Saturday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh will feel like a throwback Big East match-up. The Hokies and Pittsburgh Panthers once played each other annually from 1993-2003(the Hokies lead the all-time series 7-4; Pitt has won the last 3 meetings, most recently in 2003, some kid named Larry caught 3 TD’s). That was back when both teams still called the Big East home. Today, the Hokies and Frank Beamer have one of the best programs in the country and a perennial favorite in the ACC. Pitt, well, they’ve seen better days.
The Hokies (2-0) have gotten off to a solid start this season, beating their biggest division rival Georgia Tech in week one and winning against Austin Peay last week. Pitt (0-2) has struggled the early part of the season, losing to Youngstown State (an FCS school) 31-17 at home, then following that up with a loss to Big East rival Cincinnati 34-17 on the road.
It would seem that these are two programs going in opposite directions. VT has been the most consistent team in the country (winning eight or more games for 13 straight seasons) while Pitt has had a revolving door at head coach and has regressed mightily in recent years. With the Big East dissolving beneath the Panthers feet they’ll move on to the ACC Coastal Division next season and once again play the Hokies annually. This should be the first in a long line of good games between these two teams.
What to Watch For
The Hokie Running Game: Last week WR Marcus Davis had two carries on end-arounds. He finished the game with 48 rushing yards to lead VT in that category. It was the first time in Frank Beamer’s 26 years at the school that a wide receiver had led his team in rushing yards. As commendable as those two carries were, it’s always nice to see an end-around work for big gains (let alone two), the Hokies have been atrocious on the ground thus far this season (76th in the country). Michael Holmes and J.C. Coleman haven’t been able to step into departed David Wilson’s shoes, the offensive line has been terrible run-blocking, and even Logan Thomas has struggled on the ground. This needs to improve fast for the Hokies to be a real contender in the ACC.
The Hokie D vs. the Panther O: For all the trouble the Hokies have had on offensive their defense has been spectacular so far this year. They’ve yet to allow more than 100 yards passing this season, true they’ve played one triple-option team and another FCS school, but that’s impressive nonetheless. It was clear going into the season that the defense would once again carry the team. With the offense looking as limited as it has look for the Hokie D to play very aggressively against the struggling Panthers O.
An Emerging Star: The coaches raved about WR Corey Fuller during spring camp. They told anyone who would listen he was the player most likely to breakout this season, and he’s looked great so far this year. Fuller, the youngest in a long line of Fuller’s to attend and play at Tech, has caught seven balls for 126 yards (18.0 ypr) and a touchdown so far. Working primarily out of the slot, it’s clear he and Logan Thomas are beginning to get more comfortable with each other. The running game may be in trouble, but if Fuller can continue this upswing the offense may survive the offensive line’s growing pains.
Prediction: VT 35 – Pitt 17
About the Author
Written by Frank Sullivan
Frank is a graduate of Old Dominion University, sports fan, author, and founder of TheBloosh.com. He's been working with prosportsblogging.com since April 2011, and has covered the Chicago Bulls, Baltimore Ravens, Virginia Tech Hokies Football, and the Washington Wizards. Frank can be reached @franksullivan on twitter.