Power Ranking Virginia Tech's 2015 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

Bryan Manning@bdmanning4Featured ColumnistJuly 2, 2015

Power Ranking Virginia Tech's 2015 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

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    Virginia Tech vs. Ohio State in September 2014
    Virginia Tech vs. Ohio State in September 2014Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    It's never too soon to start looking ahead to the new college football season. After all, the Virginia Tech Hokies open the 2015 season in just under 70 days on Labor Day night in Blacksburg. The Hokies host defending national champion Ohio State in a rematch from 2014.

    Everyone knows how that game ended last season. The Hokies pulled off one of the biggest wins in school history at the Horseshoe. 

    On the 2015 schedule, Virginia Tech plays nine opponents that were on its 2014 schedule. In addition to Ohio State, the Hokies also play East Carolina again. The Pirates defeated the Hokies last season just one week after Tech's triumph in Columbus. 

    Who is Virginia Tech's toughest opponent in 2015? Here's a look at Tech's schedule, ranking it from easiest to toughest for the upcoming season.

12. Furman

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    Furman quarterback Reese Hannon
    Furman quarterback Reese HannonStacy Revere/Getty Images

    After a difficult season-opening contest against the defending national champions, the Hokies host FCS Furman in Week 2. Before anyone has flashbacks of 2010 when Tech played on Monday night to begin the season and hosted FCS James Madison just five days later and lost, don't hold your breath. Furman isn't JMU.

    In two of the last three years, the Paladins have won just three games. While there is hope Furman can improve in 2015 with quarterback Reese Hannon's return to health, don't expect any miracles in Blacksburg. 

    Regardless of what happens between the Hokies and the Buckeyes in Week 1, expect Furman to be the perfect opponent for Tech on short rest.

11. At Purdue

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    Purdue coach Darrell Hazell
    Purdue coach Darrell HazellMichael Hickey/Getty Images

    For a school with a long lineage of terrific quarterbacks, Purdue enters 2015 with some uncertainty at the position after the transfer of former starter Danny Etling, per Ron Higgins of the Times-Picayune.

    Now, it's not as if Etling was going to remind anyone of Drew Brees—or even Curtis Painter—as he dropped to third on the depth chart in the spring. Redshirt freshman David Blough will compete with the man who replaced Etling last season, Austin Appleby.

    Head coach Darrell Hazell enters his third season in charge of the Boilermakers and has won just four games in two seasons. Purdue returns 15 starters and will be competitive in 2015. However, don't look for the Boilers to score enough against Tech's stingy defense to defeat the Hokies.

10. At Virginia

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    Virginia safety Quin Blanding in pursuit of Tech's Brenden Motley in 2014
    Virginia safety Quin Blanding in pursuit of Tech's Brenden Motley in 2014Steve Helber/Associated Press

    The games have gotten closer in recent seasons, but the results stay the same. The Virginia Tech Hokies still remain dominant over in-state rival Virginia.

    It's tough to see that changing in 2015.

    Virginia has struggled to produce consistently on offense in recent years, and with the loss of its two most experienced quarterbacks this offseason, that trend could hold true again in 2015. If the Hoos can't beat the Hokies this fall, UVa coach Mike London will likely be looking for a new job in 2016.

9. At East Carolina

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    ECU coach Ruffin McNeill celebrates last season's upset win over the Hokies.
    ECU coach Ruffin McNeill celebrates last season's upset win over the Hokies.Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

    Quarterback Shane Carden and wide receiver Justin Hardy, two of the best players in East Carolina history, are now gone. Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, one of the top young offensive minds in college football, took the same position with Oklahoma. 

    Replacing each of those three will provide quite the challenge for sixth-year coach Ruffin McNeill. The Pirates have always played the Hokies tough over the years and beat them last season in Blacksburg. 

    Fortunately for Tech, this game is in September and ECU will still be breaking in sophomore Kurt Benkert at quarterback. We know Bud Foster loves getting after young quarterbacks. 

    Don't expect the Pirates to roll over for the Hokies, but VT should be able to withstand the challenge.

8. Duke

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    Hokie cornerback Kendall Fuller celebrating Duke's missed field goal in 2014 that led to a Hokie victory.
    Hokie cornerback Kendall Fuller celebrating Duke's missed field goal in 2014 that led to a Hokie victory.Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    First and foremost, Duke is not an easy opponent for Virginia Tech, or anyone else. But the Blue Devils are replacing several productive starters on both sides of the ball.

    Junior Thomas Sirk gets the first crack at the quarterback job. Sirk is big (6'4", 215), strong and surprisingly athletic. He'll have to adjust to life as the starting quarterback without record-setting wide receiver Jamison Crowder, though.

    While the Devils will break in some new starters in the front seven, the secondary is loaded, led by senior safety Jeremy Cash. Duke's starting secondary is as good as anyone's, including Virginia Tech's. 

    The Blue Devils would likely be higher on this list if they weren't replacing so many key starters.

7. At Boston College

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    VT quarterback Michael Brewer vs. Boston College in 2014
    VT quarterback Michael Brewer vs. Boston College in 2014Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

    Duke is overall a much better program than Boston College these days. However, no school, with the exception of Pittsburgh, gives Virginia Tech as much trouble as the Eagles.

    Last year, BC defeated the Hokies for the second straight season. The good news for VT, though, is quarterback Tyler Murphy, who ran for 122 yards and a touchdown in addition to 110 yards passing and two more scores, is gone. 

    This year's game will be in Chestnut Hill, where BC has always given Virginia Tech a battle.

6. Pittsburgh

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    Pitt running back James Conner
    Pitt running back James ConnerKeith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Much like Boston College, Pittsburgh has been a thorn in the side of Virginia Tech for years. However, the Panthers have actually defeated Tech in five of the past six meetings between the two schools. 

    In 2014, Pitt, led by running back James Conner and quarterback Chad Voytik, rushed for 210 yards in a win over Tech. Voytik ran for 118 yards and the Hokies had no answer for containing him. Conner, the reigning ACC Player of the Year, returns in 2015 along with Voytik and receiver Tyler Boyd, so expect the Panthers to be prolific on offense yet again.

    The good news for Tech is that this game will be held in Blacksburg.

5. North Carolina

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    Marshawn Williams scores a touchdown in VT's win over UNC in 2014.
    Marshawn Williams scores a touchdown in VT's win over UNC in 2014.Associated Press

    Tell me if you've heard this before: North Carolina is going to be good this year and win the ACC. 

    Well, you'll probably hear that again this year. Quarterback Marquise Williams returns for his final season and the Tar Heels return 10 starters on offense. UNC has a new defensive coordinator in former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik.

    UNC's defense, always an Achilles' heel, should be better in 2015 with Chizik in charge. The Heels also return seven starters on that side of the ball. 

    Tech has dominated this rivalry since entering the ACC back in 2004. The Hokies have won nine of the past 11 meetings and lead the series 20-11-6. 

    The Tar Heels should have a potent offense in 2015 and will provide quite the matchup for Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster.

4. N.C. State

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    N.C. State quarterback Jacoby Brissett
    N.C. State quarterback Jacoby BrissettGrant Halverson/Getty Images

    The Hokies finally play N.C. State again in 2015. Since entering the ACC, Virginia Tech has only played the Wolfpack four times. The 'Pack won the first meeting back in 2004, but the Hokies have won the past three. The schools last met in 2010 when Russell Wilson was under center for State.

    There's a certain amount of optimism around N.C. State's program these days. Senior Jacoby Brissett returns at quarterback after an outstanding 2014 season. Brissett, a Florida transfer, completed 60 percent of his passes and tossed 23 touchdowns against just five interceptions. He ran for for 529 yards, too.

    Head coach Dave Doeren has this program headed in the right direction. In his first season back in 2013, the 'Pack won just three games and failed to win one conference game. Last season, N.C. State went 8-5 and completed one of the more impressive turnarounds in school history. 

    The Hokies will have their hands full with the Wolfpack.

3. At Miami

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    Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya is hit hard by Hokie linebacker Deon Clarke in Miami's win over Virginia Tech last season.
    Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya is hit hard by Hokie linebacker Deon Clarke in Miami's win over Virginia Tech last season.Associated Press

    This is a make-or-break year for Miami head coach Al Golden. Since taking over the program back in 2011, Golden has led this once-proud program to a record of just 28-22, including a 16-16 mark in ACC play. That won't cut it for much longer.

    Golden does have some talent at his disposal this fall, led by sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya. Kaaya had an impressive freshman season; however, he did struggle against the Hokies. Fortunately for Miami, the 'Canes didn't need much from him, as the Hokies couldn't stop the run. 

    Miami must replace several key starters from 2014, most notably Duke Johnson and Denzel Perryman. If the Hurricanes can replaces those players with ease, their matchup with Virginia Tech could help determine the ACC Coastal division race.

    These two programs have had a storied rivalry since the Big East days. Expect another great matchup in 2015.

2. At Georgia Tech

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    Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas
    Georgia Tech quarterback Justin ThomasWilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    In terms of pure talent, Georgia Tech would not be this high on the list. The Yellow Jackets have several good players, but schools like Miami, UNC and Pitt have more talent overall. 

    However, where Georgia Tech beats you is with scheme and coaching. Georgia Tech is one of the rare schools to still run the triple-option offense, and head coach Paul Johnson does as good of a job as anyone in the country putting his players in the best possible position to succeed. 

    Bud Foster and the Hokies have done a job against the option over the years. Unfortunately, the 2014 season wasn't one of them. The Jackets ran for 271 yards last season, including 165 yards from quarterback Justin Thomas.

    GT's offense is at its best when it has a dynamic playmaker like Thomas under center. Thomas is back and is a leading contender for ACC Player of the Year in 2015. The Hokies and Yellow Jackets should once again be a fun game with big implications.

1. Ohio State

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    J.T. Barrett heading for the end zone against the Hokies in 2014.
    J.T. Barrett heading for the end zone against the Hokies in 2014.Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    Can the Hokies do it again in 2015? Virginia Tech opens the season against defending national champion Ohio State. Remember, Tech gave the Buckeyes their only loss in 2014. 

    One thing is for sure, OSU won't be taking the Hokies lightly. When the two teams met last season, the Buckeyes were breaking in freshman J.T. Barrett at quarterback. He made some big plays against the Hokies but struggled overall. He went on to have an outstanding freshman campaign and was a big reason why the Buckeyes were in the College Football Playoff. 

    This year, when the two teams meet on Labor Day, Ohio State has three talented options at quarterback. Barrett, Braxton Miller and Cardale Jones—who was terrific in the two playoff games—all return. Regardless of who is taking snaps that night, the Hokies will have their hands full. Ohio State will be motivated to avenge last season's upset loss at home.