If we knew back in August that the records of the two teams this Saturday would be 4-0 and 2-2, everybody would have pegged NC State as the 2-2 team. So we have a little role reversal going on. The national media is starting to pick up on the Wolfpack and stories about us being the real deal are popping up everywhere. The university even plans to cash in on this publicity by soon unveiling a promotional campaign called “Man for All Seasons” about Russell Wilson. All this is great and a step in the right direction towards building a perennial Top 25 program, but if we really want to tell the country that we are legit this is the type of game that you have to win. Sorry, but I’m going to use one of the most overused sports clichés … this weekend we will find out if the Pack is a contender or a pretender.
The Hokies lead the all-time series 25-18-4 with most of the games occurring between 1900 and 1964. There have been 8 games in the semi-recent past (since 1986) and the Hokies lead those with a 5-2-1 record. Last year’s game in Blacksburg was an absolute disgrace as the Hokies gave us a good old fashioned 38-10 beatdown. They pulled all their starters and didn’t score any points in the 4th quarter so it could have been even worse. I almost always stay until the bitter end, but I was so disgusted by our team that I left the game midway through the 3rd quarter, by far the earliest I have ever left a State football game. Hopefully the Pack will have a little revenge factor on their minds.
Virginia Tech came into the season with high expectations being ranked in the Top 10 and a preseason favorite to win the ACC. A tough loss to Boise State in the opener sent them into a little tailspin as they followed that by losing to FCS James Madison … in Lane Stadium. They have played much better football over the last six quarters, but they still aren’t where most people thought they would be. Poor offensive line play has hurt the running game and thus really handcuffed the Tech offense. They’ve had to rely on long sustained drives since they haven’t been able to break the big ones and they have struggled mightily inside the redzone (only 9 scores in 18 redzone trips). With only four returning starters on defense they are still trying to find their identity and it feels like the special teams have been the victims of “Beamer Ball” more often than the culprits in recent years.
Players to Watch
QB Tyrod Taylor (#5) – the leader of the Tech offense. An athletic, mobile QB in the mold of former Hokies Michael and Marcus Vick. He is most dangerous in the vertical passing game and with his scrambling ability. He does struggle with the intermediate passes, but he’s one of those players that can put the team on his shoulders and single-handedly lead them to victory.
RB David Wilson (#4) – a smaller, more agile running back than ’08 starter Darren Evans (2nd team All-ACC) will probably have a bigger role filling in for the injured Ryan Williams. He’s a track guy with a 40 time of 4.29 tying him for the fastest guy on the team so he’s a dangerous matchup.
WR Jarrett Boykin (#81) – is the Hokie’s go-to receiver and big play threat. Last year his 20.9 ypc was 4th best in the country (Owen Spencer was #1 with a 25.5 ypc) and so far this year he’s improved that to 22.1 ypc which has him currently 9th best in country.
LB Bruce Taylor (#51) – has filled in for the injured starter Barquell Rivers this season and has been a beast for the Hokie defense. The first year starter has been a force on the pass rush and a tackling machine (leads the team).
CB Rashad ‘Rock’ Carmichael (#21) – the Hokie’s top defensive back and a leader on this young Tech defense. He led the Hokies in INTs last year (6) and again leads this year (2). He has 2 career INT returns for touchdown so he is a defensive playmaker. He will have his hands full with Russell Wilson and what is likely the ACC’s best receiving corps.
The Hokies have won 10+ games in 11 of the past 15 seasons under HC Frank Beamer including the past 6 straight. That streak is second in the country behind Texas (9). With the Hokies currently 2-2, a loss here would put that streak in serious jeopardy.
The Hokies have been to 17 straight bowl appearances. They also have 148 wins since 1995, third most in that time frame behind only Florida and Ohio State.
A battered lunch pail is the trademark of Virginia Tech’s tough defense. It symbolizes the blue-collar approach that DC Bud Foster has instilled in the Hokie D since he took over in 1995.
RB Ryan Williams (’09 ACC ROY and 1st team All-ACC) is expected to miss the game due to a hamstring injury that kept him out last week. He set the ACC freshman rushing record last year with 1655 yards and added an astonishing 21 rushing TDs. He blistered the Pack defense to the tune of 120 yards and 4 TDs.
The Hokies’ top returning tackler LB Barquell Rivers is definitely out for this game as he is still recovering from a torn quadriceps tendon sustained back during the Spring.
In his 13 seasons as a head coach, TOB has never started 5-0.
Despite the Wolfpack playing much better football and being the ranked team (#23 AP) in this one, Vegas still has us as a 4 point home underdog.
Both the Hokies and Wolfpack have a lot to prove in this game so I expect both teams will come out playing with a lot of emotion. The winner will have a leg up in their respective ACC division race so I see a tough, hard-fought contest that could be one of the best games of the weekend. It could very well take extra time to decide a winner. If the Pack offense decides to show up, Virginia Tech could struggle to hang around. So far this season, however, we have shown that we don’t know how to put a game away when given the opportunity. If that’s the case again this week, whichever team plays better on special teams and in the redzone will come out the victor.