East Carolina—Nov. 5 (Greenville, NC)
Virginia Tech has struggled on Thursday nights like I pointed out earlier, but they’ve struggled even more on the road recently losing two out of their last three midweek classic games.
However, I don’t see this trend continuing this season for a couple of reasons.
First, the Pirates beat the Hokies last season when they were at full strength, but as the season wore on, the injuries started piling up and ECU just doesn’t have the depth to compete with a higher level team at the end of the season.
Second, this is a revenge game for Tech, so a win in Greenville would ease the pain of the loss that came in Charlotte last season.
ECU received good news over the offseason as star quarterback Patrick Pinkney was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.
After starting off well, Pinkney’s stats faded a bit last year, but he was still able to finish the season with over 2600 yards passing and a 13 to 7 touchdown to interception ratio.
The Pirates will return two of their top three rushers from last season in junior Norman Whitley and senior J.R. Rogers. Whitley rushed for over 600 yards last season and did not play in the opening game against Tech.
Also, East Carolina will return all five starters on the offensive line, which, as a whole, performed very well last year.
On defense, the Pirates seem to be just as good.
They lose middle linebacker Pierre Bell who was the heart and soul of the defense, but they return leading tackler senior, Nick Johnson at linebacker and their leading pass rusher senior, CJ Wilson at defensive end.
Overall, this game should be a close one, but I think the Hokies will get their revenge and leave Greenville with a win.
Prediction: Virginia Tech—27, East Carolina—14
Maryland—Nov. 14 (College Park, MD)
The Hokies and the Terps have only played three times since Tech joined the ACC back in 2004, however; the Hokies have just dominated the series in that span.
Tech crushed Maryland 55-6 back in 2004, then followed that up with a 28-9 game in 2005.
Add on a 23-13 performance this past year where Darren Evans broke the school rushing record, and you have one lopsided series.
This year could be different, as it seems that the Terps will have a fairly talented team returning in 2009.
Quarterback Chris Turner returns for his senior year after a solid 2008 campaign. Turner threw for over 2500 yards, but he also tossed 11 interceptions to just 13 touchdown passes.
Also, back for his final season is talented running back Da’Rel Scott who rushed for 1183 yards and 8 touchdowns last fall.
The Terrapins will need to find some talented receivers as Isaiah Williams and Darius Heyward-Bay are gone from a season ago.
On defense, the Terps will return seven starters including, leading tackler Alex Wujciak at linebacker and their best defensive back in Anthony Wiseman.
The only key loss on defense seems to be Jeremy Navarre who finished the season with 70 tackles and 7.5 sacks.
This game could be a tough one for the Hokies, but Maryland hasn’t even come close to winning a game versus the Hokies yet, so—until they do, I have to pick the Hokies here.
Prediction: Virginia Tech—34, Maryland—21
NC State—Nov. 21 (Blacksburg, VA)
The Hokies and the Wolfpack have not played each other since Sep. of 2005, when Tech walked away 20-16 win in the season opener.
If the first two games in this ACC series are any indicator, this game should be a defensive slugfest.
However, if the Hokies offense improves like most are predicting it will this season, this game could break the tradition and end up being a high scoring affair.
On offense, the Wolfpack seem to be solid as they return sophomore QB Russell Wilson after an outstanding freshman campaign.
Also, former four star recruit Mike Glennon will backup Wilson and could even start later on in the season if Wilson struggles.
At running back, the Pack lost their starter in Andre Brown, but senior Tony Baker returns after missing last season due to a knee injury.
N.C. State was not a great passing team last year as two of their top four wide receivers were their running backs.
This fall, the Pack will have to rely more on junior Owen Spencer to stretch the field and possibly redshirt sophomore Jay Smith to come in and help at the flanker position.
On defense, the Wolfpack will once again be fairly suspect as they return just seven starters from a defense that was ranked 83rd in the nation in total defense a year ago.
The good news for Wolfpack fans is that they do have a talented young linebacker in Terrell Manning coming off a redshirt year, and they have Javon Walker at safety coming back after missing the 2008 season due to an injury.
I really like NC State, but I don’t see them recreating the magic they had at the end of last season.
I think the Pack are a few years away from making an impact in the ACC race. So for now, I like Tech in this game.
Prediction: Virginia Tech—24, NC State—10
Virginia—Nov. 28 (Charlottesville, VA)
The Wahoo’s and the Hokies will meet for the 91st time in 2009 with the Hokies holding a commanding 48-37-5 lead in the series. The Hokies have also won the last five games between the two instate schools and nine of the last ten.
However, is this the year that the Hoo’s turn it around and finally beat their southern rival?
All signs point to…no.
UVA has a brand new coaching staff, except for headman Al Groh, which creates even more questions heading into the 2009 season.
On offense, the quarterback battle is between a converted cornerback in Vic Hall and blast from the past Jamel Sewell.
Hall played really well against the Hokies last season, but his small stature and lack of true arm strength leads me to believe that Sewell will probably be the starting quarterback next fall.
The Cavs were hit fairly hard on the offensive side of the ball at the end of last season as they lost leading rusher Cedric Pearman, leading receiver Kevin Ogletree, and their best offensive lineman in Eugene Monroe.
Senior Mikell Simpson returns along with Keith Payne at running back, so the Cavs won’t be too bad off there.
But after those two, there is a significant drop off.
On defense, the Cavs will have to try and replace three of their four linebackers as well as one of their defensive ends and a cornerback since Hall has moved over to offense.
It’s easy to see that the Cavs have a lot of question marks heading into 2009, but with a new offensive coordinator and a new offensive scheme, there is some hope for the Cavaliers.
If Sewell can return to his old form, and if the offensive line can gel, UVA could make some noise in the ACC next season.
However, the odds of that happening aren’t great, so I’m taking the team that’s on the rise here and predicting that the Hokies will win their sixth straight against their instate rival.
Prediction: Virginia Tech—45, UVA—13