is a big, strong-armed passer with multiple talented weapons. ODU has an established 1,000-yard back in Blake Watson.
Where Old Dominion really shines is at wide receiver and tight end. Wide receiver Ali Jennings averaged over 17 yards per reception last season. A true No. 1 wide receiver, Jennings is a West Virginia transfer. The Monarchs also have Jordan Bly, son of former NFL star and current North Carolina DB coach Dre Bly.
The real mismatch here is tight end Zack Kuntz. A former Penn State transfer, the 6-foot-8 Kuntz will be a problem for the Hokies. He’s too big to defend one-on-one so watch for Pry to focus on limiting Kuntz’s impact.
As for the Hokies’ defense, it’s a work in progress. There is a nice blend of youth and experience. Virginia Tech’s starting defensive line should be fine, but if injuries hit, that young depth gets tested immediately. At linebacker, Dax Hollifield is back and surrounded by young players such as Jaden Keller, Keonta Jenkins and Jayden McDonald.
Virginia Tech’s secondary should be very good. The Hokies return a lot of experience, especially at corner. Chamarri Conner is back for one more season and could have a huge season under Pry.
The key for the Hokies is how do you defend Kuntz?
While we save our final score predictions for game day, the Hokies are the pick here. There are lots of reasons to like ODU in this game. The Monarchs bring plenty of talent back, and there are a lot of unknowns with Pry and the Hokies. Still, the Hokies are more talented, and Pry isn’t going to allow Virginia Tech to lay an egg in his first game.
The Hokies win, but it will not be easy.