We’ve ranked the non-conference schedules of the ACC’s teams, with some disagreement and a minimal amount of name-calling.
But how about taking a look at Virginia Tech’s schedule? What are the hardest games? The easiest? Why, I’m glad the fictional person I’m talking about posed this question, because here’s a blog post looking at just that.
I figured I’d rank the Hokies’ 2013 games on the blog because, quite honestly, there’s not a ton to talk about until the players report for practice Sunday.
We’ll do it easiest to hardest (as if to sustain some sort of suspense about who No. 1 will be, like that’s not plainly obvious). I’m sure there will be plenty of debate. Feel free to weigh in in the comments section with your own ranking:
12. vs. Western Carolina, Sept. 7: The only danger in this game — and it must be said because of the James Madison debacle — is a hangover from the Alabama game for whatever reason. There’s not a short week, so that’s one reason to believe it won’t happen. From strictly a talent standpoint, this is no contest. The Catamounts aren’t just an FCS team; they’re a pretty bad one at that.
11. vs. Duke, Oct. 26: Through a scheduling quirk, the Hokies get the Blue Devils at home for a second straight season. Duke made a bowl game last year for the first time in 20 years, but it also lost five straight to finish the season. Duke caught Tech by surprise in the first quarter last year, but the Hokies, even at the height of their struggles, out-classed them the rest of the way, scoring 41 straight points.
10: at Boston College, Nov. 2: Things figure to be better under first-year coach Steve Addazio, which should be enough to get the attention of a Hokies team that escaped with a win from Chestnut Hill last year by the skin of their teeth. It stands to reason that Virginia Tech will have things more together this year. But so will BC, without a coaching change looming over the program. Still, the Eagles have a lot of ground to make up.
9. vs. Marshall, Sept. 21: I might have underrated the Thundering Herd in my non-conference rankings. Marshall hasn’t truly broken through under coach Doc Holliday, but with quarterback Rakeem Cato in charge of an offense that is capable of putting up 40 or 50 points a night, this could be the year. Now, that formula only helped them get a 5-7 record last year, but this appears to be an improved group, one that could win the Conference USA East. That’s no pushover.
8. at Virginia, Nov. 30: Last year’s game, in bad offensive conditions and between two teams with major issues, was close, but from merely a talent standpoint, the Hokies didn’t lose nearly as much as the Cavaliers did from last year. UVa has young talent coming up through the ranks, and playing this game at the end of November will give that group plenty of time to mature. Plus, anything can happen in a rivalry game. Still, the Hokies have won nine straight in the series and 13 of the last 14. Until that changes, it’s hard to envision the gap closing.
7. at East Carolina, Sept. 14: Put the Pirates in the same boat as the Thundering Herd. This is a team that, while outside of the BCS conferences, can make some noise if things come together. Like Marshall, ECU has an offense that should be able to put up points with anyone it plays. The question is whether the defense can be better than the group that gave up 31.6 points per game last year? This matchup isn’t too much different than Marshall, but it is a road game, so I’ll rank it slightly higher on this list.
6. vs. Maryland, Nov. 16: It’ll be one last go ’round in the ACC for the Terps, who hope they’ll have a bit more injury luck this season. Maryland was crushed last year by injuries to its quarterback, getting down to its fifth-string guy, a freshman linebacker. That won’t happen again this year (and if it does, a higher power clearly hates Randy Edsall). Simply by having a competent offense, the Terps should be dramatically improved. Plus, Stefon Diggs can turn a game in an instant.
5. vs. Pittsburgh, Oct. 12: Based just on recent history, this game should be a little higher. The Panthers have given the Hokies problems in each of their last four matchups. Granted, three of those were from 2001-03, but it continued last year, when a pretty mediocre Pitt team manhandled Virginia Tech. Even during the Hokies’ hey day in the Big East, Pitt played them tough. So I would imagine this year wouldn’t be any different, even if the Panthers, on paper, don’t appear to be too special this season.
4. at Georgia Tech, Sept. 26: The Yellow Jackets will always be a tough game just because of the option offense they run. And having them in the middle of the season, on a short week no less, will make that preparation that much tougher. And that’s before you even get to the fact that Georgia Tech should be pretty good this year. Add in the Thursday night factor and that it’s being played in Atlanta, where the Hokies have split their last two, with both games being close, and this will be a tough one.
3. vs. North Carolina, Oct. 5: The Tar Heels embarrassed the Hokies’ defense last year, something that doesn’t happen often to a Bud Foster-coached crew. They lost running back Giovani Bernard but expect quarterback Bryn Renner to have a strong senior season. Having had a full year in Larry Fedora‘s up-tempo offense should help North Carolina have a better understanding of what it’s trying to do. Tech gets UNC at home, which is a plus, but the Heels’ offense should present a unique challenge now that Clemson is off the schedule.
2. at Miami, Nov. 9: Despite the lopsided final score in last year’s game, I didn’t think the Hurricanes were that great of a football team. The defense was porous. And many of Virginia Tech mistakes in that game were self-induced. But Miami’s young talent is a year older, running back Duke Johnson will be a handful, quarterback Stephen Morris should be better and the defense, honestly, can’t get much worse. The game is in Sun Life Stadium again, which isn’t a great homefield advantage, but it’s still not a home game for the Hokies. Beating a re-energized Miami program won’t be easy.
1. vs. Alabama (in Atlanta), Aug. 31: Shocking, I know. Frank Beamer has spent the better part of the preseason circuit trumpeting that Alabama is the best football program in the country. Normally, there’d be some embellishment in there, trying to trump up the opening week matchup. But the Crimson Tide, winner of back-to-back BCS titles and three of the last four, is legitimately that good. It’s a modern-day dynasty, something that’s hard to accomplish in today’s environment. Getting ‘Bama early, before its offensive line is battle-tested, might be the only thing Tech has going for it. That doesn’t make the game any easier.