Duke – Oct. 3 (Durham, NC)
Doing surprisingly well in his first year at the helm, Duke’s head coach David Cutcliffe turned the Blue Devils into a formidable opponent last season. The Devils finished the year 4-8, which for Duke football fans is a big step forward from where they were under Coach Ted Roof.
Duke is still maybe a year away from going to a bowl but they have some pieces in place to make a run.
Senior quarterback Thad Lewis will return for his final season. Lewis was the lone bright spot of the Duke offense last season as he had arguably the best stats of any QB in the ACC.
Thaddius finished the season with a 62-percent completion percentage to go along with 15 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions.
However, for Duke to get over the hump in the ACC, they’re going to have to find a better and more consistent running game. The Blue Devil’s leading rusher was freshman Jay Hollingsworth who ran for just under 400 yards on the season.
The only major loss Duke suffered this past year was the loss of leading wide receiver Eron Riley. Riley caught 61 passes for 693 yards and 8 touchdowns.
The Devil’s defense will also need to improve if they wish to make a bowl this season.
Duke finished the 2008 season with the 60th ranked total defense and the 50th ranked scoring defense.
Duke held the Hokies to just 14 points last year in Blacksburg but even with Coach Cutliffe’s squad improving, I don’t see them beating the Hokies this season.
Prediction: Virginia Tech – 31, Duke - 10
Boston College – Oct. 10 (Blacksburg, VA)
The Hokies and the Eagles have played four times in the past two seasons and frankly, I’m getting a little tired of playing these guys.
Boston College swept the regular season meetings over the past two years however; the Hokies have swept both of the ACC Championship games.
This year, I just don’t see the Eagles being able to make it back to the state of Florida again for the third straight year.
BC will have to adjust to an almost brand new coaching staff with former head coach Jeff Jagodzinski now unemployed.
Also, the Eagles have a lot to replace in 2009 especially on defense. Defensive tackles BJ Raji and Ron Brace both departed after last season along with quarterback Chris Crane, linebacker Brian Toal, and tight end Ryan Purvis.
So with Crane gone, sophomore Dominik Davis will have a chance to shine in 2009. Davis was less then impressive last season when he completed only 45-percent of his passes after taking over for an injured Chris Crane.
Davis’s ACC Championship game portrayed his struggles last season as well as he finished that game 17 of 43 for 263 yards and just one touchdown pass. Dominik was also sacked five times and threw two interceptions
Since BC has a lot to replace, I think the Hokies should be able to finally beat the Eagles in the regular season.
Prediction: Virginia Tech – 23, BC - 13
Georgia Tech – Oct. 17 (Atlanta, GA)
Circle this game on your calendar folks because both teams could be undefeated heading into this showdown.
The Hokies have dominated the Yellow Jackets since joining the ACC as Tech is 4-1 against their Coastal counterparts. This series includes a 51-7 drubbing in 2005 and a 27-3 performance in 2007.
Georgia Tech was one of the younger teams in the ACC last year and they return a large majority of their starters from a year ago.
However, the biggest question for this team will be how the opposing teams adjust to the spread option attack since they’ve all seen it at least once now.
Virginia Tech played very well against the option last season holding the Yellow Jackets to just 17 points.
This year with their three leading rushers in quarterback Josh Nesbitt and Jonathan Dwyer and Roddy Jones all returning, Coach Foster will once again have to earn his hefty paycheck.
This game will be a chess match between a great offensive mind in Paul Johnson and a great defensive mind in Bud Foster. Even though I really want to pick the Hokies here, I think the Yellow Jackets will get some revenge from last season at home in Atlanta.
Prediction: Virginia Tech – 17, Georgia Tech - 21
North Carolina – Oct. 29 (Blacksburg, VA)
There’s nothing like Thursday nights in Blacksburg. However, the Hokies have struggled in Thursday nights recently as they’ve lost 3 out of their last 6 midweek classics. Two of which came at the hands of the Boston College Eagles and the other one coming last season at the hands of the Miami Hurricanes.
This season should be different for the Hokies as they have two favorable matchups on Thursday Night.
The UNC Tarheels are coming off an impressive 8-5 season, in which they over achieved quite a bit.
For some reason I just can’t buy into the UNC hype this season. The Tar Heels didn’t lose much over the offseason but losing wide receivers Brooks Foster and Hakeem Nicks will hurt their downfield passing game a lot in 2009.
Nicks is a special talent that you can’t replace over night so even though UNC does have some talented receivers coming in, I just don’t see them being as good of a passing team in this season.
Coach Frank Beamer has owned Butch Davis in his career, as Fancy Gap Frank is 8-1 against Coach Davis. The lone win came in 2000 in a game Tech should have won if Michael Vick didn’t injure himself early on in the game.
So as you can see, I’m definitely picking the Hokies in this game, as I just cannot by in to the UNC hype this season.
Prediction: Virginia Tech – 34, UNC - 13